The project status report is the project manager’s billboard to the world as far as how things are going on his project. It starts clean at the beginning of the project, full of optimism predicting the future of the engagement and indicating what’s coming up in the coming days and weeks. Everything is reset to zero, everything is on time, everything is on budget, and there are likely very few if any issues to be attacked. All is quiet…all is good.
So, you’re ready to move forward with your brand new project. What do you include on the status report? Is it your call? Is it up to the customer? Is it up to policies and procedures in your project management office? Does your executive management mandate what you can and cannot include? I’m guessing it’s likely a combo of one or more of these.
As for me, it’s usually been a company template that I started with and then modified for the specific project engagement and tailored to meet my needs, the customer’s needs, my team’s needs, and any specific requests from interested key stakeholders. Have I left anyone out? What I’m really trying to say is this – I wish it were always my call and a couple of times it has been, but in general it’s fairly out of my hands other than the arrangement and the initial level of detail which I usually have to tweak along the way as I learned what everyone on the project wants and needs to see.
What to include?
Let’s consider…what should the perfect status report include? If you could make your status report the one-stop shopping spot for all important information about the project, what would that be? Budget info, project schedule info? Resource status? Upcoming milestones and deliverables? A cool and colorful pie chart? What would you include? What do you include now that you consider must-have material for the perfect project status report?
For me, a status report should have these key features:
Project financial status. By project financial status I don’t mean the high level view of what the landscape of the project was from the beginning. I mean what it looks like overall…now. If we’re over by 12% right now after I’ve updated the financials with last week’s actuals, then I want to show that to everyone on the project. Why hide it? A good ensuing discussion with the team and customer may help solve the issues creating the overruns.
Project schedule. The revised project schedule is something you should be giving to every key project stakeholder every week anyway and along with this project status report, it should be driving the weekly customer status meeting. But what from it should be included on the status report? In my opinion, you should include what completed last week, what’s in progress now, what’s overdue to be completed and started, and what’s scheduled to start next week. We need to know what’s happening now, what should be happening that isn’t, and what we need to be kicking off shortly. It’s all about preparation and awareness.
Issues and risks. There needs to be a place on the status report for issues and risks. If this is too long, then it needs to be an addendum. But it is critical that these two items be included every week so they never get tucked away and forgotten. We must track them and keep the assigned resources accountable to them on an ongoing basis.
Change orders. A list of completed and ongoing change order work should be included. It’s a good indication for all what changes we’ve implemented against the original project requirements and what additional dollars the customer is spending on the project. Plus, it helps us track this very important ongoing work on the engagement.
Discussion and action items. Finally, the normal project status meeting discussion items. These may be action items, or decision points, or things being ‘tracked down’ by person ‘x’. But they are the items that came up in the last meeting that we said needed to be followed up on….so we follow up on them by keeping them on the report until everyone is satisfied that they no longer need to be discussed.
This is my perfect list. How about yours? What do you like to include on project status reports that you think gives everyone the best, quick, big picture view of the project and keeps them from asking a lot of side questions that you then have to just follow-up on later? The idea is to give them what they need in a concise format so you aren’t asked to do all that follow-up just to give some stakeholder information that they may or may not use or need.
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