Put plainly, project status reports are difficult to write. It is a fact that project managers in different industries can come together and agree upon. But while it can be difficult to put together a document that has the right tone for the audience, has the pertinent information discussed at the appropriate depth, and can be functional rather than just informational, project managers are tasked with doing exactly that throughout the life-cycle of a project. That is why mastering this technique is so crucial. But it’s the one that no one ever teaches you how to do.
If you’ve feel like you have been fumbling in the dark trying to put together a good project status report, look no further. Here is a guide that will help you create an effective template that can be used over and over again.
It doesn’t matter what industry you are in: a deadline is a deadline everywhere. Because of that, this surefire method of reporting the status of ongoing project and/or account management exercises is applicable to any business type. Here are the most important aspects of a project status report – the anatomy, if you will – and why they are important.
- Get to the point. A project status report’s entire job is to update the reader about what is going on with a project, specific client/vendor relationship, or account load. To that point, it is imperative that you get to the point early. This is true whether you are holding a status meeting in tandem with the report or simply sending the report for executive review. Think about how you feel when you have to scan contracts for details that need to be addressed. You audience will feel the same way – they will want the skinny and they will want it right away. Consider an executive summary at the top of the report. This section will outline what will be found in more detail later on in the document. Your audience then has the opportunity to read that portion first to catch up on the progress and return to the more detailed section at a later date.
- Know your audience. As you begin your deep dive into the issues at hand, consider your audience. Do they need to know the nuts and bolts of what is happening? If this report is going to the team that codes, sketches, or constructs, then yes. The more detail about what is happening, the better. If the report is going to the executive team, perhaps no. Some of the minutiae can be left out of the status and the verbiage can be tightened up.
- Reduce the fluff. Another thing to stay on top of is the type of information you report on. Are the details of a shipping transaction important or will just the routing information suffice? Figure out what type of information will be important to the reader and reduce the peripheral chatter.
- Let your updates tell a story. A project status report is a living document. With that in mind, make sure that your segments are broken up by issue/concern/milestone. Beneath each header, adding new comments at whatever frequency agreed upon, keeping the previous updated below the newest one. By doing this, you are allowing the reader to see the overall progress. This will give you something tangible to reference should a delay derail progress down the line.
- Top matter is important too. Make sure that you have the date and time of your project status report meetings (if you have them) on the top of the report, as well as the conference bridge used. List the expected attendees from both their side of the house and yours so that everyone is aware of who the stakeholders are. This information could prove important should there be a need to gather everyone in the room to hash out a concern down the line.
- Keep a running list of action items. A status meeting might uncover new variables to be working into the project. Keep a running action item list to show what has come up and who is responsible for addressing it.
- Keep is short and sweet. While two pages doesn’t seem short, it is in the world of project status reports. In theory, you shouldn’t have ongoing issues or concerns that span two pages – that indicates that no progress is being made. Since a project status report is a tool used to update people about things, it should not also double as your project plan. Milestones that have been scheduled but have not yet begun do don’t have a place on the project status report. Once a status is completed remove it from the status list. You may opt to leave it there for review for a period, but after that, take it off the page to make room for new updates.
These steps will help you create a project status report with ease. It will be come a plug and play activity, effectively removing all the guesswork and giving you a template that is both versatile and simple.