4 Simple Tips for Writing a Terrific Project Status Report

4 Simple Tips for Writing a Terrific Project Status Report

The project status report. It drives every important meeting that happens throughout a project engagement. It also drives just about every important discussion.

It’s the underlying key to most project communication (or at least the important communication!). It draws lots of attention to the project every week. It also helps you run a successful weekly project status call with your stakeholders.

At least…it does all of this if it’s done right.

So make your project status report complete, make it look good, make it fit everyone’s needs.

Just focus on these simple tips concepts to put together the best status report possible for your project.

1. Create one report for everyone

Forget trying to please everyone all the time. It won’t work. Although you may well go crazy trying to do it.

Create one report that works for all of your stakeholders.

Senior management and project sponsors want to quickly check to make sure everything seems to be “on track.” So you’ll want a high-level view in the report for them.

If they can’t get that information quickly and easily from your report, things can get very complicated very quickly. The good news: if you can provide them with the project status information early in the project, life will get much easier for you.

Once you’ve got a format that satisfies everyone, it will likely work on most of your projects with little tweaks from project to project.

Hopefully after a few projects you’ll find your exact “one size fits all” project status report that everyone will love or at least tolerate.

2. Include budget info no matter what

I’ve had clients tell me they didn’t want budget info on the status report. Not sure why…maybe they had to pass it up the chain on their site and didn’t want their senior management to see it.

But I’ve managed projects too long to go along with that request now.

I say you should include at least high-level project financial health information.

Everyone needs to see this, including your management. And it goes along with my one-size-fits-all project status reporting mentality. Once you’ve got a report style down pat, you really should be able to repurpose it across multiple projects.

Are you watching the budget weekly? Are you forecasting and re-forecasting based on actuals (and everything else you know on the project)? Are you avoiding hidden costs? Then you should be able to present a great view to everyone every week.

Be proud of it. Show it. The stakeholders need to see it and be aware.

Discover the 7 project management questions you’ll want to ask your team »

3. Always provide a 10,000-foot view

Remember that handy summary from Tip #1? It’s great…but it’s not enough. You have to assume that some of the execs and managers involved aren’t even going to read a short summary.

So you should always give everyone involved a super-quick view from 10,000 feet above. Forget about words. You want to get into symbols or colors.

For example, you may choose to go with a dashboard with green, yellow, and red circles for key status areas of the project.

Once everyone is comfortable with how you’re reporting project health, they’ll love how easy it is to quickly see if the project is on track or not.

This is mainly for the higher-ups who want to know how your project is doing in 20 seconds or less. Create it with that concept in mind.

4. Focus attention on what’s coming up next

It’s tempting to focus on what you’ve accomplished. But I’m going to encourage you to put most of your effort into making everyone aware of what’s coming up next.

Most of the people involved should know where you’ve been on the project. The ones assigned to tasks better know what’s going on right now — after all, they’re the ones performing the work!

What you need everyone to be aware of is what’s coming up next and what’s expected of some of the key stakeholders.

Communicating this vital info is critical to the project’s success. It also helps improve your team members’ accountability.

Don’t ever give anyone an excuse to say they didn’t know what was happening next.

Make it the biggest part of the project status report. You’ll probably also want to spend the most time on that part of the report during the weekly project status meetings.

A great project status report drives progress

The project status report should be your tool to drive a successful weekly status call with the customer. Make it high-level, detailed, and future-focused.

You’ll be amazed at how well-utilized this report will be if you can figure out how to satisfy most everyone’s needs with one complete report. And you’ll absolutely love how much time you can save each week by creating one report for everyone.

How about you? What are your favorite tricks for status reporting on projects? Do you always go with the one-size-fits-all format, or do you like to customize reports for different types of stakeholders? Tell us in the comments below!