Understanding Project Status Reports

Status Reports

A project status report shows data over a certain period of time, essentially it’s a snap shot. When these “snapshots” are taken regularly, it’s easy to track progress and make adjustments. It’s a document that describes the progress of a project within a specific time period. Project managers use status reports to keep stakeholders informed of progress and monitor costs, risks, time and work. Project status reports allow project managers and stakeholders to visualize project data through charts and graphs.

They are taken repeatedly, throughout every phase of the project’s execution, as a means to maintain the schedule and keep everyone on the same page. The status report for a project will generally include the following:

  • The work that’s been completed
  • The plan for what will follow
  • The summary of the project budget and schedule
  • A list of action items
  • Any issues and risks, and what’s being done about them

The true value of a project status report lies beyond its use as a communication channel. It also provides a documented history of the project. This provides historical data, so the next time a similar project is being planned, missteps or bottlenecks can be avoided.

Because project status reports cover so many topics, historically, they were time-consuming to create. Fortunately, modern project management software expedites the all-important reporting process.

\Writing a project status report is an essential project management task. Whether generating one weekly, monthly or quarterly, the steps are essentially the same. Here’s how to write a project status report:

  1. Determine the objective
  2. Target your audience (Clients, team members, sponsors, etc)
  3. Choose the format and type
  4. Collect data
  5. Structure the report
  6. Make sure it’s clear
  7. Edit draft

Because a project status report follows a basic outline, it can be helpful to use a project status report template. However, a project status report template is only a static document. Using project status reporting software integrates with all the project management tools for greater efficiencies.

Normally the organisation and the audience receiving the status report will advise on frequency. A project status update is usually distributed on a regular schedule, but sometimes people want to see a status report immediately.

The different elements of a project status report organize the different parts into a cohesive whole. The objective of a status report is to keep stakeholders informed and expose areas of the project that need greater organizational support.

To better communicate, be sure to touch on all of the following when composing the project status report.

The project name, who is the project manager, the number of resources, all this information is essential. Don’t assume the stakeholder is familiar with all this information. It’s especially useful for when doing historical research for future projects.

Stamp the report with data that will distinguish it from the deluge of reports that will be streaming into the project paperwork. So, include date the report was generated, who the author is and so on.

Milestones are the major phases of the project. They’re a good way to break up the larger project into smaller, more digestible parts. The milestone review provides an overview of where the project is up to in respect to original time estimates.

One of the main purposes of the status report is to compare the project’s progress with the project plan estimates. To do this, include a short summary of the forecasted completion date and costs of the project. This allows project managers to control the project’s execution and measure success. Be sure to include the activities that are facing issues and how those problems might impact the project’s quality, resources, timeline and costs. Explain the plan forward to resolve any issues and what the results will be once the problem has been resolved.

Risks are all the internal and external factors that are a threat to a project. They become issues once they affect the project’s budget, timeline or scope. List the issues that have arisen over the course of the project to date. What are they? How are they going to be resolved? What impact they’ll have on the overall project?

It’s important to back up the report with hard numbers to prove the statements being made are accurate.  Established the metrics for status reporting during the project’s planning phase. It’s impossible to know if the project is succeeding without measuring its effectiveness. These metrics are a way to show if the project is tracking as expected and if attention is required.

Reporting software can be used to automatically collect project data, analyze it, and display the results to help project managers make better decisions when managing a project. The software gathers information from different sources within the project and converts them in spreadsheets, graphs and charts.

Depending on the software, reporting data can be filtered to highlight areas of the project that is needed to see at that time. Reports can be generated on various aspects of the project’s progress and performance, such as time, cost, workload, etc.

Reports are also used to keep key stakeholders, such as sponsors and clients, updated on how the project is doing, and therefore, should be shareable.

Reporting has always been a staple of project management. It’s a data-driven discipline. Given that many successful projects have succeeded in the past, without software to help, so is it necessary to use a reporting tool? A modern project deals in much more data than the projects of the past, and automatic tools can relieve many of the headaches induced by navigating it all manually. Depending on the length and complexity of the project, then using the project management tool will be of assistance, many large organisations use a project management software tool for reporting purposes which means there is no choice but to learn how to navigate it.

The project status provides an overview of where a project is currently and allows determination if the project is on time and under budget. It shows the tasks that are due on the week it has been generated, and which are overdue.

Status updates are not the only reporting, there are others, a portfolio report is a collection of projects that one manages. They must work together in alignment with the overall strategy of the organization. Determine the health of the full portfolio, and if they’re meeting their schedules and budgets. Get lists of project managers, team and tasks to better determine a portfolio’s overall health.

Keeping a project on track, within budget and know how far it is from completion is important. Get an overview of the schedule and a list of all the tasks and when they should be done.

Remember the objectives of status reports are to:

  • Help the project management team keep track of costs, tasks and timelines
  • Compare the budget and time forecasts with the actual costs and task duration
  • Improve communications across the organization
  • Simplify the communication process
  • Keep stakeholders informed
  • Deliver key messages to the intended target audience
  • Improve organizational support for the projects or the team

When reporting to stakeholders, keep messaging concise and to the point.

Like any report, start with an introduction; give a short overview of what is to follow. List the accomplishments, use hard facts, numbers and details, and how they reflect progress to achieve the overall goals and objectives of the project.

Note any bottlenecks and roadblocks that are preventing the project from progressing. Set expectations by detailing risks and issues that could grow into problems that make it harder to reach the target. Also, write out the plan to address and resolve these issues as they arise and what resources will be needed.

Project status reports are only a single facet in the communication 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. Project status reports are vehicles for communication, stakeholders such as clients and sponsors want to know the big picture, while team members will be more interested in specifics.

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. When planning for the project, figure out how to measure its progress, and then stick to this method when reporting on the project throughout its life cycle. Stay to the point, and just report on what needs reporting on.

Do the due diligence, and make sure that only information needed is being provided. Keeping standards of process and a template for reporting makes sure reporting is clear.

Statuses reports are just one of the many reports project managers use to keep updated on the progress of their projects. Status is more general, while others focus on specific aspects of the project. Every project is made up of tasks, often lots of them.

  • Tasks Report
  • Time-sheets Report
  • Availability Report
  • Workload Report
  • Variance Report

In general, status reports are weekly or at the very least fortnightly; but it’s not unheard of to create daily or even monthly reports, which can be the best choice for businesses in certain industries.

A daily status report is geared towards short-term goals. A weekly status report is more extended in that they cover the weeks’ worth of work, including what has been accomplished and what is left to do. A monthly status report is really only useful for projects with an extremely long duration.

Regardless on the frequency of status reporting, as advised normally the project size and stakeholder requirements will dictate this, the type of information needed is uniform. Don’t overlook the benefit of a Status Report as a good and useful communication tools when reporting the progress of a project. Let us know your thoughts on the detail you enter your project status reports; we would like to hear from you. All the very best, on your project management journey.

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