In life, there are plenty of times we all feel like a hamster stuck on a wheel going nowhere! Online project management can sometimes feel the same, especially if you aren’t using project status updates to your advantage.
Projects make a business what it is. No matter who you’re doing business with or what kind of project it is, it always helps to keep your stakeholders in the loop. Project status updates are an effective way to do just that.
This article covers everything you need to know to create and use project status updates.
What Exactly is a Project Status Update?
Project status updates are an important part of keeping people informed about a project. It’s essentially a document that lets everyone know what’s going on and helps keep people engaged, especially for those stakeholders who may not be as familiar with the project details.
Since the purpose of a project status report is to keep stakeholders up-to-date and portray areas that need more organizational support, you need to touch on all the key elements of a project status update to communicate better with your team or stakeholders.
Key Elements of a Project Status Update
When writing a project status update remember, there isn’t a one size fits all approach. The amount of Information a status update can have varies from organization to organization. Here are a few basics things that you must include in your status update:
1. Give a relevant name to your project
People are going to use the name of your report while trying to access the specific status report. A relevant name is especially valuable if your business is working on multiple projects at once.
The project name should be short and to the point. If it’s too long and people can’t remember it, they’ll have a hard time finding the status update in the future. At the same time, consider using a similar name to the project you are working on to make it easier for you to connect the status report to the project it talks about.
2. General Project info
The general project information is the key element of a project status update. This includes the overall details of when a project is started, stipulated time, and cost. It also takes into account that there are sufficient resources to carry out the required activities.
To keep your reports organized and clear for you as well as other stakeholders, identify the following at the start of the report:
- Project Name or ID
- Project manager
- Date of the report
3. Project Summary
The project summary is the most important part of your project status update. It gives your reader an overview of the project, including location, key stakeholders, budget, timeline, and objective.
Here, you need to identify your project goals and deliverables and also your progress or setbacks that call for attention.
It is best to keep this section brief by adding only the most important information.
Here’s an example:
The project summary is one of the active tools to gauge your projects. It is a good idea to make this area concise yet informative about all the aspects for easy monitoring and comprehension by all the concerned parties involved with your project.
4. Measuring Status
Measuring Status is one of the most crucial parts of an effective project status update, but measuring status incorrectly leads to missed deadlines, poor project outcomes, and unnecessary stress.
To avoid discrepancies, you need to communicate your status visually. For this purpose, many use a kind of a “stoplight” approach:
Green indicates progress is on track for that milestone.
Yellow indicates risks and/or issues. However, there is a plan – and provided it works – there will be no impact on the timeline.
Red indicates that there are issues that are going to affect the timeline. They need to be addressed immediately.
5. Milestone Status
Here, you can share more details about the tasks and milestones. Milestone status is the crucial element of a project status update for your customer because it helps to understand how close a project is from the final release.
Ensure to call out specific items whenever you update your team to let people read and view details effortlessly.
Here’s another example of a project milestone used to track progress. Note that the report avoids listing the status of tasks to evade repetition of the project schedule.
The primary job of a milestone status update is to inform team members in charge of the successful delivery of a project as well as stakeholders involved in the outcome and progress of the project.
6. A high-level overview of each key area
The purpose of a project status report is to communicate the current state of your project to all stakeholders – including your team, upper management, customers, and other interested parties.
This means that anyone who needs to know about any aspect of your project should be able to find this information in your report.
It is important to remember that different stakeholders are interested in different aspects of the project, so you need to focus on the specific details that are relevant to each stakeholder.
The key areas to include in your report will depend on your project. They may vary from report to report or stay consistent.
In case you are working on a project that keeps constantly improving, you can use dynamic key areas. Add the things your team has worked on throughout the last sprint.
But if you are handling an event planning project, you want to cover things like signups, promotion, and speakers.
Project Highlights are the key elements of a project status update and are a summary of the most important events that have occurred since the last update. They can be presented in a table format, or as a simple bulleted list.
They generally include topics, such as:
- Project Milestones Completed
- Project Milestones Upcoming
- Scope Changes
- Cost Variations
- Risks and Issues raised or resolved
- Key resources movements (in or out)
In this section, you can also add any extra information that you have. In case you are facing roadblocks, highlight them. At the same time, you can also highlight any potential challenges you expect along the way.
In this section, you can address any issues that you have spotted, potential risks, or required changes.
Due to delays in implementation, lack of communication among the team, and more, there are some critical risks associated with a project that needs addressing as soon as possible.
You should outline both new issues or risks and previous ones and note the steps taken or will be taken to address them under each issue. You should also note if those plans are working and showing positive results.
Aside from identifying risks, this section also includes risk evasion strategies and mitigation procedures when they do arise.
8. Team Progress
Team progress is the key element of a project status update. If you can keep the team up-to-date on the current status of all tasks, everyone will be informed and know exactly what has to be done.
This section should be dedicated to sharing an overall team status report. You can summarize your team’s progress in brief and add any notable achievements.
It is also crucial to outline the team’s task calendar. Add tasks scheduled, tasks completed, and tasks planned for the upcoming reporting period.
Finally, you can conclude a short estimate of the progress you anticipate in the impending reporting period.
9. Budget status
It allows investors to immediately define the current state of affairs in your project, their approximate income and expenditure, and to estimate the probability of its completion within a fixed term.
It isn’t wise to keep key stakeholders uninformed concerning your remaining project budget. You can share the overall budget or the budgets of tasks you are currently working on, depending on your project.
Also, consider sharing an overall percentage spent as opposed to the number of hours that have been spent.
Take a look at this example to get an idea of how you can update stakeholders on your project budget status:
10. Links to other documents or resources
For any project, it is important to keep track of your updates and communicate with your stakeholders.
If you could provide links to docs or resources, it would benefit stakeholders looking for more in-depth information. You could add links to specific project milestones or references to the goals the project is contributing to.
11. Next action steps
Though you should focus on the past and the present, don’t neglect the future. Make sure you communicate what the next actions are. This is crucial in order to ensure that people know exactly what they have to do next. It provides a vision of where the project is going and gives you and your team members a clear idea of how far you have progressed.
If the next actions are not clear, people will waste time trying to figure out what to do. Or even worse, they will spend time on something that was not the intention of the project manager.
Use a Project Management tool
A great way to keep all your projects on track, especially when you are working with a team, is to use a project management tool. Make sure to find a Project Management tool and software with reporting capabilities. The tool should be able to:
- Capture the information process, manage progress, and help complete tasks.
- Automatically create easy-to-read reports.
- Create visual reports that look at progress in different dimensions using words, charts, and graphs to explain the progress of the project, track the activity of team members, offer insight into what will come next, and help spot potential issues.
Where should you write your Project Status Reports?
Status reports are a great tool for keeping your project moving forward. They help to make sure everyone on your team is up to date and make sure there are no questions that you don’t have the answers to.
However, writing status updates can be a tedious task. But doing it in the right place can make all the difference.
A work management tool is great for this purpose.
Find a tool that gives you a project overview. That way, you can manage all your status updates, project briefs, deliverables, and milestones in one place.
You can share status updates on email, and platforms like Slack and Pulse.
You don’t want to be managing projects in spreadsheets either, so make sure to pick a project management tool with a visual interface.
How often should you send out Project Status Update Reports?
With all the work you have on your plate, it can be hard to keep your projects organized. And although the details of each project might make them seem similar at times, there are many factors that differentiate them.
So, how often should you send out project status update reports?
The answer depends on your project. For example, in case your project has a short timeframe, sending a weekly project status report will be apt. On the other hand, if it is a long-term project, you can send biweekly or even monthly reports. Just ensure that your stakeholders are kept informed.
You may want to report on project status as often as possible so that you’re always in the loop, or you might not want to do them too frequently because it could be a time drain for you and your team. It’s important to find the balance between delivering status too frequently and too infrequently.
Types of Project Status Report
How would you know if your project is on track? What kind of report would help you? Be it a team meeting or client briefing; there should be a succinct but informative report to describe the current status of the project.
Here are different types of project status reports that can help you explain varied information and deliverables.
1. The Weekly Project Status Report
The Weekly Project Status Report is a simple way to create quick project status updates for your team.
These types of reports should include as many relevant details as possible, including a detailed view of the progress of the project. It also tracks the budget, indicates milestones, specifies risks, and more.
2. The Monthly Project Status Report
A monthly or bi-monthly project status report should include a bird’s eye view of the project’s progress. It can help higher-level managers track the budget, spending, the quality of deliverables, and the nature of risks.
When they are kept informed, they can make necessary changes in management and take corrective action. To better understand the elements of project-level change management, check out this resource on what is change management.
3. The Stoplight Project Health Status Report
This report helps you to visually represent your project’s health by using color-coding to mark different elements.
For instance, green represents on-budget and on-target, yellow represents potential risks, and red represents real roadblocks. All in all, it will save you plenty of time.
Quick Tips to Create Project Status Update Reports
Increase the trust your stakeholders have in you by giving them regular updates as well as easy access to project information. Use these pro tips to make sure your project status update reports are helping you excel at your job.
- Be concise and organized in your status updates discussion. Ideally, aim for less than five minutes.
- Plan ahead and ensure that the discussion is relevant to the topic. Leave out other issues for another time.
- Come up with a draft first and then correct it.
- Ask for feedback on how to present the best view of your project status updates.
- Be consistent across all project status updates.
- Consider the scope of the information. Think whether your team requires specific details concerning what you expect out of them, or perhaps a simple overview. Also, consider how you are presenting the information in order that your reports will fetch the best results.
- Report on the most important metrics.
- Implement visualization, such as charts and graphics if possible.
- Make the project status update accessible to all team members and stakeholders.
Over to You
To summarize, a project status update in a non-technical business setting is an easy-to-read document sent out by the project manager, or by someone overlooking the project.
It should contain an overview of all of the activities done in a specific time window and present them to stakeholders and team members in a concise format.
Whether it’s for your own project or your clients, keeping everyone informed as to what has been completed (and what hasn’t) is a crucial aspect of any project.
And as a general rule, project status reports should typically be provided weekly or monthly – depending on the size and duration of the project – during your normal business hours, or at some other predetermined time.
The frequency and timing are important because it allows everyone involved in the project to keep up with what’s happening on a regular basis – instead of being surprised by unexpected issues at some future date.
Use the information and tips shared in this article to craft and use project status reports that keep your team and various stakeholders apprised of your project’s progress.