Every project manager understands the importance of a project progress report. This is a project management tool that must be prepared and updated as the project progresses. However, what exactly is it?
A project progress report is a document that shows the effort and progress a team is making in meeting the project deliverables. Like the name suggests, it reports on the progress of the project. What is it important? The project progress report is used to brief the supervisor, manager, team leader, or client on the project’s progress, keeping them at par with the activities.
These reports are taken repeatedly as the project progresses. They help maintain the project schedule, keeping everyone involved on the same page. Therefore, they contain the completed work, the after plans, a summary of the project budget and schedule, action items, any issues or risks, and the supporting actions.
Even though the project progress report is usually used as a communication tool, its value extends beyond that. It captures historical data to guide you on the next similar project by telling you what to avoid and some of the bottlenecks that come with such projects.
Preparation of project reports has come a long way, given that people relied on manual means in the past. However, different project management software have come up over time, simplifying the process.
All in all, you still need to know how to prepare these reports to have an easy time going about them. Let’s take a look at some of the steps that you should consider:
1. Have an Introduction
Every document prepared in the lifecycle of a project must have an introduction to inform everyone of what the document is all about at a glance. One does not have to read the entire document to discover that it is a project status report.
There are several documents to be prepared as the project progresses, and therefore poorly naming your report can lead to challenges that should be avoided. We advise that you use the project’s name in the introduction to achieve a high level of clarity.
One should know what the report is about and which project it talks about just by reading the first page. However, if you regularly report on the project, we advise that you include a date or a timestamp. Also, remember to include the author of the report or any other information that can fit the introductory part of the article.
2. Indicate the Current Status of The Project- Is It Currently on Track, at Risk, or Off Track?
What is the role of a project progress report if not to also inform people on the current status of the project? We advise that you select a project management tool that will help you indicate and communicate the position of the project. Inform the target audience where it is still on track or currently facing difficulties.
A simple way of indicating the current progress of the project is by using a color-coding system. You can use blue or green if the project is on track, yellow if it is at risk, or red if it is off track. Be sure to explain what each color stands for easier identification.
3. Summarize the Status Report
It is time to start delving into the main issues once you have indicated the current status of the project. You should give a brief report summary of about two to three sentences. This is not the report itself, but a breakdown summary of it.
This section should inform any reader who may not have time to go through the entire report some of the important points and facts. It is just a quick briefing. For example, you can inform the audience that the results have been collected and under review. Include anything that you find essential and should be known to the audience.
4. Pick a Few Milestones to Highlight in The Project
Milestones are the significant phases of the project. They help you break up the entire project into smaller and more digestible parts. Therefore, every project progress report must consist of a milestone review, which should help you assess where you are meeting them.
Therefore, to go about this, we advise that you pick some of the areas that you have spent more time and effort working on ever since your last update. You can also approach this chronologically by capturing what the team has done, what it is working on, and some of the things that are next in line.
You can break this down weekly, monthly, or quarterly, provided that there is a level of chronology in your reporting. You can also go about this by grouping updates by roles. All in all, ensure that your choice of milestones is well explained.
5. Offer an Overview of Every Key Area
You are now in the most critical part of the project progress report. You should report on every key area of the project. We advise that you add a few bullet points in each of these critical areas to update your audience on the progress, accomplishments, and all the upcoming work in the project.
For example, you can discuss the survey results and break them down further into points informing the audience the percentage of people that took part in it, the overall satisfaction of the team, and the future happenings.
6. Link the Information You Offer to Other Documents or Resources
You are not expected to delve into the intricacies of the projects. However, some people may not be up to date with the project and may need more information. We, therefore, advise that you provide links to other documents or resources, such as the project portfolio.
This will help stakeholders in search of all the little details about the progress of your project. This is necessary since you should never assume that everybody is at par with your while reporting. Assumption is one of the biggest communication blockers that we want to avoid.
7. Note the Challenges and Issues That the Project Has Faced
You should desist from biased reporting. Do not overfocus on the bright side of the project and fail to inform the stakeholders on some of the negative sides. Your report should be not only accurate but also unbiased.
All projects are expected to face specific difficulties during their execution, and achieving a smooth project without any impediments is next to impossible. Therefore, ensure that the stakeholders are always informed of these problems to stay at par.
You can also note the overall impact of the problem on the entire project. For example, indicate if it will result in a delay of the overall project timeline or will call for more funding. Being open is one of the best ways of encouraging everyone to focus on the project at hand.
8. Remember to Add Additional Notes or Highlights
The last step in preparing a project progress report is to include additional notes or highlights. You are not restricted. You can choose to write the next steps that the project team intends to take or simply anything that you feel should be highlighted.
You can also choose to congratulate a team member for the excellent work done to ensure a particular milestone was achieved. Therefore, be sure to add anything, provided that it relates to the project at hand.
How To Write a Good Status Report
There are a number of best practices that you can rely on when writing your project reports. These will ensure that it captures sufficient information to be relayed to the stakeholders. Let us take a look at these:
1. Treat Your Report as a Question-and-Answer Sheet on The Progress of The Project
This is one of the simplest yet effective ways of writing a progress report. We advise that you view the progress status report as a question sheet on how the project is fairing on. This will help you offer answers on the project’s progress, identify the blockers and what needs to be done to ensure that the project is successfully completed.
Having such a mindset will help you come up with a detailed report that captures everything the stakeholders may want to know regarding the project.
2. Adhere To PPP
PPP, which stands for progress, plans, and problems, is a technique used in status reporting, focusing on how the project progresses as it nears completion. Therefore, while writing your project progress report, make sure that you include questions on its projects, plans, and problems.
Such questions will help you arrive at meaningful and specific answers and instead avoid lots of unnecessary details, which the stakeholders do not need. They will help you reach valuable and relevant facts.
For progress, focus on the milestones, tasks, achieved goals, and all the validated items that will help you complete the project. For plans, talk about the things to do, the objectives, and all other strategies that significantly impact the completion of the project.
Problems refer to the blockers or issues threatening the successful completion of your project. Therefore, for each of these, come up with a minimum of three items and a maximum of five. You can also change the frequency of submitting the progress reports if your time has a hard time answering questions regarding these 3 P’s.
3. Do Not Rush the Program Report
Most people do not care to ensure that the information captured in the project report is of high quality. Instead, they are more focused on finishing the project t report and forwarding it to the stakeholders. To avoid instances where you cannot achieve meaningful completion of the progress report, we advise that you have a schedule and only encourage specific answers.
You need to pick the proper schedule, especially if your team is working on a long-term project to avoid poor quality answers that will not satisfy the stakeholders. Also, ensure that you set actual dates for submission, or else you will prioritize the status report last.
On formulating specific answers, you should use the relevant metrics and avoid vague descriptions for better project tracking.
4. Simplify Your Work
It would be best if you used sections and headings to make writing and reading your work easier. Section headings usually play an essential role in helping one focus on valuable information while writing the report. These should not, therefore, be ignored.
The progress report should also clarify the progress of the project instead of describing every aspect of what is happening in the project. Remember, too much or unnecessary information is considered poor reporting.
Simplified work also ensures that the project manager has an easy time going through the report and remembering all the key points captured in it, which you should strive to achieve.
5. Check Your Language
We advise that you use simple and straightforward language. Make sure that you use a progress report format whose language is clear and straight to the point. However, specific projects may require you to use technical terms or jargon. You are permitted to use these in such instances but still make sure that your sentences are easy to understand, simple, and straight to the point.
We have covered some of the steps and tips that will help you come up with the best project progress report. This is an important document used as a communication tool with the stakeholders and top management of the organization.
Progress reporting helps track the project’s current progress and weigh the results against the original plans. It also helps in risk identification since continuous reporting helps in early risk identification and action-taking. It further helps in cost management which can be pretty tricky, Progress reporting offers a clear picture of the expenditure, which helps in budget management.
Therefore, ensure that you get it right when preparing the project progress report. Even though you can use several software for this, you must still have an idea of what you are doing. Do not also rush through the process of reporting.