When it comes time to produce your next status report, do you already know what it will contain or do you sometimes wing it? A project status report is a critical part of an effective project communications and management strategy to update your project team, sponsors or stakeholders.
Some of us use templates, others PowerPoint, and some produce their reports straight out of their project reporting tools. And some use a combination of all three. Whatever format you use, adhering to a regular and formalized process helps you save time and costly data mistakes. Also, by being consistent in your reporting process, you maintain stakeholder expectations, so everyone is aware of what information they can expect on a regular basis.
That’s why we have created this ultimate project status report checklist, along with a handy guide below for how to create the best possible status report for your next projects. To get started, just click on the checklist to share it, print it out and use as a reminder next time your report is due.
How to Report Successfully
We have written before on the broader topic of project reporting, so you know by now that reporting on the status of a project is a way to monitor and manage the project, as well as getting that data out to the parties that need it. You’ll be creating lots of different types of progress reports throughout the life cycle of the project. But the project status report can do a lot of things other reports can’t. It’s a vital communication tool, and it can provide a documented history of the project, which makes planning for your next project easier.
Some other objectives of status reports include:
- Improve communications across organization
- Simplify communication process
- Keep stakeholders informed
- Deliver key messages to intended target audience
- Improve organizational support for your projects or your team
Whether you’re standing up in a board room or sending a weekly email update, it’s a good idea to know the best practices when reporting on a project’s progress before jumping into a presentation of your report.
- Communicate: Status reports are one front in your communications plan. Don’t rely on it fully to communicate everything, but use it to deliver the right data to the right party at the right time.
- Consistency: Use the same format, distribution cycle and method. Don’t mix things up. That only disrupts the effectiveness of the communication aspect of the report.
- Establish Metrics: When planning for the project, figure out how you’re going to measure its progress, and then stick to this method as you report on the project throughout its life cycle.
- Simplify: You want the report to be effective, so don’t obscure it with unnecessary details. Stay to the point and just report on what needs reporting on.
- Verify: Your audience doesn’t want opinions or unsubstantiated facts. Do the due diligence, and make sure that you’re giving only what your audience wants.
- Standards: Like consistency, keeping standards of process and a template for reporting makes sure your report is clear.
- Use Tools: There are project management tools that incorporate these best practices, streamlining the process. More about how this benefits you, your team and boss
What You Should Include in a Project Management Report
Here are some of the things you’re going to need to include when you generate one.
If you’re reporting to stakeholders, you don’t want to bog them down in details they’re uninterested in. Keep your presentation light and to the point. Their time, like yours, is limited. Respect that. If they want to know more about a specific aspect of the project, then you can go in for the deeper dive.
General Project Info
To start with, you’re going to need to just put down the basics. What is the project name? Who is the project manager? What are the number of resources? All this information is essential, if obvious, to track the paperwork. Don’t assume your stakeholder is familiar with all this information. It’s also especially useful for when you’re doing historic research for future projects.
General Status Info
Again, you’re going to want to stamp the report with the data that will distinguish it from the reams of reports that will be streaming into the project paperwork. So, here you want to include what date the report was generated, who is the author and so on.
The milestones are major phases of your project. They’re a good way to break up the larger project into more digestible parts. They’re not as small as tasks, but made up of those tasks which together make up a phase of the project. Here’s where you’ll note where you are in terms of meeting those milestones against where you planned to be at this point in the project’s life cycle.
Include a short summary of the forecasted completion date and costs of the project. Be sure to include the tasks that are facing issues, how those problems might impact the deadline and costs, what you’re planning to do to resolve these issues and what the results will be once you have fixed the problem.
Issues and Risks
List the issues that have arisen over the course of the project to date. Note what they are, how you’re resolving them and what impact they’ll have on the overall project. Do the same with the risks you’re aware of. Have they shown up? If they have, what are you doing to get the project back on track?
It’s important to back your report up with hard numbers to prove the statements you’re making. You should have established the metrics for status reporting during the project’s planning phase. It’s impossible to know if your project is succeeding without measuring its effectiveness. These metrics are a way to show you’re on track and evaluate what, if anything, needs attention.
How PM Tools Can Help
Reporting tools help you monitor and track your projects online, so all your project data is up-to-the-minute, not days or weeks old. Most PM tools let you generate some kind of project reports, but you’ll want to look for a tool that automates as much reporting as possible, so you save time.
In ProjectManager.com, for example, you can generate a variety of reports in one click, from project and portfolio status reports, to task progress report, timesheet reports, workload and allocation reports, expense tracking reports and more.
You can also customize your project reporting and get the right data for the right audience by filtering the project and data columns you need. The great thing about having the data on your software is that you can always drill down to get finer detail if asked.
Having a reporting tool also means no more crunching numbers. The software calculates your planned versus actual progress across team members, tasks and projects, again with but one click. You can see the number of days your behind or, preferably, ahead of schedule. If you’re managing a portfolio, you can measure its progress, too.
You should also look for an online PM software that offers real-time dashboards, as that offers you and your stakeholders the most accurate data possible. It’s a good idea to bring dashboards via laptop or tablet to your next status report meeting. That way, if a stakeholder wants to drill deeper on the data, you can do so in real-time so they have the most current picture of the project’s progress as possible.
Reporting is a fundamental part of project management. You want to have a PM tool that gives save you valuable time and makes reporting simpler and more accurate. ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based software that updates statuses instantly online, giving you the right data at the right time, so you can monitor and report more accurately. Try it free for 30 days with this trial.