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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
A winning project status report is comprehensive. Meaning: it answers all the essential project status-related questions that its reader has. These questions include:
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.
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.
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.
Project gross profit = Project Revenue - Project People Costs
Example: $36,000 - $14,400 = $21,600
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.
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:
Briefly, a good project status report is:
To begin with, a useful project status report is one that covers all the elements that we’ve discussed above.
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:
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).
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:
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.
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.
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.
Now you've got the basics sorted, here's some quick tips to help you improve your reporting:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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