How to Develop a Game-Changing Project Status Report: A Guide & Free Template

Sydney
Sydney • Dec 18th, 2020

What is a project status report?

Project status reports are essential documents in the project management world. At it's most basic, the term is pretty self explanatory. Project status reports are documents that serve as progress reports or status updates for any given project. 

Project status reports are especially invaluable project management tools because they save project teams tons of time. When working on a project of any kind, providing periodic updates to all the different parties involved is unavoidable. Project status reports help avoid constantly reinventing the wheel and spending time repeating the same information to different people. Instead, they act as one comprehensive document that can easily be updated in real-time and sent out to all interested team members.

There's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to project status reports. One of the most challenging things to figure out when it comes to developing an effective project status report template is deciding how often your reports should be sent out. We'll further discuss how to figure out the frequency that will best suit your project below, but some of the most popular varieties include:

Why are project status reports important? 

Project status reports are important for so many reasons. The most obvious (and crucial) reason is that they foster transparency and keep all the key players involved in a project up to date. Even better, they do so in an efficient way and often answer questions before they need to be asked. If efficiency and great communication aren't invaluable when it comes to project planning, we don't know what is. 

In the same vein, project status reports make for great reference documents and help archive information. When you and your team regularly send out project status reports, it's easy to look back and monitor the development of your project, both during its active phase and retroactively in the future.

Last but certainly not least, project status reports foster a proactive approach. It's much more difficult for problems and issues to fall through the cracks when project progress is reported on and analyzed regularly. Additionally, project status reports often make specific team members accountable for specific actions and/or resolutions, leading to things getting addressed more quickly. 

Who writes project status reports? 

A variety of different project team members can be responsible for putting together project status reports. Normally, the top authority in the management of a given project is responsible for putting them together. In the majority of cases, that's the project manager. Depending on the circumstances and workflow, they might also consult other team members.

...and who are project status reports written for? 

An array of different project stakeholders will need to set eyes on project status reports throughout your project's lifecycle. This can include:

  • Project stakeholders
  • Project teams
  • Project sponsors
  • Other leadership
  • Finance teams
  • External contractors
  • Project management 

Remember, you may need to develop multiple versions of your project status reports according to the needs of different stakeholders. Different people require different information and won't want to sift through pages and pages of status updates in order to find what they need. This is what makes using a project status report template so useful. Project status reporting is meant to present information in a concise and well-organized way, after all.

When to develop a project status report template 

Project status reports should be an integral part of the ongoing reporting process throughout your project's lifecycle. As mentioned above, the frequency of project status reports largely depends your individual project's needs and context.

Nevertheless, it's a great idea to prioritize the development of a project status report template as early as possible in the project planning process if you're planning on using one. You should be using the same template throughout your project's duration (updating and editing it as you go), so having a strong template to work off of from the get-go is a huge advantage.

How often should project status reports be written?

As mentioned above, one of the key elements of successful project status reporting is determining the frequency that's right for you, your project, and your team. Here are some factors to keep in mind when it comes to determining how often you should send out project status reports:

1. What's the estimated project length?  If your project is predicted to be carried out over 12 months or less, consider monthly project reports. Multi-year projects often call for quarterly reports, whereas quick, short-term projects of less than a few months require weekly or even daily reports. 

2. What's the level of cost and/or risk associated with the project? Generally speaking, projects that have higher budgets, involve more resources, or are considered high risk involve more regular status reports. This is because the stakeholders and other parties involved will likely want to see where their time, resource, and risk investment is going as the project develops.

3. How's the working relationship between the project stakeholders? When professionals are working together for the first time, more communication (and therefore status updates) is required as they get to know each other and establish their working relationship. Project teams that have worked together before often require less frequent (or less detailed) status updates.

4. Is the project considered to be relatively standard or highly complex/specialized? Once again, project management teams with extensive experience working on a relatively run-of-the-mill project will likely require less frequent status updates. On the other hand, if a given project is viewed as highly complex, specialized or otherwise difficult, more frequent status updates are a good idea.

Using the questions above, consider your project's specific situation and think about what would best suit the needs of all parties involved.

Slite's free project status report template 

Are you ready to get started with the development of a project status report template for your next project? 

Check out the template below and use it as a starting point for your project reporting process. It's easy to adapt to your company situation and specific project needs. Oh, and did we mention that it's free? What else could you ask for in a project management tool?

Forget about emailing documents and Excel files back and forth... you can rely on Slite to streamline your project planning process. We want to make it easy for your project team to work together collaboratively and keep everyone in the loop, no matter where the members are located. 

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The essential elements of an excellent project status report 

The essential elements that go into project status reports depend greatly on project context and who they're being written for. Nevertheless, the following information is usually included:

  • Project basics: This includes consistent elements such as project name, project manager, key team members, key stakeholders and current date.
  • An indicator showing the current status of your project. This normally provides an update regarding project health and overall project progress. The most common variation of this is green, yellow or red, but feel free to get creative with how you report this information. 
  • A top level project summary. Here, you can provide a concise overview of your project's progress. These summaries are usually short and sweet, but include elements such as action items, upcoming tasks and other information that's relevant in the short term.
  • A section on risk management, including information on roadblocks, potential risks & other anticipated problems. 
  • Additional notes and/or comments about things like key status updates or significant changes to the project plan. 

Project status reports also sometimes include the following additional information depending on project scope and needs:

  • A project timeline or project schedule
  • Information on project budget, finances & other resources
  • Comments on project communication & project team performance 
  • Project data relating to deliverables and other project success metrics

Key tips to nail writing project status reports

Putting together a killer project status report template can be a daunting task, so we've gathered some of our best tips and insights when it comes to their development. Keep the following in mind and you'll have you project status report ready to go in no time.

1. Keep it thorough, yet concise

When it comes to the length of project status reports, there's a delicate balance between thorough and concise. You should provide as much specific information as possible in your report. However, you should also avoid making your project status report too long. The best project status reports are relatively brief (think 1-2 pages), but manage to transmit a concise overview of all the most essential, relevant information.

Another tip: Ensure all the information enclosed in your project status report is relevant to the reader. There's no use including a detailed section on project budget & finances when providing a status update to the marketing team. Key information should be immediately clear to the reader.

To ensure this, you may have to put together one general project status report and then edit it accordingly before sending it out to various stakeholders.

2. Be clear

Project reports should be easy to understand. Avoid using jargon and industry-specific words unless you're certain that all the readers will know what you're talking about. Project status reports should be useful and shouldn't require the reader to put effort into decoding them. 

In addition, make sure to review and edit your project status reports. It can be tempting to put them together and send them off right away, but take the additional time to proofread for grammar and clarity.

3. Stay honest & transparent 

There should be no sugar coating when it comes to project status reports. Depending on the stakes of your project, it can be tempting to exaggerate or tell white lies when reporting to important stakeholders. Don't fall into this trap. The whole purpose of project status reports is to provide an accurate impression of how a project is going. If you undermine this purpose, putting together project status reports is a waste of time. 

4. Acknowledge project milestones & celebrate successes

Make sure your project status reports focus on the positives as well as the negatives. All projects have their ups and downs, so make sure you're celebrating your successes and milestones just as much as you're resolving issues and concerns as they come up. 

Especially in the professional world, people have a tendency to focus on the negative. Addressing problems as they come up is necessary, but celebrating successes lifts the morale of everyone involved in a given project and contributes to a positive, uplifting work environment. 

The project status report: essential to any successful project 

As you can see, the project status report is an essential element of any top project management strategy. It truly streamlines your communication process and adds an essential layer of consistency and efficiency. 

While there's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to project status reports, putting one together that perfectly suits your project needs is a breeze when you refer to and follow this easy-to-use guide. Our free project status report template can be found below and provides a great basis to work off of. 

We look forward to helping you take your next project management process to the next level! 

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