Project status reports are a constant fact of life for any project manager. Most PMs find themselves creating at least one project status report per project, per week, but that number can multiply quickly if a manager needs to report more frequently, or report separately to different groups of stakeholders.
Unfortunately, when it comes to status reports, practice does not always make perfect. Project managers, even those who have written hundreds of reports in the past, often make their own lives more difficult by omitting important information or including more details than are necessary. Before you sit down to create your next project management status report, take a moment to review these tips.
Include a High-Level Summary
How certain can you be that your audience will read your report all the way through? If you use a standard project status report template for all of your reports, consider adding a space near the top for a quick summary of what’s included in the report below. A sentence or two stating that the project remains on track, or (if needed) highlighting a few key areas of concern, can help ensure that stakeholders get the critical information they need, even if they get distracted before reading the rest. These quick summaries can also help set the right tone and expectations at the beginning of status update calls or meetings.
Provide the Latest Numbers
Other than your high-level summary, the most important information you can provide in a status report is up-to-date data on project financials and timelines. The specific metrics you use and the level of detail you provide will depend on your audience and the project, but every status report should let team members and other stakeholders know how the project is performing compared to its budget and schedule. Project management solutions like Clarizen make it easy to pull real-time data in these areas, so there’s no excuse for leaving them out of your reports.
Identify Risk Areas and Issues
Every project manager needs to pay special attention to risk management. In addition to identifying risks in the first place, PMs should help their teams maintain ongoing awareness of them by adding risk discussions to meeting agendas and project status reports. You should also be sure to provide the latest information on any issues that have already emerged, including notes on how the team plans to resolve them.
Don’t Live in the Past
Naturally, the bulk of your report will deal with things that have already happened, but successful PMs also use their status reports to communicate the plan for the upcoming week. Be sure to list the tasks that are scheduled to be completed, along with the details of any important meetings or milestones that will take place between your current report and your next (equally perfect) project status report.
Also, be aware there is a bright future for project managers who are now able to automate their reports with a modern project management tool like Clarizen. Project managers can literally “get their lives back” when they remove themselves from the manual process of report creation. Want to know more? Take a Clarizen product tour today.