Project Status Reports: The Definitive Guide for Beginners
As a project manager or business owner, keeping track of your projects and aligning all stakeholders involved about the progress can be daunting when done manually.
Effective project status reports are essential for keeping your teams and stakeholders updated on the status of your projects.
Creating project status reports manually is a big time-waster that eats up time better expended on other high-impact tasks, especially when you have to extract information from multiple sources.
Instead of compiling these reports manually, you can save time and improve productivity by using project status report templates.
Whether you are preparing to create your first project status report or in search of a better solution to the one you already use, this article will serve as a definitive guide for your project status reports.
You will learn what a project status report is, its components and benefits, how to write one, the best project management tools to use, best practices, and templates.
Let’s get started.
What is a Project Status Report?
A project status report is an official document that gives a brief on the progress of a company's project. It describes the progress within a given time and enables a comparison with the overall plan. This report keeps concerned stakeholders abreast of the progress of a plan.
Getting informed of the progress enables you to address issues the moment they arise and envisage the period remaining for the plan to actualize. Also known as a status summary, a project status report includes the overall plan, current stage, crossed milestones, and upcoming tasks.
Project status reports facilitate effective communication between members of an organization or company. If everyone is aware of the current status, it automatically sounds like a note of reminder to everyone that they need to work harder to meet up with the overall plan.
This report makes communication channels simplified. Every member of an organization will have a unified summary to refer to when addressing the current status of a project. In other words, some members will not be ahead of others due to non-uniform information dissemination.
Benefits of Effective Project Reporting
1. Efficient Tracking
One major benefit of project reporting is tracking. A project status report tells you what level you are on your plan execution. Project status reports help large establishments to track the current progress of their projects. It is mostly handled by the reporting officer or reporting software.
The information obtained from the recent reports tells the company what needs to be done urgently to either hasten the pace or maintain the speed at which they are moving. Also, project status reports can track risks, minor issues, schedules, budgets, and current project status health.
2. Risks Identification
Project status reports help businesses to identify both healthy and unhealthy risks. Risks are inevitable in businesses and the earlier you make calculations, the better for your business. The reports help with visibility, then it is up to the reporting officer to determine if it is a calculated risk or not.
When you access the project status report at the appropriate time and you spot a risk, it gives you time to act very fast and take the necessary action. If it is a risk that seems confusing, you can seek help from the project stakeholder or any other qualified person. Reports on risks give the full team a chance to ponder on it.
3. Project Visibility
Project visibility is quite different from tracking. The former is a deeper check on your project status. Tracking only tells you your current progress but visibility is a benefit that gives you a full insight into how your project has been faring.
Visibility allows effective project management and helps you to know if your project has been performing well or badly regardless of your current status. It also helps you to identify risks earlier than usual. Identifying risks will, in turn, compel you to take fast action to work on the good ones and eliminate the bad ones.
4. Finance Management
Cost accounting and management for a large and long-term project can be an arduous task. Being careless with expenses and revenues can make you overspend your project budget. In some rare cases, the fear of overspending can make you spend less than required, which can lead to cost-efficient project execution.
Project status reports keep you informed on your spending habits. You can identify when you spend more or less. Reporting also tells you what areas you spend more money in, it is left to the stakeholders to determine if the spending habit is healthy or not.
Also, reporting gives a hint on how much you need to complete the project from your current status.
Project Management Tools That Make Project Reporting a Breeze
Best Overall Project Management Software that Supports All Operating Systems
Monday.com is a project management tool used by millions of businesses including Coca-Cola, Hulu, Adobe, and others.
- Numerous templates: To get started, you need to pick one of the ready-to-use templates, customize it to fit your workspace, and you are good to go. There are hundreds of templates to provide work teams with an effective virtual work environment.
- Orchestrated Work Environment: This software tool provides a workspace that allows users to multi-task, that is, plan, manage, track, and deliver projects.
- Visual Guides: Monday.com provides multiple visuals that serve as guides for users. Examples are map, timeline, calendar, board view, and others to visualize your workflow.
- Remote Work: Supports remote operations by giving users access to features for organizing teams, monitoring project progress, and blending ideas together, from anywhere at any time.
- Ease of Usage: This work management software tool is easy to use because users can pick up their course of actions from random video conversations aimed at improving every aspect of the project team.
- Two-week free trial plan
- Round-the-clock customer support
- Sophisticated integrations
- Simple data visualization
Best Project Management Application with Cheap Plugin Options
ClickUp is a project management and task management tool that has enjoyed patronage from multimillionaire companies like Google, IBM, Webflow, and more within four years of operation. The company was founded in 2017.
- Easy Transfer of Data: ClickUp has a feature that allows users to import their data from other agile project management software. You can do automatic imports from tools like Excel, Trello, Monday.com, and more. It prevents loss of data due to transfer.
- Multiple Visualization: Users can project their workflows in the form of calendars, boards, lists, docs, and more. It allows business organizations to access their workflows in any of the forms they like.
- Projects Templates: There are thousands of customizable workspaces and templates to work with. Apart from that, the tool has external integrations like cloud-based storage platforms. Examples are Box and Dropbox.
- Customization: You can create appealing customizations with perfect designs and simple structures that will be suitable for your project.
- Offline-mode plugin options
- Two-factor authentication security access
- One-month money-back surety
- Round-the-clock chat support
- Free training
Simple Project Management Tool with Extensive Customizable Options
Wrike is a simple project management tool for handling complex projects. The platform shapes its user interface to suit multiple teams' workspaces. It has a live editing feature that helps teams to put heads together and work on tasks and projects simultaneously.
- Real-time Alerts: On Wrike, packet loss rarely occurs where messages do not send as fast as expected. You can communicate with other team members effectively with real-time notifications, chats, and Emails.
- Extensive Integrations: There are custom dashboards that create smooth workflows which cater to both general and specific needs.
- Seamless communication channels
- Email, chat, and phone support
- External integrations like Microsoft and Github
Best Project Management Application with Actionable Templates
Teamwork is a team management software tool that ranks as the first choice for many popular brands like Spotify, Netflix, Disney, and HP. You can upload designs, create files, add comments, view your tasks on the dashboard, and use health status updates to track the project's progress.
- Ready-made Templates: The templates available on Teamwork do not leave users confused when in use. They are easy-to-scale, even for beginners.
- Workflow Importation: On Teamwork, it is easy to import your workflows from other platforms such as Trello, ClickUp, and more.
- One-month free trial
- Email and chat support
- External integrations with third-party applications
Best Project Management Tool to Manage Sales and Customers
Scoro is a business management software that uses dashboards and automated feedback to follow up on the progress of a project and to share the result with your team members. With Scoro's Planner, you can prioritize tasks, ensure delivery before deadlines, and manage portfolios with customized views.
- Integrations: On Scoro, you can integrate your work with cloud storage solutions like Zapier. You can also link accounting software programs like QuickBooks with the platform.
- All-in-one Functionality: Scoro does not just provide integrations to track projects, it also facilitates sales, helps build a relationship between customers and business owners.
- Hundreds of templates
- Round-the-clock chat and phone support
- Two-weeks free trial
Best Online Project Management Tool with Quality Tracking Options
Celoxis is an all-in-one project and workflow management software application that has quality tracking options with classic features for high-paid plans. The platform is trusted by big brands like Tesla, Adobe, and Rolex. Its dashboard is a dynamic one with loads of customization for different types of businesses.
- Accounting Updates: Celoxis provides features that let you track expenses, incomes, taxes, receivables, and other accounting variables.
- Teamwork: Team up with your colleagues to brainstorm ideas together and convert them into actionable tasks. Share files and add comments based on topics of discussion.
- Timely tracking
- Customizations and external integrations
- Portfolio management
How to Write an Effective Project Status Report?
Project status reports can be written at any time of the year. Whether you do it weekly, monthly, or yearly, there are simple steps to follow to craft out an effective one that communicates the intended message well.
1. Understand the Aim
The first step in writing an effective project status report is to determine the objective, that is the reason you are writing the status report. To achieve efficiency, you must have a view of the result you want to get at the end of your project. You must be working towards determining what you want to achieve with the project.
Decide on what you want the recipients of the reports to know. It helps you in sorting things out when doing your timely reports. If a company is working on a project which is to be backed up by a report, the stakeholders must have the required knowledge of the current status at every reporting.
When you have a vision of what to communicate, it gives you an edge on how to pass the message properly to your audience. For instance, if a board is to analyze a drastic decision from the project reports, the report must convey every message clearly and accurately. It should provide the necessary pros and cons for every decision.
2. Know Your Target Audience
Organizations write project status reports to different audiences like team members, sponsors, clients, and stakeholders. Having a better understanding of who you are pitching to is a vital step in writing effective project status reports. The target audience of your reports determines your approach.
For instance, the report you will prepare for delegated calls will be on a more formal note compared to a report addressing your team members. One good way to write a project status report is to write from the perspective of your recipients. Writing from the right perspective can only happen if you understand your audience.
To write from your audience's perspective, ask yourself questions you feel they would ask when they see the report. It helps you point in the right direction when crafting your project status reports.
For instance, if you are writing a report to show a project's progress, a sponsor might seek to know more about the result while team members deliberate on the process.
3. Choose Your Preferred Type and Format
Your audiences determine how your project status report should look. Depending on the format, a project status report can be informal or formal, operational or financial, and to pass necessary updates. The use of templates narrows down your thought process on how your report should look.
Ensure to use the appropriate format that communicates the right message to your target audience. If you are in charge of reporting the status of a project and you have no prior knowledge of navigating any web-based project management software, templates will do a lot of help to save your effort and time.
The use of templates also builds consistency for users. If you have to create your maps, to-do lists, and timelines from scratch, you might not get a uniform structure. Many of the best visual project management software tools come with thousands of templates to suit different workspaces.
4. Collate Your Data
A project status report can only serve its purpose when the information on it is reliable and factual. Your recipients, that is clients and sponsors will only trust the process when there are facts to back up your report. Providing factual information also builds trust between you and stakeholders.
People love when you can back up reports with real-life analysis, it assures them that you know what you are doing. Due to this, you must attach cost analysis to your reports if most information is centered on figures. It solidifies every claim you make in your reports.
For instance, if you are requesting more funding on a project based on the current status, it would be necessary to include cost analysis so that your recipients can know why and how you want to execute the extra funds.
5. Structure the Report
You will hardly see an effective project status report without a regular pattern or structure. The truth is, a report will be of no use if it has no structure. Structuring a report remains one of the top five tips for crafting a good report because it affects the interpretation of the audience.
A nicely structured report will save the time of readers when going through the document because they can quickly navigate to the part that concerns them. It will also allow readers to skim through headings, sub-headings, introduction paragraphs, and still understand the intended message.
A well-structured report should have a title that hints to the readers on what the report is about. The next is an introduction paragraph that paints a picture of what the body of the report addresses. After the introduction is the body which contains most of the core information about the report. It should contain opinions, suggestions, recommendations, and analyses.
The last part of a well-structured report should be the conclusion. It contains an executive summary of what the introduction and body of the report talked about. If there is a need for a call-to-action statement, it will be stated in the conclusion paragraph.
6. Proofread Your Report
An effective project status report must be readable to a fourth grader. Combining facts and analysis in a complicated manner is as good as not passing any message across at all. You need to express yourself in the simplest words possible. It avoids misinterpretation of vital information.
To improve readability, you can add visuals in between texts. It cuts long paragraphs short and allows readers to visualize your information while reading the texts. You can also employ the use of formatting and supporting lists.
If you have long paragraphs, you can dissect your texts by bulleting key points. Also, each paragraph should not be more than five sentences so readers will not get bored when going through the reports.
When describing the details of the reports, ensure you do not release more than you should. Sponsors that review numerous projects will not take their time to go through unnecessary information.
7. Make Necessary Edits
When you are done with the previous steps, you should go over your document to dot your “i's” and cross your “t's.” You should do this after taking a break from work so that your brain can be refreshed to note minimal errors. No matter how careful you are when writing, your first draft can not be 100% error-free.
After going through them yourself, give other stakeholders to proofread for you in a case where the reports are intended for external sponsors. If you still have enough time after the first revision, take a day break and revise it for the last time to ensure perfection.
Elements of Project Status Reports
Every successful project status report has key components that come together to form a whole. The purpose of every report is to keep the target audience informed about the project status. For the report to communicate the information well, it needs to contain the right elements.
1. General Project Information
When crafting a status report, it is necessary to put down the basic information related to the project. Of course, you cannot have a project status report without the name of the project, the name of the project supervisor, and the resources available to carry out the project.
This information is necessary to aid the tracking of every document during project execution. You should not assume that the stakeholders or your team members are aware of the information. It would be useful for reference purposes in case there is a change of team members.
2. Milestone Review
Milestones are often recorded when executing business projects. They are calculated when you break your projects into smaller units. So after every unit, you celebrate a milestone. Milestone reviews remind you of your current status and how many milestones are left before final execution.
Reviews of milestones can be in the form of a project cycle and where you are compared to where you are supposed to be after a particular period.
3. Project Summary
Project summaries are very important in status reports because you can compare the project's progress with the initial plan. In summary, you will include the proposed completion date and estimated costs. It allows the project supervisors to work towards project execution during the stipulated time.
Also, ensure to include activities that go on during project execution. If there are problems that might affect costs, quality, availability of resources, and timeline, state them in the summary so they can be dealt with appropriately.
4. Business Risks
Risks are internal or external factors that pose threats to a business's project. They become a problem when they affect the company's project negatively.
In your project status report, list the issues you have faced since the beginning, how they affected you, and how you resolved them. Apply these questions when you face business risks too and do your calculations to know good and bad risks.
5. Project Metrics
Numbers are an essential part of your project report. Ensure there are figures to back up every statement you put down. You should make extensive research on the metrics during the project planning stage.
No one believes project status reports without metrics. They believe in its effectiveness when they see numbers alongside. Metrics prove if you are still on track and if any aspect of your project report needs urgent attention.
Template for Creating a Project Status Report
Project managers use templates to create project status reports because it saves time, creating more time for handling more high-value tasks. However, choosing just any project status report template you find without first planning ahead and customizing it to suit the needs of your project is a recipe for disaster.
When choosing a project status report template, pick one that is relevant not just for the beginning phase of your project but throughout the duration of the project.
Here is a project status report template to help get you started.
- Report Title: Name the project status report. You can include a name along with a date for easy identification and record keeping.
- Project Health: Write about the health of the project. Is the project on track for completion? Is there any risk affecting the project? Is there any delay?
- Summary: Keep your summary short and descriptive, with only the most important details about the project included. Remember stakeholders are busy and may only turn their attention to this section for brevity.
- Key Area 1: High-level Overview: Include special details about the progress of the project such as accomplishments achieved so far and upcoming tasks contributing to the success of the project.
- Key Area 2: High-level Overview: Include special details about the progress of the project such as accomplishments achieved so far and upcoming tasks contributing to the success of the project.
- Key Area 3: High-level Overview: Include special details about the progress of the project such as accomplishments achieved so far and upcoming tasks contributing to the success of the project.
- Additional Information and Links: Provides links and information on relevant or high-level project details that may attract the curiosity of stakeholders. This section helps your team members to get a deeper understanding of the specifics of the project.
- Blockers: What are the challenges that are threatening the progress of the project? What are the plans you have to resolve them?
- Additional Notes or Highlights: This section is where you include additional information that stakeholders and your team need to know about the project. You can also include the next steps in the project in this section.
Example of a Project Status Report
Templates and a how-to guide on writing project status reports prove helpful in showing you how to write the perfect project status report, a real-life example leaves no doubt or question.
Here is an example of a project status report you can customize to suit your project.
- Project Status Report Name: Product Launch
- Project Status: On track
- Summary: Progress made this week, the product has passed through the necessary regulatory test, and production levels are up this week. The sales and marketing team will be choosing a campaign theme this week. Distribution channels are on standby and ready to get started.
- Concept: Planning team met to discuss the pricing strategy to use. We have four different pricing strategies and will choose one by Thursday.
- Sales and Marketing: The sales and marketing team is ready to start preparing ads for Facebook and YouTube as soon as our pricing strategy is finalized.
- Design: The design team submitted five product design examples. They will be choosing the best and final design for the product launch by next Monday.
- Additional Notes or Highlights: The accountant is going on leave next week, so please direct any financial questions or requests to the procurement office.
- Blocker: The deadline for the product launch is tight, there is little room for delay or mistake. We all must use our project management tool to streamline all our activities and keep each other updated on the progress of our respective tasks. Thanks!
Project Status Report Best Practices
Writing an effective project status report that provides detailed highlights about your project progress is essential for keeping all stakeholders and team members on the same page. Creating an effective project status report is easy when you follow these best practices.
1. Write a Draft and Go Over it
When writing the first draft, you should put down your ideas as raw as they come. Do not focus too much on correcting grammatical errors, dotting i's, and crossing t's. This helps you to focus on the originality of the content you are putting down.
When you are sure you have all the information down in the report, you can take a break, then come back to correct it.
The purpose of the break is to clear your head so you can look at the report with a fresh memory. It helps you to notice some errors you made when writing or typing. Also, it is a time you can add any information you forgot to add when writing initially.
2. Edit the Report
Editing is a norm after writing for every piece that is related to reports. It is done to minimize or eliminate all possible errors in your work.
Also, editing helps add some vital information you missed earlier that will help pass your message better to the target audience such as visuals, icons, and more. If there is any update that came up while writing the report, you can update that part of the report.
3. Seek Opinions Regarding the Project Status
The saying, “Two heads are better than one” is valid when you want to put out the best version of a work to a target audience. After writing your report, meet people and show them what you have.
Expect feedback from them on how to improve what you wrote. People with different perceptions and ideas coming together to reason often come out with the best version of any information.
Regarding the feedback, some might be either positive or negative. The best is to reason from the person's perspective; try to look deep into what they saw before giving that remark. When you are convinced that there's no better way to do it, then you can move on with your reports. Welcome every feedback but filter the ones you will need.
4. Be Consistent with Your Status Reports
Consistency is an attribute that separates the ‘wheat' from the ‘shaft' in every facet of life. In business, owners need to learn how to be consistent with whatever they do because not everyone has the energy to endure for a long time. If you are putting content out, endeavor to maintain or increase its quality – not reduce it.
While writing your project status reports, you need to be consistent with your timely reporting and quality of reports. The best way to do this is to maintain a particular template that communicates your message very well. It makes your work uniform anytime you have to update your target audience on the current status of a project.
5. Make Use of Metrics When Necessary
The use of figures in project status reports cannot be over-emphasized. Metrics are what tell your target audience that there is a feasible result after the project execution. You can not base your facts on texts alone and expect your audience to take your word for it. Especially for sponsors, whose money is tied to your project, you must give them reasons why they should trust you.
However, the metrics you show in your reports also depend on your target audience. The figures sponsors are interested in seeing might not be what your clients or team members want to see. So you have to consider your audience before pouring figures into reports to back up actual statements.
6. Avoid Showing Too Many Details
One thing you should avoid doing in your reports is expressing too many details. Sponsors go through hundreds of project status reports to look for the ones worth investing in. You do not expect them to read between the lines of unnecessary information. Whatever is in your report should convince them that your project is a profitable one.
7. Make Your Report Accessible to Everyone
Your reports should pass a message to a particular audience but at the same time, they should be accessible to everyone. Even if it's for a particular audience, they should be able to see your general project information and understand what the project is about. It does not have to be too sophisticated that only team members can understand the contents.
Project Status Report FAQ
A project status describes the level a project has gotten to in the execution phase. It talks about the level of progress, which is where you are with where you are coming from, and where you are going.
Project status reminds the project supervisor of the amount of work needed to be done for final execution. It is always monitored using timely reports.
These reports contain the details about what kind of project it is, the people involved, and the current level the project is. They keep every stakeholder informed about the project's progress.
A project status summary is almost the same as a project status report. They both perform one function and it is to get people informed about the progress of a report. However, a project status summary is like an abridged version of a status report. The summary can be a brief gotten from an extended report.
You can present a project status summary to a sponsor who needs an idea of what you do. That way, a summary full of the necessary information is enough to convince them to do business with you or not.
A good project status report includes a well-structured arrangement of data, the appropriate use of metrics, straightforward information, timely milestone reviews, a project summary, and a blend of texts and visuals to pass information.