Project reporting is one of the most important factors in a project manager’s daily function, understanding the information which needs to be provided, and being succinct in the process is a very definite skill. Governance dictates that status report updates need to be provided to management, stakeholders, sponsors and anyone in between at least on a fortnightly or monthly basis.
Understanding the content which needs to be injected becomes a critical part of effective project communications and management strategy. Templates, PowerPoint can be used and some produce reports directly from their project reporting tools or a combination of all three can be used. Whatever format used, adhering to a regular and formalized process helps save time and costly data mistakes. Also, by being consistent with reporting process assists in maintaining stakeholder expectations, so everyone is aware of what information they can expect on a regular basis.
There will be many different types of progress reports throughout the life cycle of the project. But the project status report can do a lot of things other reports can’t. It’s a vital communication tool, and it can provide a documented history of the project, which makes planning for the next project easier.
Some other objectives of status reports include:
• Improve communications across organization
• Simplify communication process
• Keep stakeholders informed
• Deliver key messages to intended target audience
• Improve organizational support for the project or team

Whether presenting in a board room or sending a weekly email update, it’s a good idea to know the best practices when reporting on a project’s progress before jumping into a presentation of the report.
• Communicate: It should be used to deliver the right data to the right party at the right time.
• Consistency: Use the same format, distribution cycle and method. Don’t mix things up. That only disrupts the effectiveness of the communication aspect of the report.
• Establish Metrics: When planning for the project, figure out how progress is going to be measured. Maintain this method when reporting on the project throughout its life cycle.
• Simplify: The report should be effective, so don’t obscure it with unnecessary details. Stay to the point and just report on what needs reporting on.
• Verify: The audience doesn’t want opinions or unsubstantiated facts. Do the due diligence, and make sure that the data and information is verified.
• Standards: Like consistency, keeping standards of process and a template for reporting makes sure the report is clear.
• Use Tools: There are project management tools that incorporate these best practices, streamlining the process.
The project management status report should include the following general information;
• Project name
• Date
• Project Author
• Project Sponsor
• Project manager Name
• Number of resources
Although obvious, this information is essential. Assumptions should not be made that the stakeholder is familiar with the information. It’s also especially useful for when performing historic research for future projects.
Other factors which should be included in a project Status report are as follows;
Milestone Review
The milestones are major phases of a project. They’re a good way to break up the larger project into more digestible parts. They’re not as small as tasks, but made up of those tasks which together make up a phase of the project. This is where a note indicates how the milestone is tracking against the planned point of the projects life cycle.
Project Summary
Include a short summary of the forecasted completion date and costs of the project. Be sure to include the tasks that are facing issues, how those problems might impact the deadline and costs, what the plan is to resolve these issues and what the results will be once they have been fixed.
Issues and Risks
List the issues that have arisen over the course of the project to date. Note what they are, how they will be resolved and what impact they’ll have on the overall project. Do the same with the risks and how they will be mitigated.
Project Metrics
It’s important to back the report up with hard numbers to prove the statements being made. This metric should have been established during the project’s planning phase. It’s impossible to know if the project is succeeding without measuring its effectiveness.
How PM Tools Can Help
Reporting tools help monitor and track projects online, so all the project data is up-to-the-minute, not days or weeks old. Most PM tools allow generation of some kind of project reports; look for a tool that automates as much reporting as possible, so time is saved. Project Manager Companion for example provides online tools which can generate a variety of reports in one click. From project and portfolio status reports, to task progress report, timesheet reports, workload and allocation reports, expense tracking reports and more.
The reporting can be customized to ensure the right data is for the right audience by filtering the project and data columns needed. The great thing about having the data via software is that it allows drilling down to get finer detail if asked. Having a reporting tool also means no more crunching numbers. The software calculates planned versus actual progress across team members, tasks and projects, via a click. This enables a view on the number of days behind or, preferably, ahead of schedule. If managing a portfolio, it can measure its progress, too.
Look for an online PM software tool that offers real-time dashboards, as that offers the project manager and stakeholders the most accurate data possible. It’s a good idea to bring dashboards via laptop or tablet to status report meeting. That way, if a stakeholder wants to drill deeper on the data, it can be done in real-time so they have the most current picture of the project’s progress as possible.
Reporting is a fundamental part of project management. Using a PM tool that can save time, repetition makes reporting simpler and more accurate. Project Management Companion provides a selection of cloud-based software that updates statuses instantly online, providing the right data at the right time, so monitoring and reporting is more accurate. Try a free trial 30 days.

Author's Bio: 

Project Management Companion are not a “Body Shop”, but work with our clients and their teams in a mentoring capacity to assist in every facet of project delivery so the Intellectual Property remains within the organisation. We help your team deliver projects successfully.