Sizing Up Your Project Status Report

Does your current status report measure up to Best Practices standards? This article lets you size up yours by outlining what project management experts consider essential in creating the most effective project status report. You’ll also learn how you can get a FREE customizable project status report template designed to meet those standards, courtesy of Project Management Docs.

Value of Project Status Reports

Basically, the value of a status report is to communicate the overall status of your project in a clear and concise manner. To be most effective, the report should be formatted to provide the overall picture of the project at a glance for top-level management. At the same time, it should cover enough in-depth information for team members and immediate managers. It’s essential to keep everyone involved “on the same page” so the project can proceed as smoothly as possible. You want to make sure there is no confusion about its current status and that all issues and risks impacting the project are addressed.

Weekly or Monthly?

Executives on a time crunch want a snapshot. Project managers and team members require more detail. An effective status report should accommodate both. For instance, the template designed by Project Management Docs reflects Best Practices by incorporating an executive summary as well as a color coded dashboard to visually show the status of the project. Both features give executives a quick update at a glance. The same template includes sections which are typically needed for weekly status meetings so the working team has the needed specifics to discuss the project, make changes as necessary and plan next steps for action.

Color Coding

The dashboard concept, headlining the report, simply uses three traffic colors. That is, red, yellow, and green “lights” to immediately convey the status of the project’s scope, schedule, cost, quality and risks. The project manager can assign a percentage to each color that changes as the project moves forward. For instance, you may choose yellow for up to a 10% variance and red for a 10% to 20% variance.

Key Performance Indicators

While using a color dashboard is one way to provide an instant view of the health of the project, an effective status report also needs to present an evaluation of some key performance indicators (KPIs). You want to be able to measure and monitor earned value metrics such as schedule variance (SV), schedule performance index (SPI), cost variance (CV) and cost performance index (CPI). Again, the objective is to convey the status of a project and not get too involved in Earned Value Management (EVM). A detailed EVM analysis, separate from the status report, can expand on any problems or issues with the project. Your organization will likely have additional KPI’s to be included in your status report.

Ideally, the KPIs list becomes a wrap-up, allowing the reader to flip to the bottom of the last page for a topline assessment of the SV, SPI, CV and CPI figures.

Other Sections to Include

A good project status report should include sections such as work completed last month, work planned for next month, a list of open risks or red flags and change requests, along with a section that outlines deliverables and milestones. You can determine how much detail management in your company/organization prefers. Always be aware that management has a lot of balls to juggle so the more efficient you can be in presenting the status of your project, the better impression you make. However, if events like inclement weather or an unexpected glitch in software has affected the schedule, you need to inform management and briefly explain what impact the problem will have on the project.

Avoid Over Kill

A good length for a status report: only a few pages. You want to cover the main points but shorter is always better. That’s why, once you have the data and information recorded, you would be well advised to do a final check to make sure the report is written as concisely as possible. Too long in any communication means it will likely not be read and all your efforts will be wasted.

We have a free Project Status Report Template available for download under the Project Monitoring and Controlling section of our website. The template comes with a guide to each section and allows you to modify the report to your particular project and organization. Be sure to check out all the project management tools available to you on our site.