Our blog series Back to Basics is back! Here we explain basic terms and methods for project management. This week is all about creating a project status report. What belongs in a meaningful report and how do you keep the effort low? Find out here.
Back to Basics (Part 12): What You Need to Create a Meaningful Project Status ReportAnnalena Simonis, Wednesday 08 July 2020 | Reading time: 8 min.
As a project manager you are probably familiar with this situation: Your boss asks you to present the status of your current project in the form of a project status report by Monday. Keep calm now! Because yes, most people tend to be afraid of the word project status report, because creating meaningful reports usually requires a lot of time, communication and data. In this article, we'll take a step-by-step approach and you'll learn what you need to pay attention to and what content is essential to create a meaningful project status report.
The InLoox glossary describes the project report as "compilation of project information for executives". The project status report is part of project controlling and gives the reader a quick and easy overview of the status and all relevant data of a project on a set key date. In medium-sized and larger companies, it is common practice to create status reports at regular intervals, for example, quarterly. The structure of the report should be the same for all project types in order to guarantee comparability of the results and thus be able to identify potential progress or delay. The content depends on the type of project and can vary.
Project managers tend to avoid status reports, because they are often perceived as an annoying extra work in daily business. But if you want to keep control over the project progress, you need answers to the essential questions on a regular basis. In order not to act totally blind and hope for the best, managers need solid data to be able to make accurate decisions. The report is therefore directed towards the executive management, who needs information about the status and progress of the project in order to identify risks and challenges and make the right forward-looking decisions.
Status reports can be designed as differently as companies and their projects are themselves. Nevertheless, when creating your report, you should make sure that you include at least the following information:
1. Basic project data
Summarize all basic information about the project under this point:
- Project name
- Project number
- Project manager
- Project description
- Optional: Project category or group
2. Overall state
For the overall state, it is important to determine where the project currently stands. The project traffic light has been proven to be an appealing method to be able to see the " condition " of the project at a glance. With this form of presentation, the level of progress of the entire project or, alternatively, individual phases can be easily visualized. The three colours have the following meanings:
Red: The project goals cannot be achieved under the current conditions!
Yellow: Progress is being made, but risks or delays are to be expected.
Green: The project is progressing according to plan.
3. Dates and milestones
Under this point, you need to check if planned milestones have been met.
- Which deadlines could be met?
- Is the project still on schedule?
The milestone trend analysis is a suitable tool for visualizing the time-related development of the project. In this analysis, the variance between planned milestones and the current status is displayed graphically. In this way, the project's punctuality can be recorded at a glance, and a trend development for the future can be derived.
4. Target-performance comparison of work and costs
Here you create an overview of the current project costs and resource consumption. Compare the target values with the actual values in your project status report in a table and/or in a bar chart. Don't forget to include the values of the current planning so that any deviations from the target values before the end of the project become visible. Make sure you distinguish between internal and external costs and work. To provide a more precise insight, you should also differentiate between activity and cost categories. In this way, you can make a better comparison with similar projects.
Under this topic, it is necessary to list all the obstacles in the course of the project that could come up in future. Describe any issues and challenges and how you’re planning to overcome them. In practice, the presentation of risks in the risk matrix has proven to be very useful. In the matrix, risks are displayed with their probability of occurrence and impact in a colored grid. The impact describes the possible monetary damage value. For a better visualization, the two factors are divided either into points from 1-10 or into categories such as "weak", "medium" and "high". The number of associated risks is then entered in each cell. More easily, you can also list and explain your top 3 or top 5 risks in the report.
The presentation of the risks is an elementary point that has a major impact on the next step, the logical decisions.
The final step is to make well-founded decisions for the future course of the project based on the collected data. Here you determine the next organizational and content-related steps for the project.
- In which direction should the project develop?
- Where are the priorities?
- Where are the next milestones?
To sum up: The clearer the content of your project status report becomes, the more well-founded the decisions will be made.
The challenge in creating a project status report is to keep it as detailed but also as accurate as possible. Without a suitable tool, the implementation of the project status report can take a lot of time and effort. A project management software can help you to keep the effort as low as possible and at the same time deliver visually better results.
InLoox offers you the possibility of having your project documentation simply done along with the project. With the integrated reporting tool of InLoox, the Dashboard Designer, you can easily view your project data at any time. You can also use the new integration to Microsoft BI and create meaningful and visually appealing status reports with your project data directly from InLoox. Make data evaluation as easy as possible and impress your audience at your next status meeting. For more information on Power BI integration, click here: New InLoox Integration: Visualize Your Projects With the New Interface to Microsoft Power BI
Also read other articles of this series:
- Effective Project Sponsorship
- Project Manager versus Subject Matter Expert
- Kick-Start Your Projects with the 5Ws and 2Hs
- Use Earned Value Management to Measure Success
- How to Keep Project Stakeholders Happy
- The Project Management Life Cycle Model – A Roadmap to Success
- The Different Project Management Office (PMO) Types
- Top-Down Versus Bottom-Up Project Planning
- Project Environment Analysis with PESTLE
- How to Create a Project Network Diagram
- How to Create a Phase-Milestone Plan