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Nicole Tiefensee

7 Project Management Reports to Surface Key Project Insights

There are many project management reports, but what are the most essential to build?

Project reporting is not a new concept. Project managers have been reporting on project progress through various mediums for decades. Nowadays, they have plenty of tools to automate the project reporting function and generate insightful reports with ease. 

Being one of the most important steps to ensure your project is completed on time and within budget, project reporting tops the list of the 6 ultimate activities a typical PMO does, according to Wellingtone

Understanding where your project is and where it is headed is the way to bring transparency and predictability into the project, remove risks and tackle challenges before they turn hazardous. 

But how do you get started? We’ve got you covered here with seven key project reports;

Here are the basics of project management reporting every manager needs to know for their projects to be successful. 

What is project reporting?

Project reporting is a fundamental practice of project management, used to communicate project status, progress, and performance. The key point here is that it is not just the communication, but the fact that it must be useful communication to those who receive it. It should be clear and accurate so that people will read it and use it. And it should be timely and regular so that they come to rely on it.

The purpose of project reporting is to keep everyone informed of what is happening, and most importantly why things are happening that way.

Project reports are typically shared with stakeholders and clients, and help everyone stay aligned about the direction of the project.

The benefits of thorough project reporting are vast — from increased team productivity to better-informed project stakeholders and clearer visions of the future.

The importance of project reporting

Project reporting is one of the most powerful project management tools you have at your disposal. It helps you steer your project through rough waters, avoiding some risks and recognizing others before they become dangerous. It also keeps you in touch with your stakeholders (project sponsors, customers, etc), who depend on your reports to know what's happening with their projects.

In other words, project management reports give you 360-degree visibility of where you are in relation to where you should be, allowing you to make course corrections along the way to keep your project on track. In addition, you also get to demonstrate compliance with project stakeholders, sponsors, and regulatory bodies that may have an interest in your business or the success of your project.

The different types of project management reports

One of the biggest challenges in project management is keeping all parties updated on the progress of a project. To ensure that everyone is on the same page, project managers need to utilize several different reports that highlight the status of a project from different angles.

But what are these reports? What information do they contain? And why are they so important?

Here are the leaders on the list. 

1. Project status report

The project status report is a critical part of the project reporting process. It helps to keep the project team, the management, and other stakeholders informed about the current situation of the project. By summarizing all of this information into one document, you can avoid wasting your time answering repetitive questions.

This type of project report is the easiest way to track project progress and keep your stakeholders informed about what's going on in your business. It covers the most important information about your project – what was achieved during the reporting period, which issues had an impact on the team's productivity, which risks were identified, and so on.

These reports typically share details about project milestones, deliverables, and other pertinent information required by the stakeholders to move forward with the project. They may also include other relevant metrics, such as budget spent, resources used, schedule status, and more.

One of the main goals this project management report is after is to identify any possible changes in scope and to document their effect on time, cost, quality and other constraints that may affect your organization's bottom line. Here's an example of project reporting you get with one of Runn's dashboards: 

project status report

2. Project health report

A project health report, also known as a project performance report, is a document or project dashboard that provides an idea of how well the project is performing, and helps you track project revenue, cost, and profit, among other things.

A typical health report includes information on the scope, schedule, budget, resources and quality of your project. The purpose of this report is to communicate where the project stands in terms of its performance against these key aspects. 

A health report allows you to see how your work compares to its baseline. You can also see if your team has completion criteria for planned goals or any deviation from them. In other words, this report allows you to determine if your project is going according to plan or if it needs additional time or resources for implementation.

Ideally, it should be created every week or two weeks. The document should use metrics and visual cues (such as color-coding) to display the status of each major deliverable. The health of a project can be determined by its adherence to scope, schedule and cost objectives as well as the quality of the deliverables produced. This health will also determine if the initiative continues to move forward or if it needs corrective action. 

3. Variance report

schedule variance on a project dashboard

A variance report shows the difference between what was planned for and what actually happened for each variable of the project (scope, schedule, cost and quality). Id est, it’s an in-depth demonstration and analysis of your Schedule Variance (SV). 

This helps the team understand if there are any deviations from the plan for that particular variable. If there are such deviations, then it prompts more detailed investigation into why it happened and what actions need to take place to get back on track.

Correctly identifying variances is one of the most important parts of managing a project. By recognizing these variances, you can take steps to prevent them from having a negative impact on your project's success rate. Variance reports should not just focus on negative variances but positive ones as well!

4. Project risk report

A risk assessment report informs you about risk events that are likely to occur during the course of your project's implementation phase. The purpose of this document is to raise awareness about potential problems that may affect your ability to meet deadlines and/or adhere to budget constraints. 

Risk reports allow for critical analysis of risks and how they impact projects. They may include project and resource risks that were identified during planning, risks that have occurred during execution, as well as action plans for risk prevention. Simply put, it helps project managers and team members determine the likelihood that a specific risk will occur and how much impact it could have on the project if it did.

Project risks can be classified into three categories:

  1. Low risk: The ones which are not likely to cause much damage to the project.
  2. Medium risk: The ones which have a moderate impact on the project.
  3. High risk: The ones which can either cause serious damage or even lead to project failure.

These risks need to be identified, assessed and then given a priority based on their impact on the project. 

Continue reading: All You Need to Know About Project Risk Management

5. Resource availability report

A resource availability report is a document that provides information on how much time each team member has available to work. It can also provide information on the current workload of each team member and the number of hours they are working per week. A resource availability report can be used for specific types of resources, such as labor or equipment, or for resources in general.

For example, the project manager can use the report to see how many hours are available for a construction project. They can also use the report to see how much time each laborer has available to work on that construction project.

resource availability chart

6. Utilization report

A utilization report is one of the handiest project management tools as it provides information on how effective the use of resources is. This detailed information helps project managers make better decisions when it comes to planning and allocating resources for future projects and tasks.

The report shows the percentage of time that a resource is being used. For example, if you have five people working on your construction project, and they will each work 40 hours per week, you need to make sure that they have enough workload to work all of those 40 hours per week. If they don’t, then they aren't fully utilized and you aren't getting the full benefit from their skills. For example, if an employee is scheduled to work 40 hours per week and has 30 hours of allocated tasks that week, they have 75% utilization (30 / 40).

In a way, resource utilization reports are similar to resource availability reports but highlight the percentage of time that each resource is scheduled to work on tasks. 

7. Capacity & workload charts

Your capacity is the amount of work you can deliver with the resources available to you. It represents your ability to take on, deliver, and realize revenue from client projects.

Calculating how much production capacity you have can be challenging. There are lots of factors at play - including the number of resources you have, their skills and roles, individual availability and working patterns, different combinations of projects, etc.

But it’s vital to get right. Too much capacity and you’ll start losing money. But too little capacity means you’ll struggle to meet your commitments.

Thankfully, a capacity report tells you exactly how much capacity you have to work with - now and in the future. It compares the hours you have available, against the work to be done. You can quickly see when and where you might be:

  • Over capacity - and incur risks such as project delays or quality issues
  • Under capacity - and not realizing the best ROI from your resources

A capacity report can drill down to different levels of granularity. You can see anything from a bird’s eye view of the organization, down to individual roles, skills, or resources. This helps you understand where your capacity crunches are coming from, and how best to tackle them.

In summary, a capacity report lets you:

  • Assess whether you have enough capacity to meet the demand
  • Highlights areas where capacity is too low and costing you opportunities
  • Shows where capacity is too high and costing you money
capacity report example

New to capacity management? Check out our guides:

  1. What is Capacity Management & How to Do it
  2. The Beginner's Guide to Capacity Planning
  3. Unboxing the 7 Best Capacity Planning Tools (Free & Paid)

Project reporting best practices

Keep your data in one place

If you want to generate any type of report, it’s essential that your data lives in one place. Whether you need to know the status of a project for your team members or a key stakeholder, having all of your project-related data in one location and a reliable project management report template always at hand is the only way to generate meaningful reports.

After all, when using spreadsheets or other manually updated systems, there's an increased chance that information will be accidentally erased or changed without being updated elsewhere. It also means that multiple copies of each document will exist across different computers, making it difficult to know which version is up-to-date at any given moment.

Automate project management reporting

After you have consolidated your project data into a single source of truth, the next step is to automate your project management reporting with project management software. That’s because generating and sharing reports manually can be tedious and time-consuming, no matter how big or small your organization is. In addition, manually generated reports are often riddled with errors that can lead to incorrect billing statements, inaccurate timesheets, and frustrated team members. Automating your reporting allows you to focus on what matters most: the success of your projects.

➡️ Related: 15 Best Project Management Charts to Visualize Project Operations

Create reports your audience needs

While there are many standard reports that every project manager should track, such as status, performance, and risk reports, it’s important that you create custom reports based on what a specific audience wants to see—and nothing more. Reports need to be succinct and up to the point, but also detailed enough for everyone to understand what is going on, even if that person does not have much prior knowledge of your project. 

Successful project management relies on many factors. You need to define clear goals, create a realistic plan and timeline for your tasks, and you also need to keep track of the progress of your project. And this is where project reporting comes in.

It is that essential job that, despite its importance, can turn into a chore full of errors and misunderstandings, wrapped in time-consuming clutter and communication issues. This is why automating the process can feel like a relief — it saves time and removes the possibility of human error, increasing your chances for success.

Book a demo with Runn to see how automated project reporting can contribute to your project success!

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