6 Essential Project Management Reports for Project Managers
Project management involves a lot of processes and activities such as project tracking, measurement of key metrics, and project execution to ensure that a project is completed successfully according to the project plan and deadline.
As a project manager, you are responsible for making every project under your belt successful. One of the project management tools you can use to successfully manage multiple projects is project reports.
Creating effective project reports to keep your project team and key project stakeholders on track as the project develops is not the most glamorous part of the project management process.
For many project managers, creating effective project reports can be tasking especially when you do not know the appropriate type of project management report to use.
In this article, you will learn about the different types of project management reports and their elements, tips for writing effective project reports, and the best project reporting tools to use.
Let’s get started.
What is Project Reporting?
Project reporting is simply the generation of critical data representing an overview of what your project has been through. It is an important aspect of project management involving a highly actionable summary, either collated over a weekly, monthly, or yearly interval, which shows project managers and stakeholders every important metric during the project’s course.
These metrics are also used to solve any problem within or improve the project management framework for more productive results.
Usually coming as a document of one or two pages, a project report sometimes doubles as a record-keeping document. The frequency of its generation depends on how complex or large your managed project is.
Project reports are also generated to show important information spanning the five phases of the project management life cycle and not just within a short interval.
Generally, project reports consist of identifying information like the project name, sponsor, and time frame that measure plans against progress, and additional information about changes, required decisions, and upcoming milestones concerning the project.
Why Good Project Reporting is Critical for Project Management
Project reports are not just used to show a summary history of what is going on within your projects. The details, data, and information within these reports are high-level and high in quality for a reason.
Effective project management, especially when complex projects are involved, is one hard activity involving multiple elements having effects on its success.
Your major stakeholders need to properly monitor and manage these different elements and, within a complex framework, this is not usually the easiest of tasks. How do project reports help?
- Quick Overview of the Project Status: Usually generated through the use of project management software, project reports filter through all occurrences, information, and metrics within the considered project time frame. Key project stakeholders rely on project reports to quickly track and monitor the progress of the project.
- Easier and More Accurate Decision Making: With project reports, your complex framework is represented within a summary document, giving you access to only the important elements that matter and allowing you to easily make decisions based on these without any unnecessary addendum.
- Solve Project Bottlenecks: Project reports, when generated properly, help you easily solve bottlenecks within your project, manage risks, monitor budgets, monitor timelines, and develop better project management strategies.
Types of Project Management Reports
1. Project Status Report
A project status report shows project managers and appropriate stakeholders the current state of the project. Accompanied by additional historical data, it provides information about where the project progress is currently at, in relation to goals, tasks, and resource usage.
Metrics or data are usually represented with the use of charts and graphs, so it is easier to identify, monitor, or compare different crucial project elements.
With project status reports covering specific time frames, you have information about:
- The amount of completed and incomplete work on the project
- The amount of financial, human, and time resources expended on the project
- Project action items
- Basic information about identified risks and issues within the project
Elements Of A Project Status Report
- General Project Information: This refers to general information about the entire project, such as the project name and appointed project manager, as well as the financial, time, and human resources set aside for the project, among other essential general project information. This general information is important for tracking purposes, in case of any need for reference in the future.
- General Status Report Information: You have a barrage of generated reports already, so to distinguish a new status report, you include general descriptive information about it. General status report information includes the date the status report was generated and the report number, among others.
- Milestones: They are what you use to measure the progress of a project and tasks within it. Milestones, which are crucial phases within your project, are an important element of any status report you intend to generate.
- Project Summary: Just like milestones, a project summary helps you measure how much progress you have made. Rather than phases, a project summary includes the predicted resources needed to run the project as well as a summary of actions included in the project execution.
- Problems and Risks: Project status reports are made up of the identified risks within the project framework, their rank in priority, and steps dedicated to taking care of them.
- Project Metrics: Metrics are the raw data from which other inferences are made. Within the project status report and based on the KPIs previously identified for the project, they show somewhat of an analog indication, hard evidence of where the project is at.
2. Project Health Report
Project health reports are generated to show important project stakeholders how well the project is faring. They give information about whether the project is progressing well, struggling, or inevitably heading towards failure.
This type of project management report also takes the set milestones and resource allocations into consideration, even more than status reports. Project health reports are generally used for comparison to determine the exact feasibility of the project towards success.
With these reports, you easily determine if your current progress aligns with estimated metrics, the level of difference between goals and current status if any, and which element of the project needs more or immediate attention.
Elements Of A Project Health Report
- Workflow Details: This includes information about each task or micro-workflow taken on by team members and accompanying information on the set scope and amount of resources used in facilitating them.
- Executive Assistance: Information about the amount of support received from executives, as well as how effective this assistance and various meetings have been in solving problems concerning the project.
- Risks And Issues: Major risks are the main threat to the overall health of your project, making it crucial for an assessment of your risks to be included in the report. Identified risks are affirmed, reviewed, and prioritized to give you a hint on how to go about them.
- Assessment: Another important element is an assessment of how issues are managed. Poor issue management and resolution is a hint on the current or future poor health of your project.
- Realized Benefits: Information on the number of benefits realized from the project, especially in comparison with what was intended to be gained from it, helps you understand where the project stands and if there is any pressing incentive for the project to continue.
- Change Management: An assessment of the change management strategies implemented into your project management framework and how effective they are is also important. Accompanying all these is a summary of the overall health of the project and any form of recommendations on the steps to take concerning the project.
3. Team Availability Reports
A team availability report provides a dedicated assessment of the number of human resources you have available to you to work with.
This report comes as somewhat of a calendar, presenting you with information on the schedule of your different team members or grouped teams, therefore providing a point of reference on identifying which individuals are busy and which are not.
Team availability reports are important in an efficient task and workload allocation. They give you high-quality and reliable knowledge on which team members are overloaded and need assistance, which is working on full capacity, and those that can be safely allocated tasks or additional workloads.
With these reports, you achieve your project goals faster and more productively. You prevent burnout and ensure all individuals always have work and contribution towards the completion and success of the project.
Elements Of A Team Availability Report
A team availability report typically comes in the form of a calendar, so the different elements that make it up are visually represented within this calendar.
- Team Name: This could be either the name of the entire team or the name of individuals responsible for tasks. These names are used to link other elements together and are extremely crucial and unmissable.
- Workload Allocation: Usually represented in numbers, these are individual assignments given to team members cutting across days in the period in consideration. The more workload the individual or team has on a day, the higher the number. This helps project managers easily recognize team members with more assignments and reallocate appropriately.
- Color Coding: Colors within this calendar represent the level of workload assigned to an individual or team on that day. High workload allocation is usually represented in red, and based on the software you use to generate this report, you probably have options to personalize these color-coding schemes.
4. Project Risk Reports
Project risk reports, also called risk assessment reports, are dedicated reports for risks to your projects, containing detailed information about identified risks. You are presented with the risks, the possibility of each happening, and the impact each has on your project’s success or completion.
With risk assessment reports, you easily prioritize your risks based on the information presented to you and determine the right risk management strategies to implement.
Elements Of A Project Risk Report
- Risk Profile: This is the most important part of a risk report typically represented in numerical values. It includes the risks identified as the biggest by top executives, their probabilities of happening, and the amount of impact they have on the project.
- Risk Capacity: Your risk capacity is the amount of cost you can suffer from risks before finally going bankrupt. Your risk tolerance, however, is something you control, which is the number of risk events you wish to take on or tolerate in pursuing project success.
- Risk Tolerance: Your risk tolerance levels may be aggressive, moderate, or very conservative, depending on how hard you wish to pursue project completion. It helps you properly gauge your level of risk and have forehand knowledge of how close your project is to termination.
- Key Risk Indicators: These are metrics that serve early warnings, acting as milestones in gauging risk levels or progression to damning risk events.
- Risk Management Strategy: A section of your project risk report may also contain information on the strategies and processes you intend to implement in mitigating the effects of or avoiding identified risks.
5. Variance Reports
A variance report presents you with measurements of how far your team activities, workflows, and progress have drifted away from milestones and objectives.
With these reports, you compare the work being done by individuals or teams with what was set out to be done or achieved during the project planning stage. You then develop strategies to keep your workflows on track, save precious resources from being wasted, and ensure you achieve maximum productivity.
Elements Of A Variance Report
The elements of a variance report are pretty straightforward.
- Project Objectives: Objectives are the main reason for a project’s existence and the only determinants if a project is successful or not. For more accurate measurements, these objectives are split into milestones.
- Project Milestones: Milestones are important as they are the indicators of whether the different activities done by each team or individual are advancements towards achieving the general project goal. Milestones breakdown project objectives and when they are completed, they are typically ticked off. Where a lot of activities have been done or resources burnt without milestones ticked off, you then understand that there may be deviations.
- Project Deliverables: These are the tasks, documents, or any other output elements important to the project’s advancement. Project deliverables are distributed amongst individuals or teams and are expected to be taken care of following the time scheduled for them. Some deliverables depend on other deliverables before work on them is initiated, so each has a ripple effect and its particular role to play in the general project's completion. Each team or individual’s project deliverables are compared with the time allocated for them, the completed deliverables, and the milestones towards which they build up to. Where there is a major lag between these elements, especially when it comes to surpassing milestones within the appropriate time, quantitative metrics or visual representations are then used to identify the level of variance.
6. Time Tracking Reports
Time tracking reports are probably the most basic of all reports listed. They contain just information on the amount of time each team member or team spends on tasks, that is, the exact time it takes for an individual or team to completely execute a task.
Elements Of A Time Tracking Report
Time tracking reports only contain the tasks teams or individuals took on and the amount of time it took to complete them, with these typically arranged in a tabular form.
How to Create Effective Project Report
Project reports are important documents within any type of project management framework. You do not achieve project success as efficiently as possible without these documents.
Nonetheless, creating a report is one thing, creating a highly effective and actionable report is another. You do not get the most out of your reports if they are not well-curated. So how do you do this?
1. Know Your Audience
Reports are meant to be actionable, and a report is actionable only when the individuals with access can make use of them.
For instance, what happens when a business owner is given a report extremely high in detail? Or when regular team members, who are meant to interpret and make improvements on projects, are given reports with very low data or information to work with?
Your project reports and the content in them remain effective only when the audience to which they are submitted have all they need through them. When generating your project reports, you first recognize your audience, then know which report suits them.
If reports are meant for senior-level executives, and depending on the context, you know whether a project status report with general information remains the most appropriate. For team members, a more detailed project health report or variance report proves to be more suitable.
The baseline remains that you first recognize your audience before determining the type of project report to create.
2. Stay Data-Centric
Reports majorly present managers, administrators, and stakeholders with deep insight into different elements of your project. Various workflows are typically represented by quantitative values and data processed into actionable information.
To get the most out of this, you want to collect or set a framework that collects as much of this quantitative data as possible. You and other stakeholders have more to work with, increase the scope of your project insights through extensive data collation, and make the most informed decisions.
3. Visualize Your Data
There are better ways to look at numbers. Reports are not just for administrators and owners but are also important tools used by regular team members to track their performance, the project's status, or any other aspect of the project. They are even used by clients.
How do you make this need easier to go about for all team members and interested individuals? You visualize your project data, through charts, graphs, and images, among other visualization options.
Thankfully, project management software does not just help you automatically generate reports but also comes with multitudes of options to intuitively visualize your data, including Gantt charts and Kanban boards, to mention a couple.
There are tons of Gantt chart software for project management and Kanban software such as Monday.com, ClickUp, and Wrike you can use to generate visual project management reports in the form of visual graphs and charts.
4. Integrate Collaboration Options
Communication is an important aspect of generating project reports that are seamlessly facilitated through project management software.
Project reports are not just documents meant for historical or record-keeping purposes. They are documents additionally meant to facilitate future decision-making and the overall improvement of project management strategies.
Team members work together for project success, so having generated reports that make provisions for communications and collaborations within them helps.
Rather than having to switch between communication hubs and making additional efforts in keeping up with reports, your team members do all these within a single workspace, ensuring there is no confusion.
Tips on Writing a Project Management Report
Some additional tips to go by while generating your reports include:
1. Use Project Management Software
The most important advice you could adhere to in creating your project management report is implementing the use of project management software.
These software tools undoubtedly make your entire project management workflows much easier to execute, with a lot of top tools in the market offering you very accurate, dedicated, and automatically generated reports. These are also accompanied by certain additional perks you do not want to miss out on.
2. Be Direct
Based on the amount of data and details that remain appropriate within the type of report you wish to create, you need to keep your content as straightforward as possible.
You do not want to include additional details that do not give any value to the purpose of the project but want to limit your project report to only the data and information that are actionable. What this does is make your workflow as efficient as possible, allowing your report's audience to spend little time and effort on interpreting and implementing reports.
3. Make A Reporting Schedule
Schedules are important for streamlining your project reporting workflows among team members. They know when to expect actionable reports on work done and even when to submit information for accurate report generation.
4. Keep All Details Accurate
What is a report if it is not accurate? The dangers of making decisions based on false information are not quantifiable, so it remains important to keep all recorded data as accurately depicting project statuses and workflows as possible.
Falling behind schedule or having an overall bad project workflow record pushes certain team members to make little diversions from accuracy. Encouraging team members to always present accurate information saves you from a host of roadblocks and hitches in the future.
5. Encourage Discussions
Collaboration is a very important aspect of project management and just creating reports that have open spaces for communications is not enough. Collaborative efforts in understanding and implementing project information are to be encouraged and facilitated as much as possible.
6. Project Supervision
Having the project manager, leader, or executive regularly supervise or inquire into various project workflows is also important in project reporting. This ensures that, when these collated details or information are recorded, subsequent submissions for reporting by these team members are more likely to be accurate.
Where there are contradictions, you easily spot them and keep team members in check, ensuring that you maintain the most accurate project reports.
Save Time and Effort with Project Reporting Software
Overall Best Project Reporting Software with Intuitively Visualized Reports
Monday.com is a top choice project management platform for small businesses not just for project reporting but also for the overall planning, tracking, and delivery of your projects. It is trusted by over 125,000 companies worldwide.
- Stacked Charts: Monday.com lets you visualize all your project data through charts, meaning you easily get information about, and monitor your time, performance, and resource usage, among others. All these are presented to you on a single dashboard, with you just switching between the visualized report you wish to see. Your report comes in workload view and performance insight view, to mention a couple.
- Cumulative Data: This project management platform also offers an option to include historical data collated from previous reporting time frames. Meaning, for instance, you have data of previous months also included in your charts, giving you a chance to compare your progress.
- Mobile applications
- Advanced board filters
- 14-day free trial
- Intuitive user interface
- Advanced search option
Top Project Management Reporting Software for High-Quality Status and Variance Reporting
ClickUp is a web-based project management tool for managing your tasks, documents, and communications, among others. The software has received over 10,000+ favorable reviews on external review platforms like G2, Capterra, and GetApp.
- Status Tracking: ClickUp places a major focus on project status reporting, providing you with multiple tabs reporting on your completed tasks and progress on each task, as well as team points to rank individual performance.
- Variance Reporting: With ClickUp, you do not just easily determine how much your team falls behind but also identify roadblocks, and ways to improve, among others.
- Time Tracking: You also have access to the time spent on your project down to individual tasks. ClickUp’s timesheets make it easy to track time spent by each member of your project team on the project.
- Easy time estimations
- Great support, uptime, and security
- 14-day free trial
Affordable Project Reporting Tool that Offers Extended Reporting Options
Teamwork is a cloud-based workflow management platform that proffers solutions to agencies, creative teams, marketing teams, professional services, and PMO teams.
- Extended Reporting Options: Asides from general status reports, Teamwork gives you options to generate documents specifically reporting on other elements of your projects. These include time-based task list reports, milestone reports, profitability reports, link reports, and people reports, among others.
- Project Health Reporting: Teamwork also facilitates the generation of your project health reports. Project health reports are however available to only project administrators and users who have been given extra permissions.
- Over 10 reporting options
- Multiple export options (PDF, Excel, iCal feed, CSV)
- Intuitive report filtering
- 30-day free trial
- Mobile applications
- Extended external integrations
Most Configurable Project Reporting Software
Trusted by Okta, Siemens, and Lyft, Wrike is one of the best enterprise project management platforms that focuses on providing you with complete visibility, facilitating effective communication, and easing your workflows through intuitive automation.
- Report Templates: With Wrike, you have access to a host of report templates that guide you in quickly creating your reports. These include report templates for weekly project status, active tasks, overdue tasks, unassigned tasks, time tracking, and time utilization.
- Performance Monitoring: Through Wrike's table and column charts, you easily gain high-level details to monitor and assess the number of tasks and projects that meet specified criteria. You easily determine whether your task executions and deliveries are up to standard with what you need for your project's success.
- Multiple reports sharing and exporting options
- Easy report duplication
- Report snapshot options
- Automatic report reminders
Most Ideal Project Reporting Software for Remote Teams
Scoro is an end-to-end work management software that offers additional major cost management features, helping to simplify your quoting and billing workflows.
- Status Reporting: Scoro's detailed work report shows an overview of the number of completed tasks you have, giving you an idea of how much progress you have made.
- Dedicated Reports: In addition to a general project report, you have access to dedicated reports for your sales, accounting, and budgeting, among a lot of others. All these dedicated reports specifically aimed at giving you detailed insights into your costs and improving your overall project cost management.
- Multiple export options
- Report filtering options
- Contacts overview
- Supporting external integrations