All About Project Summaries + A Free Template

Sydney • Jan 17th, 2021

What is a project summary?

Put simply, a project summary is an important project management tool that gives a synopsis of a project's status at a moment in time. Owing to this, they come in handy for both external and internal purposes.

Internally, project summaries often report project status and progress to project teams. Externally, they're used to present or provide updates on a project to external parties. Regardless of their specific use, they bring together a project's key details and information and combine them into one concise, easily understood document!

Why are project summaries important?

There are so many reasons why project summaries are incredibly important project management tools. They save time, increase efficiency and foster clear communication, just to name a few perks. 

However, our favourite consequence of using project summaries is the fact that they act as guides and project roadmaps no matter how they're used. They provide direction throughout your project's various phases and act as fantastic resources to refer back to when needed.

How are project summaries used? 

Project summaries are great because they can serve many different purposes in project management. That's why project managers love to use them. 

Internally, project summaries act as status reports for projects in progress. They effectively communicate key project updates related to milestones, metrics, objectives and timelines to project teams. These executive summaries can come at any point in the project lifecycle: beginning, middle or end

Externally, project summaries are tools that help present project information to decision markers, stakeholders, sponsors, clients and the like. They can be used to provide updates, but also work well as project proposals that offer thorough first impressions of a project's characteristics, status and context.

Let's face it, we love to see a multi-purpose document!

What elements are included in project summaries? 

Project summaries look a little bit different depending on the needs and context of your project. The elements they include depends largely on whether you want to use your project summary internally or externally, as well as their position within your project's lifecycle.

Nevertheless, project summary reports are often made up of variations of the following elements:

  • Basic information & key details: It's always a good idea to have a written record of the basics in your summary. This includes information like project name, project ID, project phase, project completion date & current date.
  • An indicator of project status or phase. This acts as a form of progress report that's easily referred back to.
  • Project background. If you're using your project summary for external purposes, it's important to include a general summary of the project. Outline why your team is working on your project, your chosen approach and other key contextual information.
  • Project progress updates. This is especially important if you're using your project summary internally. Refer to project achievements, roadblocks and challenges.
  • A project timeline that outlines your project's most important milestones, deliverables and deadlines. This can encompass the entire project or the reporting period at hand.

Our free project summary template 

By now you should realize just how useful project summaries can be in the project planning process. You're in luck because we'd love to help you get started with the development of your very own!

You don't have to start from scratch either. Here at Slite, we love to help teams of all shapes & sizes work together seamlessly and efficiently and achieve all their project goals. Our free project summary template will help you do just that. It's easy to customize, has a clean, elegant interface and can even be updated in real-time.

Try it live 👇

Our top tips for writing a killer project summary 

1. Use the right language

First of all, keep your audience in mind when writing your project summary. You'll need to ensure that your report will be clear and easily understood by whoever's reading it. That means taking into account whether your target audience will be made up of stakeholders, project team members, external service providers or project sponsors, for example. Only use jargon you know will be easily understood by the reader(s).

Regardless of your audience, keep it clear and concise.  A project summary is a summary, after all. Avoid overly complicated, flowery and repetitive writing and make sure everything's easy to digest. An easy way to do this is by using clear language and keeping paragraphs and sentences short.

2. Get specific by using facts & data

When writing a project summary, it's important to keep things brief. Summaries are meant to be concise and quick reads. That means you won't be able to get into extraneous detail in yours.

In order to get specific without going overboard on length, refer to solid facts and data in your project summary. Forget about speaking generally. Don't waste space and refer directly to concrete numbers, facts and specifics.

3. Use a template

Many project managers feel unsure about things like methodology, content and formatting when it comes to developing project summaries... especially if they don't have any experience doing so. If you're finding yourself in that position, never fear. There are tons of free project summary templates out there to help you get started. Using one will save you time while still allowing you to customize your summary in accordance with your project needs.

4. Account for the past, plan for the future

Project summaries vary depending on the purpose (and audience) they're being used for.  Having said that, excellent project summaries include insights and updates on a project's past, present and future. This is normally done by referencing things like project achievements, hurdles, roadblocks, solutions, objectives, deliverables & success metrics.

The project summary: a key project management tool 

All in all, project summaries are great project management tools that serve diverse purposes and make the project planning process much easier. Whether you're working on a project right now or have not started yet, keep this guide handy so that you can refer back to it easily whenever needed in the future. We can't wait to see what you come up with!

Get going on your project summary for free