How to Write Effective Project Reports

ProjectManager.com

Effective project reports are going to make your projects more effective, and this video offers you several best practices to apply to your project reports to be a better project manager.

In Review: How to Write Effective Project Reports

Jennifer spoke to the need for effective project reporting, particularly since some people, even key leadership, believe reporting to be a waste of time. They’re only a waste of time if the report is useless. The right type of report should be geared towards the relevant parties so that they don’t become a waste of everyone’s time.

Well constructed and presented project reports are superior tools to communicate with executives, and any stakeholder for that matter. Jennifer advised us to:

  • Think through the results (don’t just report without analyzing the data)
  • Be brief (highlight relevant data to the right people)
  • Validate the information (be thorough)
  • Use templates (to save time)
  • Verify the value by checking with report recipients
  • Be consistent, relevant and reliable

Apply these simple rules and you’ll find that you’re not only writing more effective reports but achieving your goals more effectively, too.

Pro-Tip: Project reports can speak to status, portfolio, resources workload, time sheets and expenses. As a project manager you need to know who gets, the report, when do they get it, how do they get it and what is the result of these reports.

One thing you’ll learn about reporting is that you’ll sometimes have to deliver bad news. ProjectManager.com CEO Jason Westland’s article How to Objectively Report Issues gives you practical pointers on how to successfully do this.

Thanks for watching!

Transcription

Hello, I’m Jennifer Bridges, Director of ProjectManager.com. Welcome to our whiteboard session today on how to write effective project reports.

Many times when I talk with project managers, they feel like writing reports is a waste of time. It can be. It can be if they’re ineffective reports. So when I’m meeting with executives, executives many times are looking for information about the projects, their portfolios. They want to know what’s going on on the project. Same thing for project team members. Project team members are, many times, waiting on deliverables or information from other team members and they need to know. So these reports, if done in a right way, in an effective way and useful to other people, are worth the time. Let’s take a look.

What I like to do is start with definitions of words. If you go to Google or look up in any of your sources, the word effective is an adjective. It means successful in producing a desired or intended result. So what would a result be in the project world? Well, it could be information, it could be a status, it could be decisions, and it could be other things. But those are just some, to name a few.

So what type of project reports are we looking at? If you look in your communications plan, we want to document several. These are five of the ones we think are some of the most important ones, not the exhaustive list but the top five – the Project Status Report, the Portfolio Report, Resource Workload, Time Sheets, and Expenses.

For each of these, we want to know who gets the report; when do they get it; how do they get it; do they get it by email; do they get it by paper? And then, what is the result from these reports? So from the project status report, what is the result that you’re looking for? You want to communicate project status reporting. On the project, if things are red, yellow, and green, in the portfolio you want to identify the different projects in the portfolio and where they stand, where there may be some roadblocks or some issues. With the resource workload, you may have some gaps for resources to be reassigned; you may have some resources that are overloaded. With the time sheets, you want to make sure that the time being tracked is within the budget allowed. And expenses, again, make sure the expenses are within the budget and maybe where you’ve exceeded some things. So you’re looking at these reports and the results. So what are some of the best practices that we’ve found?

We’ve found some of the best practices are think through the result. If you’re looking for effective project reports and the definition of effective, you’re looking at results. So think through what it is that you want to know and make sure that you communicate that. If it’s a decision that needs to be made, it needs to be clear that you’re providing information and you’re seeking a decision. If you’re just providing information about the project, be clear that it’s just informational. Let people know what the result is that you’re looking for so in the end, everyone has that result.

Number two. Be brief. Less really is more. In these reports you don’t have to drone on and on. If you identify the report and its purpose or intent, then you just merely identify that information in that report.

Number three. Validate the information. I can’t tell you how many reports that I’ve received or audited, only to find out the information in the report is not even valid. So the project manager needs to validate or have someone on the team validate the accuracy of the information in the report. That’s one sure way a project manager can lose credibility right away, by producing reports with invalid information.

Number four. Use templates. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. The ideal thing is to get a template for each of these reports for your projects. Find out from your stakeholders what information they need in these reports and build a template, so you’re just modifying a template. It’s a sure way to save time and effort.

Number five. We want to verify the value by checking with the recipients of these reports to make sure they’re helpful. If you find that the people on your team aren’t reading these reports, they’re not responding to you, they’re just deleting them; then I can tell you they’re not worth value. The way you can get them to be of value is ask them. Verify and validate what the people need to know, and then tailor those reports for that.

Number six. Make sure these reports are consistent, relevant, and reliable by sending out your reports on a consistent basis, based on your communication plan, making sure it’s relevant to the appropriate people, making sure executives get executive-level reports. Your team members get the detailed information they need, your stakeholders and change control board get the information that’s relevant to them. They don’t want to read everything. They don’t have the time, so if you’re sending them things that they don’t need; they for sure are just deleting them. Make sure it’s reliable. Again, if you want people to read these reports and if you want them to be effective, it needs to be information that’s reliable that someone can take action on.

So these are some of the best practices, these are some of the ways that we found to write effective project reports. If you need a tool that can help you manage and track your project reports, then sign up for our software now at ProjectManager.com.

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