As a project manager, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your stakeholders (and especially your project sponsor) are well-informed and aware of everything that’s going on with your project. A common way that project managers regularly communicate project status is via a regular status report.
Status reports can take on many shapes and sizes and depending on the organizational needs (as well as project visibility) there may be different incarnations of status reports that you’re responsible for preparing. Often times you will be tasked with creating multiple status reports for the same project at different intervals (i.e. weekly, semi-monthly, monthly, quarterly in some occasions). Audiences for these status reports can vary but as a project manager you need to be aware of the audience for the reports that you put together so that you can craft your messages in a way that can be easily disseminated by those reading the reports. So what are some of the key elements of a status report to help convey the overall health of the project as well as what you and your team are up to?
I’ve received mixed reviews on the overall green/yellow/red indicators at the project level. Some find them very helpful from the perspective of wanting to give most of their attention to projects where things may not be good so being able to quickly determine those projects in trouble via a colored indicator is helpful. For others who like to dive into the details of every status report regardless of the overall stated condition, they have commented that it doesn’t add much to the status report.
It’s always a good idea to mention what you and your team have accomplished over the reporting period for the status report. Often just a simple bullet-point list is sufficient.
Objectives for Next Period
It’s always a good idea to give a sense of what’s up next in your project. By stating what you intend to achieve in the next reporting period, it gives your readers a sense of realistic expectation (which may not always be in line with their own expectations). This is a great way to help calibrate those understandings and ensure that everyone is aligned with what they can expect out of you and your project team for the next reporting period.
Budget & Schedule Snapshot
This is an obvious element to your status report that likely gets the most attention. Reporting on these is done usually via spreadsheet and Gantt charts however depending on the sponsor and/or organizational expectations, this can certainly vary (and it does!). What the project manager needs to remember is that the report needs to be tailored to the intended audience. The key questions that will be asked of both budget and schedule are 1) Where are we at? And 2) Where will we land? If your report can help easily answer those questions then you’ve done a good job.
Status reports are often viewed as a ‘necessary evil’ of managing projects however they are an invaluable tool for communicating project status across an organization. Tailoring your message so that it is easy to understand, concise and most importantly – truthful is key to producing a good status report.