Project status reports document the progression of a project over a specific time period. They act as a central resource for project updates, helping teams identify the current project status as well as what tasks remain.
These reports detail a project’s progress as compared to project plan goals. Project status reports often include the following information:
Key project identifiers, such as the project name, start/end dates, and the date of the status report.
A project summary that highlights project goals and progress made toward achieving them, as well as important details relating to scheduling, budgets, and any special items that need the attention of the project team.
A list of team members involved in the project, key stakeholders, and the project owner(s).
The frequency of the project status report (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly, or bi-monthly).
A detailed summary of the project scope and budget.
A comprehensive breakdown of task dependencies.
A list of project bottlenecks, how to address them, and what actions are currently being taken to mitigate them.
Project managers create status reports by soliciting input from those involved in the completion of project tasks such as team leaders and team members. Managers typically use these reports to monitor the project budget, risk factors, timeline, task completion, and milestone progression to ensure the project achieves previously set goals.
Status reports are also used by managers to keep key stakeholders informed of the project’s progression. By using these types of reports, teams will be able to mitigate any project risk factors before they arise and ensure that all project goals are successfully met.
Why your team needs to create actionable project status reports
On average, nearly 60% of project managers are actively overseeing between two and five company projects. Project status reports help them manage multiple projects at the same time by increasing visibility into tasks and resource management without having to do much digging, thus saving valuable time.
Actionable status reports also help project teams maintain a robust understanding of how each project is progressing and take action to manage project-related tasks. Without actionable status reports, teams may fall victim to certain behaviors that can result in the failure of a project, such as downplaying project issues or letting risks go unmanaged.
Successful, actionable status reports highlight any and all deviations from the original project plan so that team members and stakeholders get a transparent view into how the project is progressing. This includes verifying project task statuses with corresponding actions that signify that a task is in progress or has been completed.
Effective status reports should inform their audience of what did and didn’t go according to plan. This enables them to function as powerful auditing tools that sufficiently describe how each phase of a project was executed, helping managers and team members to gather insights for future use.
Once a project has been successfully completed, project teams should be able to refer to the details of past status reports to learn exactly what strategies to use for future projects and which ones should be left in the past.
These are some of the benefits of using actionable project status reports:
Streamlined project health monitoring. Project health directly impacts your team’s ability to bring a project to successful completion, so it’s crucial for project managers to monitor it closely over the duration of a project. Project health is determined by the status of key project metrics such as budget variance, employee productivity rates, deliverable quality, and more.
Project status reports require managers to compile accurate project data regarding the status of each of these key metrics on a regular basis. With project status reports, project managers can efficiently track and share this information with their team and key stakeholders. This empowers those involved in the project at hand to offer actionable insights to improve the status of key project metrics, and ultimately the overall health of the project.
Enhanced project visibility. Project visibility is a key aspect of any successful project management approach. By consistently creating and distributing project status reports, management can successfully inform their team and key stakeholders of individual team member responsibilities, potential project risk factors, and how the project itself is progressing.
This constant flow of project information keeps the team accountable and increases stakeholder trust. When everyone involved in a project is on the same page, they will feel empowered to share their expertise and collaborate to bring the project to successful completion.
Improved stakeholder engagement. According to the 2020 KPMG report on project delivery performance, only 52% of companies think their projects are delivered to the satisfaction of stakeholders. This is most likely due to ineffective stakeholder communications, which often results in a lack of stakeholder engagement.
As a project manager, it’s crucial to engage your stakeholders over the duration of a project because they often have a wealth of relevant experience and knowledge that can help your team achieve set project goals and objectives. Project status reporting makes it easy for managers to share project progress and potential bottlenecks with stakeholders, empowering them to share their feedback.
Creating project status reports for different audiences
When creating a project status report, it is important to consider your audience. Will you be presenting this status report to your team, high-level managers, or high-level executives? Each stakeholder type will require a different level of reporting.
Let’s explore how to customize project status reports to different audiences:
Immediate team members and stakeholders
Immediate team members and stakeholders are employees who are directly involved in the daily work of the project at hand. This audience will expect their project manager to deliver a weekly status report that provides a robust view of how the project is progressing and what changes are to come.
Project managers should constantly update this status report with explicit project details so that it can be provided to the team quickly, if necessary. From this report, the team will get a quick recap of past project achievements, an overview of the challenges faced in the present week, and plans for the upcoming week.
High-level managers and stakeholders
High-level managers and stakeholders require a status report that makes them feel engaged in the projects that their project managers are responsible for. High-level managers want to access a high-level view of the project’s progression.
Those in management want to know how the budget is being spent, the quality of produced deliverables, and how your team plans to manage project risk. The purpose of these reports is to equip these managers with high-level talking points that they can use if their directors ask them about the status of the projects they oversee. In this case, project status reports can be sent to high-level managers either monthly or bi-monthly to keep them in the loop.
CEOs, directors, and top-level executives
Top-level executives typically seek information from their high-level managers to gain information about the progression of current company projects. Accordingly, creating status reports for the C-suite can help increase stakeholder buy-in and visibility.
These status reports should bring attention to the most important highlights of the project and include who is accountable for which action items. This helps create project transparency amongst top-level stakeholders and assures top-level executives that your team is capable of bringing the project to successful completion.
How to create a project status report
When creating your project status report, there are three factors you should consider: the past, present, and future of the project at hand. Simply ask yourself what goals have been achieved, what the current project goals are, and how you and your team will achieve those goals with the remaining duration of the project timeline.
Once you have considered these factors and collected the relevant information, follow these steps to create an effective project status report:
1. Choose a project status report template
It’s important to keep in mind that project status reports are formal business documents. To create a project status report that is both visually appealing and structured logically, use a project status report template.
Remember to choose a customizable project status report template that features all the necessary project status report subtopics, including:
- Team accomplishments
- Financial status updates
- Potential risk factors
- Issues occurred
- Actionable next steps
The following image depicts a MindManager® project status template.
MindManager’s project status template.
2. Input your team’s accomplishments
The accomplishments section of your project status report will detail the status of the task assignments that your team is trying to accomplish. Simply write the description of two to three of the primary tasks or deliverables for the current work period. Then, record the description of each deliverable and the due date.
Next, update the status of your deliverables by reaching out to the team members they are assigned to. Ask these team members for the percentage of the assignment that has been completed and the status of the assignment.
There are three types of assignment statuses: not started, in progress, or complete. Record this information for each deliverable until all the task assignments have been updated.
The accomplishments subtopic of the MindManager project status template.
3. Update the status of the project budget
The financial status section of your project status report keeps track of the project expenditures and compares them to the planned project costs. If there is a variance in these two amounts, make sure to explain why. This information will help your team keep track of their financial spending and maintain budget transparency with key stakeholders.
The financial status subtopic of the MindManager project status template.
4. Assess potential risk factors
The risk subtopic of your project status report should discuss the potential risks that your team may run into when completing their task assignments. Each risk should be properly identified and assessed, including the probability of the risk occurring, the impact of the risk, and the priority level of the risk.
Be sure to note if any of the risk factors have changed since the last status report. For instance, if the probability of a risk factor has increased since the status report, record the probability increase and a description of why this risk factor is more likely to occur in the future.
The risks subtopic of the MindManager project status template.
5. Address any issues that have occurred
This subtopic of your project status report is quite important because it details the issues that your team has run into over the duration of the project and how those issues will be addressed. Your team’s ability to complete these tasks will directly affect the probability of your team bringing the project to successful completion.
Each issue that your team comes across should be described in detail including the impact it has had on the project, its target due date, its status (e.g., not started, in progress, or completed), and the method of issue resolution.
The issues subtopic of the MindManager project status template.
6. Make recommendations
This section provides teams with space to meaningfully reflect on the progression of the project so far. Review the task statuses, budget updates, risk factors, and issues that have occurred.
Consult with your team and key stakeholders to look to the future and make recommendations on how the team can make process improvements to keep the project on track. List these recommendations in detail so that your team has a detailed reference for the future.
The recommendations subtopic of the MindManager project status template.
7. Create actionable next steps
To get the most out of your project status report, make sure to highlight the next steps that need to be taken to push your project forward. In the next steps subtopic of your status report, define the actionable next steps (otherwise known as action items) that need to be taken.
When writing the next steps, be sure to include the action itself, the objective of the action, and who is accountable for the action. This will help you ensure that any project issues that must be addressed or tasks that need to be completed will be dealt with appropriately and in a timely manner.
The next steps subtopic of the MindManager project status template.
How MindManager can be used to create a project status report
Creating project status reports can seem like a daunting task without the appropriate tools. MindManager is a dependable mind mapping tool that offers users a wide range of project management templates that can be used to create comprehensive project status reports for your team.
Since MindManager is a digital platform that features co-editing capabilities, you can enable your team to update the status of their assigned tasks on their own accord. This streamlines the project status report creation process, leaving project managers more time to identify and address opportunities for project process improvement.
MindManager also enables users to link important documentation directly to their status reports, providing stakeholders with the information they need to truly understand how a project is progressing towards its set goals and objectives.