Pro Tips for Project Management Reporting
Probably the least fancy aspect of a project manager’s job, though one of the most essential ones, is reporting. Project management reporting has the power to make or break your project, depending on how you use the data you obtain from your reports. It’s important to note that there are a lot of details that may or may not be necessary for your specific project. Understanding how to decipher the necessary from the useless is what sets good project managers apart from great ones.
In this article, we will help you understand which reporting data is important, where to find it, and how to use it effectively.
Types of reports
Generally, there are four main types of reports that project managers rely on:
- Status reports
- Risk reports
- Executive reports
- Resource reports
These can be found under different names depending on the project management software that you’re using (timeline reports, board reports, productivity reports, etc.), but all of them are based on the same principles. Project management reporting tools like Monday, Paymo, Glip and Project Manager all offer customizable reports, allowing project managers to draft reports depending on their needs. To get a competitive edge, some tools may put a lot of focus on offering unique report types related to sales, customers, team productivity, and more. But be aware that of these reports are all derived from the same data.
Various types of reports can be used to escalate and improve many aspects of your team’s job, depending on their individual strengths and weaknesses. There are some general reports that you should aim to produce and deliver to all stakeholders, preferably on a pre-determined schedule. Other reports are specialized and may become useful at a particular point in time.
Kinds of reports
Brainstorming sessions and creative discussions can often spiral out of control if you’re building a brand new product with a brand new concept. This drives down project delivery performance, reducing effectiveness, influencing deadlines, and eventually decreasing stakeholder satisfaction.
This is where status reports come in very handy.
While simple in their nature, status reports offer a quick and easy way to keep all involved parties up to date with project progress. This, in turn, helps you manage expectations accordingly. The data included in the status report concerns:
- Completed tasks for the given period/milestones
- Upcoming tasks
- Project completion in % and budget spent
- Project risks and possible issues
- Action items for each team member
The status report is probably the one you’ll find yourself spending the most time working on, and not without reason. Whether you need to present to your team members, C-suite, investors, or sponsors, the status report is an invaluable tool in your arsenal.
You can choose to prepare status reports on a weekly or monthly basis depending on your project and how fast it progresses. If you’re going through a chaotic phase (e.g., launching a product, implementing a solution, etc.), even daily status reports may be necessary. However, make sure you don’t get carried away with this. There is no point in preparing status reports just for the sake of initial planning if there is has been no progress.
Also, since status reports are going to accompany your project pretty much from start to finish, it’s a great idea to try and automate every possible aspect of it. For instance, create/choose a template that fits your needs via your project management software. Then be sure to use other tools to populate the data quickly. This will save you loads of time and effort in the long run. Even if you need to make manual changes later, having at least some of the fields ready and automated is a big plus.
A risks report is also very important project management reporting tool. Depending on the project specifics, you’ll probably want to make a detailed risk report on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. To make sure you don’t miss anything, update your risk log regularly. Encourage your team members to do the same whenever they encounter a risk, even if it seems insignificant.
Since every project is different, there is no specific format for a risk report. This means that you’ll have to build it yourself. If you’re already using a project management software, the risk log will be at your disposal any time you need it, making it easier to turn all risk-related data into a custom report.
Generally, the report should include an overview of all risks low, medium, and high priority. It’s advisable to delve into the details of high risks when presenting them to your team or top management. The low and medium priority items can be summarized in a sentence or two at the end of the report, with a short explanation of how you’re keeping them under control.
Each report you prepare should be tailored to the parties that are going to read them. When doing project management reporting for high-level executives, you’ll need to establish a different level of detail in certain areas. Board members are usually most interested in the bigger picture and overall progress and success rather than on smaller details and low-level risks.
Make sure to incorporate data like the summary of the budget spent, milestone progress, your position regarding timing such as behind, on schedule, or ahead of time. Also, include issues that the top management can help resolve.
Pay attention to the format of the report. The report needs to be easy to read on any device including a smartphone, which is why you shouldn’t use complicated spreadsheets. A PDF document is one of the best ways to incorporate all the data and visuals. This ensures you present data in a digestible way that doesn’t require much effort to access on a mobile device.
If you’re using project management software, you can grant board members access to view the project dashboard right inside their smartphones at any point in time, eliminating the need to prepare everything beforehand.
Allocating time and resources by assigning tasks in accordance with team members’ skills is an essential success factor. You can do this manually using a spreadsheet by adding, removing, updating and archiving tasks every day. However, this can become highly inefficient and time-consuming if your team consists of at least ten people.
On the bright side, your project management software will most certainly be able to automatically generate a resource report. It should even give you a breakdown of all tasks and activities for each team member. This will help keep the right balance, with the workload spread accordingly between all team members.
Also, resource reports are particularly useful for effectively managing interdependencies. In a lot of cases, a task’s completion is directly linked to a task being done by another team member, and in case of confusion, a lot of time can be lost. The resource report is an easy way to quickly scan all of the possible issues and make sure such cases never happen.
Practical Tips to Create Great Reports
In a lot of cases, project managers have to build their own custom reports, with or without a predefined template. To make this task easier, here are a few handy tips that will help you improve the quality and effectiveness of your reports:
Use true data (with visuals)
Your reports should first and foremost convey relevant information and correct data. Make sure to double-check all the numbers that you’re using to avoid any confusion later on. If you’re using project management software, errors will be one less thing to worry about since the numbers are generated automatically.
Also, it’s a good idea to make the data easily readable, and that’s where visuals like pie charts and other graphs will come in handy.
Tailor the reports to your audience
Remember that different stakeholders need reports in a different format. A report that you need to share with your team, colleagues, and board members may need to have a varying degree of detail depending on their priorities. Also, be sure to change the emphasis of some aspects in your reports depending on who’s going to read them. These data points might include milestones and budget for board members or productivity and task completion for team members, for example.
Use reminders and notifications
Automatic reminders and notifications can be a real lifesaver in many instances. Whenever possible, project managers should always try to minimize the amount of information they have to keep track of. This includes regular meeting dates, essential notices, weekly report updates, emails, and others. The more routine tasks you automate, the more time you’ll have to focus on project essentials.
Be honest with yourself
Lastly, always be honest with yourself when making any report. The whole idea behind project management reporting is to identify the weak spots and resolve them. If you’re behind on schedule or went over budget, don’t try to hide this information. Reports offer transparency, and the faster you get to the root of any issue, the better off you’ll be in the long run.
Project management reporting is an essential aspect of every project. It allows to you quickly identify mistakes, risks, and issues and resolve them as fast as possible. When everything goes right, anyone can deliver a project on time and budget. But when difficulties arise, only well-organized project managers who know how to use reporting data can succeed.
On a final note, it’s worth mentioning that project management tools like Monday, Project Manager, and FunctionFox offer in-depth reporting and customization options to craft informative and easy to read reports. These save a tremendous amount of time during your projects. Also, these tools allow you to automate routine tasks, set up reminders and notifications, helping project managers focus on what’s important, instead of trying to deal with endless micro-tasks.
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