The Importance of Project Tracking and Reporting
Once stakeholders have approved the project plan, the execution phase begins. At this point, project monitoring, tracking and reporting become the core responsibilities of project manager. But everyone on the team must also be aware of monitoring and tracking, so if issues arise, they are addressed. Project reporting documents show how things are progressing.
Effective project reporting requires clear, simple and concise communication. This communication flows in two directions. Not only top-down, from project sponsors and external stakeholders to team members, but also in the opposite direction.
Many types of project reports are created during the execution phase in order to track the progress of a project. Project status reports act not only as important communication tools during project execution but also as important historical documents that inform the development of future projects. This makes estimating the scope of future projects less of a shot-in-the-dark, and more of an educated guess.
Project status reports have a few key objectives, including:
- Making communication across the organization seamless
- Simplifying the communication process
- Keeping stakeholders informed as the project moves forward
- Delivering the right information, to the right stakeholders, at the right time
- Enhancing organizational support for everyone involved
Project monitoring, tracking and reporting are a highly-collaborative process. Without monitoring and tracking the progress of a project, the reporting is not accurate. Therefore, teams must collaborate when creating reports, so communications are clear. This collaboration and communication is facilitated by the right project management tools.
Using tools that help with collaboration when monitoring and tracking makes evaluating a project easier. Projectmanagementcompanion.com has a visual, timeline-driven Gantt charts, drag-and-drop Kanban boards and interactive task lists to help teams collaborate on tasks in the way that works best for them. These three views empower teams to collaborate and execute effectively.
There are six elements to a project report, as the execution phase progresses, it’s important to report on progress so the schedule doesn’t go astray.
Start with the basics. What is the project’s name? Who will be managing the project? What are the available resources? Effective tracking requires detailed information. It’s an unsafe bet to assume stakeholders share a projects familiarity. Instead, provide information known, even if it seems like overkill. This helps things run smoothly, and also sets groundwork for the project to be referenced as a precedent when future projects are being planned.
Report dates are the most important status information, and should always be front-and-center. Also, data separating status reports from other reports crossing stakeholders’ desks should be visible to grab attention.
Milestones are major touchpoints for your project. They serve as a guidepost for remaining work, and the timeline for it to get done. Conducting a milestone review lets stakeholders see actual progress versus what was estimated in the project proposal.
The project summary includes a projected completion date, as well as resources and costs expended. Inclusion of issues causing delays is an important summary component. There should be a clear explanation of how these issues could affect budget and timeline, and work being done to ensure things are corrected to get the project back on track.
Issues and Risks
This section is straightforward. List issues and risks encountered and note how these are being resolved. Finally, outline how resolutions are positively impacting project execution.
Back up statements with hard numbers and data points. Project planning details should have outlined these metrics. Show how data illustrates the success of your project to date, or, highlight needs for immediate improvement.
With these elements in mind, there are some project reporting best practices to consider:
- Communication is the cornerstone: Status reports are a key element of your communications plan. However, these reports don’t have to cover everything, and be all things to all people. Writing reports in a way that delivers the right information to the right people, at the right time, should be the overarching goal.
- Be consistent: Consistency is key. Find a format and distribution method that works for stakeholders, and stick with it. They’ll appreciate the predictability of the information they receive.
- Set targets and measure against them: Establishing metrics is an important part of project reporting and monitoring. Accordingly, these metrics should be how the project progress is measured against goals throughout its life-cycle.
- Keep things simple: Keep reports simple to ensure effectiveness. Don’t pull in details unrelated to the issue on which is being reported.
- Always verify what is being reported: It’s a bad idea to assume information is correct without doing due diligence to ensure it is.
- Have some standards: Reporting simplification is made easier through creation of standards defining report structure, and how information is presented. Given this, building templates to make the work easier is a great first step.
Throughout any project, it’s important to evaluate reporting to avoid scope creep. As project teams start to work, and silos of activity develop, it’s vital to keep everyone aligned. This ensures project scope doesn’t creep.
There are five ways to avoid scope creep:
- Document all project requirements
- Establish change control processes: If scope creep happens, it’s important to have change control processes in place to bring things back on track.
- Create a clear project schedule: A thorough project schedule outlines project goals. It outlines tasks to be done to reach those goals. This schedule is referenced against the project plan’s requirements document to make sure everything is moving forward. If not, the schedule sets the course for tweaks or changes.
- Verify scope with stakeholders: It’s worthwhile during a project’s lifecycle to review scope with all stakeholders. Reviewing the schedule together, and making sure all tasks stakeholders are expecting to be done on a given timeline is also a good idea.
- Engage the project team: Make sure the project team is happy with how things are going throughout the project. As the change control process starts to take hold, let the team know how it will affect them. Weekly 1:1 meetings or team meetings to review tasks, and also overall project progress is a great way to keep the team engaged.
Project reporting can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Taking things step-by-step can help ease anxieties among everyone involved, and ensure a winning result.
Project reporting can be tough, but also efficient with the right tools. Projectmanagementcompanion.com offers tools that make collaboration and development of project reports less time-consuming and more intuitive. Check out the selection of reporting capability in action by taking a free 30-day trial.