Successful project execution requires the generation and proper distribution of quality project status reports. These reports don't simply serve to provide sponsors and stakeholders an update on the progress and costs of their initiatives, they also help project managers and their teams focus on their efforts, results and performance.
Email version of a status report in TrackerSuite.Net
However, too many organizations rely on haphazard or informal status reporting processes, using Excel spreadsheets or Word template documents. A proper status report should cover several key areas, beyond a general overview.
- The overall health of the project, as measured against key metrics. While the metrics may vary from organization to organization, there are four primary items that should be included:
- Scope: Have the project objectives changed?
- Budget: Is the initiative still within its planned budget, or is it on a path to exceed it? (Details on the project budget should also be included in the status report - see below. The budget metric itself is simply a flag to indicate problems.)
- Resources: Does the project have the resources necessary for its success?
- Schedule: Will the initiative be delivered on time?
- The progress towards specific project milestones.
- The current issues and risks facing the project, and what's being done to mitigate them, and who is leading those efforts.
- The status of tasks within the project.
- Most important of all, the project budget. Optimally, this would include the "baseline" budget, what was initially planned, the current budget, actual costs and the variance.
Of course, a comprehensive project status report with actionable intelligence is useless if it's delivered late. An informal means of status reporting can also wreck havoc on timely submission rates. Part of addressing this issue requires instilling a sense of responsibility in the corporate culture, encouraging employees to submit their reports, whether its project status reports or timesheets, on time. Scheduled reminders for status report due dates can also help establish these habits.
The final element of an effective status reporting process is distribution, making sure that timely business intelligence is delivered to the eyes that need it. Sponsors, stakeholders, managers and the team should all be on this list. In this case, an online status reporting system is far superior to a paper-based one- the user submitting the status report only has to send a link or an email with the status report embedded.
Focusing on these three elements: details, timeliness and distribution, in implementing a project status reporting system, will help your organization manage its project portfolio more effectively and with improved results.