A Complete Guide To Writing An Effective Project Status Report
Imagine this: your direct supervisor sends you a message wanting to know the status of a project by the end of the day. It is 4 pm, and you are utterly swamped. In this very real-life situation, you are one of two people. You are person A or person B.
If you are person A, you have a mini panic attack because you have no idea what’s going on with the project, and you start frantically piecemealing together some semblance of a report for your boss. If you person B, you say “no problem” – find your project status report and send it over in a few short minutes.
To make sure that you will always be person B – you need to become familiar with project management reports. If you want to keep your project as successful as possible, the key is to know the status of your project at any point in the process. In this article, we’ll teach you how to write an effective report, some of the key elements to focus on, and some tips to make sure you are never person A.
What is a project status report?
A project status report is one of the most essential tools in a project manager’s arsenal. These reports are regular status check-ins with the team to ensure that everyone is on track with their current tasks and that no problems have arisen or potential issues have been identified. Your project status report could answer some of the below questions:
- What have you or the team accomplished since the last status report?
- What tasks are currently being worked on?
- What tasks are upcoming?
- How is your progress rating against goals and KPIs?
- Are you on track to finish the project on time?
- Are you keeping within budget?
- What are the major highlights (if any) of this period?
- Are there any potential risks or issues that need to be addressed?
The above questions are just a sampling of questions that you can include in your project status reports. You can be as in-depth as you want them to be – but remember, the more you know about your project – the more manageable your project will be to track and communicate to stakeholders.
The building blocks of a project status report
Not all project status reports are created equal. For example, you could email your boss back at 4:59 with a response such as “Project Status: we are still working on the project.” While I wouldn’t recommend sending this message to your boss- it is technically a project status report – albeit a terrible one.
To ensure that you are not sending out awful project status reports, you can create a project status report template for each state of your project, so all you need to do is plug and chug along. These are some typical building blocks that make up a project status report:
- Executive overview
1. Executive Overview
The executive overview is a high-level view of the project. It should include the project’s current state, what has been accomplished, what is left to do, and any risks or issues that need to be addressed. This section should be brief – think one to two paragraphs at most.
If you need to provide a more detailed analysis and comprehensive insights, you should prepare an executive report to be distributed separately. That will help you keep this section concise.
This section should overview all the project milestones and their current status. Writing down these milestones is important because it lets stakeholders see which tasks have been completed and which ones are still outstanding.
This section should identify any potential risks or issues that could impact the project’s success. Try to be as proactive as you can in identifying these risks so that you can take steps to mitigate them if they arise.
This final section should outline any communication plans for the next period. This includes who needs to be updated on the project’s progress, what information needs to be communicated, and how often updates should be given.
Include all of the above sections when you draft your project status report template. Take the time to think through the sections, and don’t just add areas you think you might need but areas you actually will need. This might sound obvious – but you’d be surprised how many people forget (or simply don’t bother) to do this.
When you create a template, you can see the outline of your project from start to finish and how you want it to flow. You can use this template again for future projects, and you can modify and add to it as your projects and timelines change.
How to write an effective project status report
When writing your project status report, there are a few key things to keep in mind:
Be clear and concise
This might seem like a no-brainer – but it is essential to remember that not everyone is familiar with all the jargon and technical terms associated with your project. When writing your report, use language that everyone can understand.
Keep it brief
No one wants to read a novel about your project, so get straight to the point. Your project status report aims to give a high-level overview of the project’s current state.
Identify risks and issues early
As I mentioned before, it is important to identify any potential risks or problems early on so that you can take steps to mitigate them. Doing this will save you and the team a lot of headaches down the line.
In addition to identifying risks and issues, it is also important to be proactive in solving them. This shows that you are on top of the project and are taking steps to ensure its success.
Use project management software to track your reports
A sure-fire way of not becoming person A – is to create a project status report using project management software. Projects have so many moving parts that keeping track of tasks, communication, and budgets can get overwhelmingly quick. So to stay on top of all your reports, use a project management software program like Hive.
Hive offers customizable project templates so you can choose the one that fits your project’s needs. In addition, Hive also provides a real-time activity feed, which allows you to see what everyone on your team is working on – in one place. This is valuable because it allows you to quickly identify any potential risks or issues and take steps to mitigate them.
Using project management software lets you take control of your reports and ensure that they are clear, concise, and brief – everything that a good project status report should be. So if you’re looking to up your report game, give Hive a try.
Do you have any other tips for writing effective project status reports? If so, share them in the comments below!