Before you close your laptop for the weekend, there’s one thing that can set you up for a smooth next week: a project status report.
Getting into the habit of creating status reports for your projects is a proactive way to stay ahead of possible issues and keep your team aligned.
Instead of sorting through emails, checking in with team members, and reviewing individual task statuses every time you need to check on a project’s progress separately, a status report brings all that information into one central location.
In this guide, we explain why status reports are important, provide a step-by-step guide and example, and reveal a shortcut to writing more effective reports.
What is a status report?
A status report provides a 360-degree view of a project’s progress. It tells you how things are going, what’s coming up next, and what potential issues you need to address so you know what to expect and are not caught off guard.
What is the main purpose of a status report?
A status report acts as a diagnostic tool that spotlights a project’s health and trajectory and keeps all stakeholders informed and on the same page. It’s an indispensable tool in project management, as it helps you make informed decisions based on the current state of the project.
4 reasons you need to write status reports
Understanding a project’s pulse empowers a project manager to steer their team and project to success. Here are four core reasons every project manager should practice writing status reports:
1. To track project health
A status report gives you a benchmark to compare with your current project standing. Consistently monitoring a project’s progress helps you determine whether that project is on track. It prevents you from veering off course and helps you spot any deviations before they become major issues.
2. To keep stakeholders aligned
A big part of project success is a well-organized and high-functioning team. With nearly 40% of project teams made up of 6 to 10 people, it can be a challenge to keep everyone updated at all times.
A status report does just that — and in one single document.
3. For proactive risk management
While risk management is vital to safeguarding projects, one-third of project managers do not regularly engage in it. Having a status report helps you identify potential risks earlier and mitigate new ones from developing. It also provides a foundation for a contingency plan if challenges do arise.
4. To set expectations for milestones
Because a status report lets you track progress as the project unfolds, you can set accurate project milestones. Your team knows what to anticipate and can prepare accordingly for upcoming tasks.
What to include in your project status report
An effective status report requires a clear structure and focus. Here are the key elements you should include in yours:
The project info covers the basics. It lists the project name, the person managing it, and the period the report is intended to reflect. This simple info sets the context for everything that follows in the report.
The project status offers an immediate gauge of where your project currently stands. It categorizes a project as “on track,” “at risk,” or “off-track” to give key stakeholders a snapshot of the project’s health.
“On track” projects reassure stakeholders that things are progressing as planned, while “at risk” ones signal potential challenges that need closer attention.
The project summary is a high-level view of the entire project. Think of it as an executive summary that informs the stakeholders of what the project entails, its main objectives, and its overall progress.
A summary helps those who aren’t involved in the project’s day-to-day operations quickly grasp the project’s purpose without getting bogged down in the details.
Milestones and KPIs
Milestones act as checkpoints to assess how the project is going against the planned timeline. Include both completed and pending milestones, as the former offers clarity on achievements, and the latter focuses on upcoming goals.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are metrics that measure the project’s performance. They offer quantifiable evidence of how effectively the project team is achieving its objectives.
When setting KPIs, make sure they are SMART — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. This ensures that the benchmarks for success are clear and actionable.
Risks and issues
Unexpected problems can arise in any project. Candidly addressing these in your status report helps ensure that minor hiccups don’t escalate into major obstacles.
Here, it’s crucial to list any current or foreseeable risks and issues to give stakeholders a heads-up and allow them to take proactive measures to resolve them.
The project metrics show the tangible aspects of your project, such as its budget and completed tasks. Concrete data grounds the project in measurable reality, offering a clear reference point for stakeholders.
These metrics can help you gauge the effectiveness of your team’s efforts and budget allocation and make informed decisions moving forward.
How to write an effective status report
Now that you’re familiar with the components of a status report, let’s get into how to write one that’s effective.
1. Determine your audience
Who will be reading your report? Senior management, team members, stakeholders, or clients, for instance?
Determining your audience will help you tailor the report’s tone, content, and depth to meet their specific needs and expectations.
A good way to do this is by listing potential recipients of the report and determining the primary and secondary audience. Your primary audience will be those who directly use the information in your report, such as the project team members, while your secondary audience, which can include other department heads, will only have a peripheral interest.
2. Choose the right format
Your status report’s format will determine if the information is digestible and accessible to your intended audience. Here are some aspects to consider:
- How often will you be sharing updates?
Daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly? The frequency of updates will be influenced by the nature of the project, the pace of change, and your stakeholders’ preferences.
- How detailed does the report need to be?
A daily report might be brief, with just the essentials, while a quarterly report could be more comprehensive.
- How will the report be presented?
Depending on the audience and purpose, a written document might be enough for a small team. However, for larger meetings, a visual presentation that can be shared and discussed may be more suitable.
- What visuals best convey your data?
Incorporating charts, graphs, and other visuals can make complex data easier to understand. Visualization is especially useful for showing progress over time or comparing metrics.
3. Collect the data
Before drafting the report, make sure you have all the relevant data. These details will help you paint a clear and comprehensive picture of the project’s current status. Be sure to collect data on:
- Timeline updates: Track where you currently are versus key milestones.
- Task updates: Determine which tasks have been completed, which ones are ongoing, and which ones haven’t yet been started.
- Budget updates: Monitor the current expenditure compared to the allocated budget.
- Team feedback: Gather insights and suggestions from team members about the project’s progress.
- External stakeholder feedback: Gather comments and concerns from external stakeholders that can influence the project’s direction.
- Resource utilization: Determine whether resources are being used efficiently.
4. Discuss any risks and current issues
Being upfront about risks and ongoing challenges not only keeps stakeholders in the loop but also fosters a culture of trust and openness within your team.
If you’re not sure where to begin, start by assessing the likely impact of each identified risk. Which ones have the potential to get out of control? Which team members will have to step away from other tasks to put out a work ‘fire’?
Assessing the impact will help you prioritize which risks need immediate attention and plan appropriate responses. Doing this also empowers your team with the necessary information to solve problems.
Additionally, take a look at our guide to creating a risk management plan. It breaks down what risk management is and provides insights into how to identify, access, and manage risks.
5. Outline next steps
Outlining the next steps or action items in a project is crucial to maintaining momentum and keeping your team aligned. Everyone knows their responsibilities and can prepare for their upcoming tasks.
An outline of the next steps improves team efficiency, minimizes confusion, and holds team members accountable. But remember to prioritize these steps based on their expected impact on the project’s success, as this can help in resource allocation and time management.
Motion streamlines this process for you by automatically prioritizing your most important tasks and integrating them into each team member’s schedule.
6. Distribute and follow up
Distributing your status report is just as important as creating it. Make sure the report reaches all relevant parties to keep everyone aligned.
When everyone on the team is on the same page, they can collaborate more effectively — driving the project’s success.
After distribution, schedule timely follow-ups with project stakeholders to gather feedback. This feedback loop will help you identify areas that require attention, improvements, or adjustments in future reports.
Project status report template
Use the following project status report template for your own report:
Project: XYZ-12 Product Launch Campaign
Reporting period: November 1, 2023, to November 15, 2023
Project manager: Ken
Our design agency is responsible for executing a comprehensive product launch campaign for our client, XYZ Electronics. The campaign aims to create awareness, generate buzz, and drive pre-launch sales for their upcoming flagship smartphone, the XYZ-12.
Project on track
- Market research and competitor analysis completed
- Marketing collateral design in the final stages
- Social media and email marketing strategies finalized
- Pre-launch website development underway
Upcoming milestones and KPIs:
- Launch teaser video production (Due: November 20, 2023)
- Begin influencer marketing campaign (Due: November 25, 2023)
- Pre-launch website goes live (Due: November 30, 2023)
- Social media engagement target: 100,000 impressions and 5,000 engagements by the end of the month
Risks and issues:
- Potential delay in influencer marketing due to scheduling conflicts
- Technical challenges identified in website development (additional resources have been allocated to address them)
Project budget and resource status:
The project is currently within the allocated budget, with 60% of funds expended as of the reporting period. Resource allocation has been effective, with no reported resource shortages.
Feedback from creative leads has been positive regarding the quality of design work.
External stakeholder feedback:
XYZ Electronics remains satisfied with the progress and anticipates a successful campaign launch.
- Monitor influencer marketing campaigns closely to ensure timely execution
- Continue website development with an emphasis on resolving technical issues
- Prepare for the launch phase, including coordinating with logistics regarding product availability
How project management software helps with status reporting
Project management software simplifies the status reporting process by streamlining the entire reporting experience.
Here’s how Motion makes this happen:
Did you know that 50% of project managers spend one or more days manually collecting and combining data for project reports?
Having a platform that centralizes storage comes in handy while preparing for a status report.
Motion keeps all your project information, including tasks, attachments, notes, comments, and team schedules stored in one place. It becomes exponentially easier for project managers, or even team members, to find and gather the data they need to create an effective status report.
Easily track project progress
Tracking project and task progress becomes transparent and efficient with Motion. We provide a clear view of your projects so you can see what everyone’s working on and when. You can even select a format display that works best for you, such as board view or list view.
This transparency facilitates better collaboration, as it updates everyone on each other’s progress and aligns project teams with project goals.
Moreover, we offer deadline alerts to remind you of upcoming tasks and warn you when a deadline is on track to being missed. But the best part? We then reschedule that task to a more optimal time — automatically.
Delegate tasks for the next steps
Task delegation is a breeze with our automated system. Once you have the next steps outlined for your status report, Motion automatically delegates tasks to the appropriate team members.
When unexpected priorities or changes come up, we re-prioritize the tasks and create a new, optimized team schedule. There’s never a moment of uncertainty about what to do next.
Start status reporting with Motion today
Use Motion to create a project status report that leads to project success. Start your free trial with Motion now.