14 December, 2023

What goes into a Project Progress or Status Report?

By Mike Clayton

progress report, Status Report

Every project manager needs to write project progress or status reports. So, what should we put into them?

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Status Report

The Purpose of a Project Status Report

The first thing to say about the content of your project status reports is that you should always tailor them to the needs of your project, your sponsor and project board, and your stakeholders. The report is there to serve the needs of good governance and communication, so it must:

  • Provide your sponsor and project board or steering group/steerco with the information they need to oversee the project’s work and make decisions
  • Give your customers, users, and other stakeholders the information they want, so they can stay up-to-date with what’s happening

So, interview key stakeholders from these groups to determine what information they want to see in your report – and in what format they would like to see it. Add in anything you need to ensure they see, and design your report around all of that.

Refreshing Your Status Report

Secondly, it also makes sense, on long projects, to be prepared to overhaul the content and design of your progress report from time to time. This will keep it relevant to the current state of the project and the evolving needs of the readers.

The Content of Your Project Status Report

With all that said, what are the things we would expect to see as candidates for a full project progress report?

  • A headline summary of the most salient aspects of your project report. Always write this last – after compiling all the data.
  • What milestones have been completed or are overdue since the last report?
  • Status of key tasks or workstreams against schedule. Are they complete, underway, or un-started? How does the forecast completion compare with the approved plan?
  • Budget status – how does project expenditure compare with the budget, for key areas of the project budget?
  • What are the actions you are taking to manage over-budget or forecast over-budget activities?
  • What issues have arisen since the last report, and how are you handling them?
  • What is the status of the issues reported last time?
  • Assessment of key project risks and actions underway or planned for them?
  • What major risks have been closed out since the last report?
  • Report on the utilization of key project resources (people, equipment, materials) and discuss any issues or threats.
  • Support required by the project from the Project Board, Steering Group, or wider business.
  • Decisions required by the project from the Project Board or Steering Group.
  • A traffic light or RAG (Red Amber Green) status summary that gives an instant assessment of the project status in one or a few simple color-coded assessments. See my video, What is a RAG Report? (https://youtu.be/xadyhn3GjJc), for more information. This should reflect your assessment of the likelihood of delivering the project successfully, to specification, on budget, and on schedule.
  • Finally, sign it. The progress report is a document of record, and the person – usually the Project Manager – who wrote it must take responsibility for it.

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I asked Project Managers in a couple of forums what material things you need to have, to do your job as a Project Manager. They responded magnificently. I compiled their answers into a Kit list. I added my own. 

Check out the Kit a Project Manager needs

Note that the links are affiliated.

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Mike Clayton

About the Author...

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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