The essential 5 Project Management Reports
Project reporting or governance is a very important part of the project manager’s life. Without reliable reporting, projects are doomed to fail. There are five reports to use to ensure projects remain on track. These will help with tracking everything from risks to resources. They are the most common types of project reports, regardless they are crucial to the successful running of a project.
The most common type of project report and the one that is likely to be generated most often are Status Reports. These reports can be produced weekly or monthly, depending on the project and the sponsor’s requirement they can also be requested on a daily basis.
The frequency depends on where the project is at a certain point and how much there is to say. There’s not much point reporting daily if the tasks all take over a week, as there won’t be any progress to report from day to day.
As a fair amount of time is spent producing status reports, it is worth considering ways to make it faster to write them. Better yet, automate as much reporting as possible.
Create a standard status report template or use the one that comes with project management software, and use the data in the scheduling tool to populate the project progress. Even if it has to be amended afterwards, having some of the fields completed will save a lot of time.
Many Project Managers report on risks at least monthly and the report is normally the output that comes after a risk review meeting. The risk log can be updated anytime, and all project team members should be contributing risks to the log whenever it is determined something needs recording.
The risk report should include a summary of the risk profile of the project. A good approach would be to only include the details for the risks that have the potential to create the most problems for the project. Then, include a statement on the lower-level risks, perhaps summarizing how the risk is being mitigated.
There could be a request to produce a report about all the risks, regardless of how significant they are. It’s probably easiest to do this as an automated download from project management software, or if the risk log is kept in another format like a spreadsheet, by issuing a complete copy of that document.
Reports need to be tailored to the people who are going to read them. So the report produced for the project board will have a different level of detail in it compared to the weekly status update that goes to the project team and key business stakeholders.
For the project board reports, think high level. They will want to read about things that are important to them, like issues they can help resolve, a summary of the budget position, and whether or not the project is on track and milestones achieved within the time-frame specified.
Make sure that the board report is in a format that they can easily read. For example, if executives are always on the road and use their smartphones to check emails, don’t produce the report in the form of a complicated spreadsheet that won’t display correctly, or include loads of large graphics that will take ages to download. A pdf will render across devices if emailing a static report.
Tracking resource allocation and determining which task is being addressed at a certain point is another important report. One way is to go through the entire project plan and work out the resource allocations by hand. That would take a lot of time, and be mind-numbingly dull as well. Or use project management planning software to work it all out. Most software tools, whether they are standalone Gantt chart software or fully-featured project tools with integrated time-sheets, will have the option to create a resource report.
The resource report will show the breakdown of which project team member is allocated to which task on which day. They can also be used to pinpoint over allocation problems – where a team member is allocated to more than one task. Obviously they can’t work on two things at once, so if not picked up these problems will affect the project plan as it slips behind schedule. Use the resource report to ensure there aren’t any clashes for individuals and reschedule those tasks as necessary.
Resource reports can also be useful for scheduling more than one person. This is important information as it provides information when someone becomes available, and that is a good sign that they can be given more project tasks at that point. If the resource availability is compared to the project’s timeline then planning becomes more efficient. As one task done by one person ends, then someone else is available to pick up the next thing that needs to be done, so that tasks don’t stop halfway through waiting for the next person to become available.
Overall, resource reports are one of the most useful types of project reports to be had as a project manager, although they can be a bit difficult to interpret at first. It really is worth spending the time getting to know how to read the reports so that changes to the project schedule can be made as appropriate.
A project can be determined to be tracking as planned via a variance report. That’s the beauty of a variance report: it compares the planned against the actual outcome, providing a metric to measure if the project is still on track, ahead of schedule or running behind.
The variance report will collect and organize the data on what is being comparing, whether it be the budget, schedule or scope of the project variable being measured. The variance report provides the tool to many a variance analysis or a measurable change from the baseline.
There are several variance reports, such as cost variance, variance at completion (budget surplus or deficit), scheduled variance and others. Mostly, variance reporting is used in budgetary analysis, trend reporting and spending analysis.
The variance report is a great tool for the project managers, who need a lens into the project’s progress so as to make informed decisions on allocating resources. But not only project managers benefit from the reporting. Stakeholders are interested in high-level reporting, and variance reports provides a thumb’s up or down as to the progress of the project and whether it has met its schedule and budget.
How often a variance report should be run depends on many factors. For example, what kind of project is it? What’s its duration? Where is it taking place? The accounting methods a project manager uses will likely be different from project to project, but a regular variance report is a powerful metric to determine the health of the project.
The right software will be of assistance to project managers, and the less which has to have manual input the better. Especially when the project software is integrated and information can be obtained within a few key strokes. Regardless, project reporting is mandatory if you are new to the role or an experienced journeyman. Let us know the best reports you use for your projects we would like to hear from you. All the very best on your project management journey.