The Six Elements of a Project Report
There are six elements to project reporting, as the execution phase progresses. It’s important to report on project progress so the schedule doesn’t go astray. Comprehensive project reports include six elements:
Start with the basics. What is the project’s name? Who will be managing the project? What are the available resources? Effective time, cost and task tracking requires detailed information. It’s an unsafe bet to assume stakeholders share your familiarity with the project. Instead, provide information you know they will need, 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 project status information, and should always be front-and-centre. Also, data separating status reports from other reports crossing stakeholders’ desks should be visible to grab attention.
Milestones are major touch points for your project. They play an essential role when it comes to time tracking because 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.
This section is straightforward. List issues and risks you have encountered. Note how these are being resolved. Finally, outline how resolutions are positively impacting project execution. Risk assessment and risk management processes must be implemented throughout the project life cycle.
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. Determining metrics to measure project progress is essential for tracking tasks, time, costs and managing teams.
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. Weekly status reports are the most common to keep track of project progress.
• Be consistent: Consistency is key, find a format and distribution method that works for your 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 your 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 you’re reporting.
• Always verify what you’re reporting: 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.
Defining the project scope and keeping track of it must be a priority for every project manager. There are five ways to avoid scope creep:
1. Document all project requirements.
2. Establish change control processes: If scope creep happens, it’s important to have change control processes in place to bring things back on track.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Engage the project team: Make sure your 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 your 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. Make sure you use project management software, or at least a project tracking template, to facilitate the creation of reports. Let us know which tools you use when reporting on your projects, we would like to hear from you. All the very best on your project management journey.