September 8, 2022
General
Masooma Memon

Guide: How to Create a Project Status Report

A project status report gives you an opportunity to communicate the progress of your project, identify any problems being faced by your team, and let everyone know if you're on track to meet your deadlines.

Project status reporting, one of the top six activities that a project manager does is no child’s play.

But it’s also nothing impossible.

In fact, having full clarity on what to include in the report, automating the tracking of project insights, and using a project status report template can simplify things.

So in this post, learn how to create complete and thorough status reports and stay confident you're on track.

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What is a project status report?

A project status report is a report sharing a project’s progress during the reporting period against the results planned for that period.

In addition to summarizing the work completed, a status report also details:

  • The milestones hit
  • Any potential risks and issues
  • Overall budget and schedule performance

Project progress reports can be weekly, fortnightly, monthly — even quarterly. Whatever the cadence, the purpose remains the same: to bring all key stakeholders on the same page by updating them on the work done and the work pending.

That said, project status updates can be short, consisting of just a few paragraphs, or they may run to several pages, even more than one document. These can also be created manually or with the help of reporting software. 

Project status report example

Here’s an example of a project status update from our reporting software, Runn. It shows all the essential project health metrics such as the project budget, project revenue, budget remaining, project people’s cost, and so on. 

To add, the easy-to-read graphs showcase how the project is coming along in comparison with the actual plan. The status report example also shows the people working on the project alongside their roles. 

project status report

Why project status reports are important

On the surface, it seems like status reports are nothing more than documents that inform stakeholders about the goals achieved. However, the benefits run deeper. 

Let’s look at them one by one:

  • Status reports are critical for effective communication and project management. In doing so, the reports help you avoid risks and update your project team, sponsors, and stakeholders. Put simply, project status reports provide the right status information to the right people at the right time.
  • These reports keep misunderstandings and unpleasant surprises at bay. If your project is going off track, for example, you can use your project status report to alert your team members and managers in advance so that you can take appropriate action together. On the other hand, if your project is on track, you’ll have evidence to share with stakeholders and sponsors who may want to see regular updates.
  • They ensure project success by monitoring and alerting of risks in time. Since these reports highlight potential risks, budget, and schedule performance, they alert stakeholders of potential risks — all while assisting project managers in course-correcting problems before it’s too late.
  • Project status reports centralize all information. Not only does this contribute to better decision-making pertaining to the project at hand, but it also helps document the entire project. As a result, you can review status reports to evaluate projects’ overall performance and improve future projects’ success.

Most of all, sharing regular status reports with clients and stakeholders increases their satisfaction. Take it from clients — 94% of them say it’s very important for them to know the exact status of a project on purchase.

In fact, according to the same report, 70% of people share they’ve stopped working with a company because they felt the company was not organized enough.

In short, project status reports can improve your communication with clients, helping you keep them up to date on milestones hit and the exact deliverables that are due next. All this consequently improves their satisfaction and confidence in your business. 

6 key elements of a good project status report

A winning project status report is comprehensive. Meaning: it answers all the essential project status-related questions that its reader has. These questions include:

  • What are the key accomplishments during the defined period?
  • What are the major upcoming project milestones?
  • What is the current project budget (including how much of it is already spent)?
  • How much work has been completed? Or how far along are we in completing each phase of the project?
  • Are there any risks or issues that require escalation?

Now to answer these questions, a status report should address the following six elements. Note that all these elements give a quick overview of the project’s progress in terms of the budget (spent and remaining), time (spent and remaining before completion), and overall cost.

1. Project budget

This is the overall budget of the project that you’ve set in terms of the hours of work that’ll go into it.

2. Project revenue

This is revenue you expect to make from the project. It’s calculated using assigned hours for the reporting period multiplied by the service rate. The total is then multiplied by the number of people. 

Put simply:

Project revenue = (assigned hours for period x charge out rate) x 3 people

Example: (80h x $150) x 3 = $36,000.

3. Budget remaining

The budget that’s remaining from the predetermined, baseline amount.

4. Project people costs

Project people costs are the labor costs of completing tasks. These are calculated by looking at the assigned hours in the reporting period, the cost rate for the service, and the number of people who’ve worked on the project. 

Put simply:

Project people costs = (assigned hours for period x cost rate) x 3 people

Example: (80h x $60) x 3 = $14,400

5. Project gross profit

This is a measure of the money that you earn after all operating costs for the service(s) provided are deducted.

Put simply:

Project gross profit = Project Revenue - Project People Costs

Example: $36,000 - $14,400 = $21,600

6. Margin

Margin is the degree or percentage of the profit that you’ll make. It’s determined by looking at how gross profit divides by the project revenue. For a percentage value, multiple it by 100.

Put simply:

Margin = (Project Gross Profit / Project Revenue) x 100

Example = ($21,6000 / $36,000) x 100 = 60%

New to project accounting? Read our survival kit here: 

What makes a good project status report 

Briefly, a good project status report is: 

1. Comprehensive

To begin with, a useful project status report is one that covers all the elements that we’ve discussed above. 

2. Easy to read and understand

Next, your status report should be easily readable. Why? Because that is what makes sure that it is easy to understand, therefore, useful to its readers.

Improve your report’s readability with the following tips:

  • Use simple language. Nobody has the time to decipher acronyms or technical jargon. So it’s best to stick with simple words for easy understanding no matter who your reader is.
  • Structure your report. Add subheadings for each section. Plus, include plenty of whitespace (area without print) for easy reading.
  • Use legible fonts. This includes the font type (avoid cursive fonts, for example) and size (minimum 12 points).
  • Use the inverted pyramid technique to present information. Share the most important information first, followed by other important details, and then the remaining details.
  • Write for scanners. When done with your report, review it one last time. See if it’s easy to scan. Ask yourself: is all the essential information presented in an easy-to-catch-in-one-glance manner.

3. Follows a defined, predictable structure

Lastly, having a defined structure helps you set readers’ expectations. As a result, stakeholders, executives, managers, and others know what’s included and where they can find it. In turn, this allows them to quickly scan the report and stay updated.

Ultimately, a defined structure helps you create useful reports that are read cover to cover.

But how can create a defined structure for your status report? You need a project status report template for this. In fact, you can create one yourself by noting down all the essential details that’ll go in your report and in which sequence.

Here’s a breakdown of all the things to add to a status report. Use it as an outline for your project status template.

Keep in mind: the exact details you add depend on who the report is for and its frequency (weekly reports focus on tasks completed and pending, whereas, monthly or quarterly reports talk about the project phase, for example).

  • Project details. A quick snapshot of the project you’re talking about and the report’s date.
  • Executive overview. A high-level summary of everything included in the report. It’s best to put this together at the end after you’ve written the report so you easily summarize the details. 
  • Status update project summary. Point out what’s in progress, what’s complete, and what’s due alongside the planned and actual start and finish dates for each task/milestone/project phase. It’s best to add a percentage milestone review here so readers can quickly get an idea of how far the project has progressed.
  • Project health. In this section, give an overview of the project’s schedule, budget, and revenue. But instead of getting wordy, keep this easy to read (and easy to put together) by adding a project insights dashboard using Runn. 
  • Team update. A brief overview of who’s working on what including notable achievements. 
  • List of upcoming tasks. Add estimates of deadlines for completing each task here so readers can see what’s due and by when.
  • Risks and action steps. And, finally, identify any issues that you see cropping up. It’s also important you note down possible solutions and what you’re doing to avert the crisis to keep the project on track. 

How to write a project status report

Writing project status reports isn’t rocket science. You’ve to start with a bit of planning and outlining though. Here are the three steps to follow:

1. Understand who your target reader is

Typically, one report can serve all — executives, managers, clients, and teammates.

However, if you’re particular about sharing specific details with some but not others, then you may need to create a slightly different version of the progress report.

For instance, you might be sharing quarterly reports with executives that pack in details on milestones, budget, revenue, risks, and who’s working on what.

On the other hand, you might be creating weekly project status reports for the internal team that focus on tasks completed and pending, who’s working on what, and any risks — nothing related to revenue or budget. 

In both cases, you need separate templates such as an executive project status report template and a weekly project status report template for internal status updates.

2. Create and flesh out your report’s outline

This wouldn’t take much more. Simply use the outline we’ve shared above and fill it, removing any details you think aren’t relevant to your reader.

3. Gather data or pair it with your written report

The best way to go about curating all budget, revenue, schedule, and related metrics is to do it all automatically using a project management software.  

To this end, manage all your project-related matters in one tool such as Runn. This way, you can handle project planning, project totals, human resources, project timeline, and more in one place. 

In fact, by live tracking projects and their accounting, you can easily see the project health metrics that you want to add to your status report.

Remember: having one single source of truth containing all your project details makes it easy to both track key project metrics and find the data you’re looking for. 

The best part? You can also create fully automated reports using Runn.

Simply, customize the metrics and fields you want to add to the report. Then, choose reporting data. And you’re done. Runn will automatically create progress reports for you. Not only will this speed up reporting but also help you create reports for different audiences.

Alternatively, you can take these project health reports and share them with your written report that includes the executive overview, project status summary, and risks/actionable next steps.

When your status report is ready, be sure to proofread it and format it for readability.

Best practices for improving your project status reporting

Now you've got the basics sorted, here's some quick tips to help you improve your reporting:

Use a project status report template to set expectations

When you serve important status updates in the same template and format over time, you set expectations. Clients and executives know where they can find the information they’re looking for, which makes it easy for them to scan for updates.

Ultimately, your status report’s usability improves when you use the same template.

Get feedback on your project status report

You can’t aim to create a useful, easily readable project status report without feedback from its target readers.

If you’re only starting out, it’s best to approach a handful of your report readers and ask them how easy to read the report was.

Ask them whether the font and data visualizations were simple to understand and if they could easily find the information they were looking for.

Since sourcing detailed feedback can be time-consuming for all sides, create a simple, quick-to-complete survey. Share it with your readers for their rating on different aspects of the report’s readability, usability, and thoroughness.

Create a well-oiled project management system

Effective project management makes reporting easy. The reason? Because it gives you all the required data such as milestones achieved, budget used, and more in one place.

This way, you can also reduce the manual work that goes into creating a project status report. In fact, if you’re using a project management software that helps with reporting, you can even create status reports with the click of a button.

Make interactive project status reports

Interactive reports are ones that its readers can engage with. For example, adding a linkable table of content to your detailed status reports lets readers quickly move to sections they want to.

Another way to make your reports interactive is by making interactive data visualizations. This way, when an interested report reader clicks on a bar chart or any other type of data visualization, they can learn more details about the data they’re viewing.

Lastly, link relevant or related sections throughout the report. Meaning: instead of writing ‘more information on page 5,’ link to the page and write ‘more information here.’

This makes your reports more interesting as readers don’t need to manually scroll through pages — even other related documents such as the past year’s status report from the same quarter. Instead, they can simply jump between sections by clicking on the links you add.

Be careful with the data visualizations you include in your report

Finally, it’s important you don’t just dump data into any figure or chart but take the time to understand whether the data visualization is easy to understand.

For most people, pie charts and bar graphs are the easiest to read — they don’t take much time in understanding too. This way, report readers can comprehend the information at a glance.

However, if you were to include other types of data visualizations, be sure to design them clearly and review whether the type is used for the information you’re packing into it. Most of all, make sure the graph type that you choose is easy to read for everyone.

And that's all, folks! Your job here is complete 🎉

Ready to impress your team with concise, dynamic project status reports, whipped up in a flash? Try Runn for free today and manage all your project reporting in one place.

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