You have been given a project to manage – congratulations! Amongst the many activities to be completed, a fundamental one not to be forgotten is about communicating the status of the project. This entails more than just a quick catch-up with the project sponsor. In fact, if your project is a priority in the organisation, everyone and their dog will want to know how it is going! So, let’s ensure that you have a winning status report. How? Let’s find out.

Why do Project Status Reports matter?

Some reasons why you will want to produce a project status report are to:

  • Manage the expectations of your stakeholders: people don’t like to be left in the dark; they will want to know what has been completed, what is outstanding, and what is next. All stakeholders in the project will have their communication needs – by enabling transparency, delivering a recurring status report will help in addressing these needs.
  • Seek support and decisions: it may be that the project requires a specialist resource difficult to secure in the organisation or that a decision needs to be made – the status report is an ideal place to explicit and formalises these requests.
  • Promote accountability: actions and responsibilities should be agreed upon and assigned before a status report is issued, however, by stating these in the project status report, accountability is being clarified and reinforced amongst a wider audience.

Who prepares the status report and who is it for?

The status report should be prepared by the project manager, although where dedicated Project Support Offices exist, this activity usually fits in their responsibilities too. It is mainly intended for the project board, however, it could also be useful to other management structures in the organisation, such as authority boards, project assurance or the PMO.

What should it contain?

The status report should do what it says in the tin: provide visibility over the status of the project, that is, an overview of how the project is progressing, the status of open risks, issues and actions, as well as some Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), often known as RAG (red-amber-green) indicators. While there are many variations of what a project status report template could include, the stakeholders and the senior managers often require a written status report containing the following:

  • Reporting period: ideally, the project status report should have a recurring and agreed frequency, such as weekly, fortnightly, or monthly.
  • Highlights/Achievements in the period: identification of activities that have been completed; products delivered, or benefits realised.
  • Planned for next period: identification of the next steps in the project.
  • Support/Decisions required: an opportunity to express any support/decisions required from the project board or other governance structures in the organisation.
  • RAID Update: an overview of how the critical open risks, actions, issues, and dependencies are progressing and being managed.
  • KPIs: colour-coded view of the project regarding overall status, and attainment of objectives for scope, time, budget, and benefits.

Another popular and simple format of a project status report is called ABCD reporting, where:

  • A is for ‘Achievements’
  • B is for ‘Benefits’
  • C is for ‘Concerns’
  • D is for ‘Do Next‘.

Easy to remember and straight to what matters!

Hints and Tips for creating a status report

The project status report is the bread and butter of a project manager, thus, it’s important that you do it right. Here are some hints and tips that may help you out:

  • Make it clear: I’m sure there is lots to tell about the project, however, the status report should not read as ‘War and Peace’. Write it in a clear and structured way, that goes straight to the point. Does the information provided represents the reality of the project and is sufficient to drive decisions? – this is what you should be asking yourself.
  • Make it visual: build your status report in a way that is compelling and appealing to the eyes. This helps the audience to focus on the areas that are highlighted and to want to receive your status report. It should capture the excitement of working on this project.
  • Make it realistic: ‘watermelon reporting’, when projects are reported as green while they are actually bright red inside, is unfortunately common. Don’t feel that a red-rated project reflects your performance as project manager – sometimes we just need some help from others, thus, if your project is indeed on the red side, be brave to report it as such.
  • Make it natural: if the first time your project sponsor/board is hearing about the problems the project is experiencing is when s/he gets the status report, something is wrong in the communication between you. Continuous communication and visibility over the project are paramount, don’t rely just on your status reports.
  • Make it real-time: most project status reports are out of date the moment they are issued; whether because the status report takes longer to prepare, or to reach its audience, or simply because you have a very dynamic (do I dare to say ‘agile’?!) project. If possible, take advantage of self-service reporting for real-time access to data, such as with the reports provided by Power BI or Present It. No more chasing or sending multiple versions of that slide deck. It’s there, at a click of a button!

Would you like any additional help with your project status reporting? Just get in touch.

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By: Marisa Silva (The Lucky PM)

Marisa Silva (The Lucky PM)
PPM specialist with extensive experience in industry with a focus on collaboration, PMO conception & strategy, method and capability development. Marisa also retains depth expertise in Microsoft PPM having led a large number of client deployments.

Published: 27 April 2022

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