How to Write an Interesting Progress Report for Projects

As a project manager, you write progress reports to let people know how the project is going. When you write your project-progress report, make sure it’s interesting and tells the appropriate people what they need to know. After all, you don’t want your report to end up in the circular file (aka wastebasket).

Use the following tips to improve the quality of each of your project-progress reports:

  • Tailor your reports to the interests and needs of your audiences. Provide only the information that your audience wants and needs. If necessary, prepare separate reports for different audiences.

  • If you’re preparing different progress reports for different audiences, prepare the most detailed one first and extract information from that report to produce the others. This approach ensures consistency among the reports and reduces the likelihood that you’ll perform the same work more than once.

  • Produce a project-progress report at least once a month, no matter what your audience requests. Monitoring and sharing information about project progress less often than once per month significantly increases the chances of major damage resulting from an unidentified problem.

  • Make sure that all product, schedule, and resource information in your report is for the same time period. Accomplishing this may not be easy if you depend on different organization systems for your raw performance data.

    If you track project schedule performance on a system that you maintain yourself, you may be able to produce a status report by the end of the first week after the performance period. However, your organization’s financial system, which you use to track project expenditures, may not generate performance reports for the same period until a month later.

    Address this issue in your project’s start-up. Determine your sources for status data, the dates your updated data are available from each source, and the time periods that the data apply to. Then schedule your combined analysis and reporting so that all data describe the same time period.

  • Always compare actual performance with respect to the performance plan. Presenting the information in this format highlights issues that you need to address.

  • Include no surprises. If an element requires prompt action during the performance period (like a key person unexpectedly leaves the project team), immediately tell all the people involved and work to address the problem. However, be sure to mention the occurrence and any corrective actions in the progress report to provide a written record.

  • Use your regularly scheduled team meetings to discuss issues and problems that you raise in the project-progress report. Discuss any questions people have about the information in the project-progress report. (However, don’t read verbatim to people from the written report they’ve already received — and hopefully read!)

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