Everything You Should Include in Your Project Status Report (Checklist)

Have you ever gone to the grocery store specifically for coffee—then left with a cart full of everything but coffee? If you leave your grocery list at home, you’ll probably forget something, no matter how often you use it in your daily life.

Lists are important. They help us prioritize, and remember to complete, important tasks.

If you’re a project manager, you probably create regular status reports to update stakeholders on how projects are progressing. And there are a lot of things you have to remember to include in these reports.

No matter how often you create project status reports, without a list, there’s a chance you’ll forget something.

To ensure your weekly project status report contains everything you need, we’ve created a simple checklist you can use:

Download Checklist

Now, we’ll look at each of these sections in more detail, and explore how project tracking software can help you create more effective status reports.

Executive Overview

Tip: Put the most important information at the top of the report. Why? Because your stakeholders probably won’t read the whole thing. This way, the stakeholders who read the Executive Overview and skim the rest will have a summary of the most important information.

Project identifiers. These come first in your report, and should include:

  • Project name
  • Project ID/code
  • Name of project manager
  • Date of report

It may seem obvious to reference the project name and other items, but without having them on your list, they can be easy to overlook. With the exception of the report date, the project identifiers will stay the same week-to-week.

Including the date of the status report is very important: This helps establish an accurate project timeline.

Progress summary. This section should include a high-level review of overall project goals and the progress made toward them so far. Is the project on track, behind or ahead of schedule? Is it over or under budget? The progress summary should highlight any items that need stakeholder attention—even if those items are also discussed in a later section of the report.

Overall project health and percent complete. This section should indicate the “health,” or status, of various project items:

 

Project health can be depicted visually rather than in narrative form (as shown above), using a predetermined color-code to represent the status of each item. For example, green means the item is on track; yellow means it is in trouble and red means it requires immediate attention (and, most likely, stakeholder intervention).

“Percent complete” should be entered as an actual percentage showing the overall project completion level (e.g., “50 percent” for a project that’s halfway done).

How project tracking software can help: Dashboards offer a live display of team performance and overall progress. These tools automatically capture data and organize it in one place, which saves managers time and effort. In cloud-based project tracking systems, dashboards update in real time as progress is made—meaning users always have the most current information.

Project overview in Clarizen
 

This project overview screen includes several items that should be included in your Executive Summary: colored icons to represent the status of important items, the name of the active project manager and the project’s percent complete.

Milestones and Deliverables

Tip: Use data visualization tools. A picture is worth a thousand words, so use visuals whenever possible. For example, you can use colors to represent status or include a “percent complete” chart, a Gantt chart or a table showing progress against milestones and deliverables.

During the project planning stage, projects are broken down into phases marked by key milestones. Milestones are often tied to the completion of a client deliverable as well as to mid-project billing and invoicing—so it’s important for stakeholders to know whether teams are on track to complete them.

Rather than writing out this information in narrative form, you can show your team’s progress with a simple table that includes:

How project tracking software can help: Gantt charts are key project planning tools that double as project tracking tools. Using Gantt charts, you can visualize the project schedule, determine project phases and highlight key milestones—then track team performance and progress toward achieving them.

Viewing task details on a Gantt chart in Zoho Projects
 

Gantt chart functionality has the added benefit of allowing users to “drill down” into task details on the chart itself.

The task details shown above include a “percent complete” icon, the name of the team member responsible for completing the task and the dates surrounding the task kick-off and completion. The ability to drill down into this information can be very useful when creating your project status reports.

Issue, Risk and Change Management

Tip: Consistency is key. Use the same report format from week to week, since this allows for easier cross-report comparisons. Using a consistent format is important for your report as a whole, but especially for this section: It will allow stakeholders to see, at a glance, any new issues and risks, and spot what has changed about known issues and risks from week to week.

Early risk detection and management is essential for successfully completing a project. This section of your status report should be bulleted, not written in prose. It must cover all project risk management efforts, including:

Open issues: Draw attention to any new issues that have come up since the last report. Additionally, provide a status update on any previously identified issues and their management strategies.

Open risks: Acknowledge any new risks that have occurred since the last report, and present the management plan(s) to deal with them. Additionally, provide an update on the risk management plan being used to handle existing risks.

Open change requests: Highlight any open change requests and next steps that need stakeholders’ attention—for example, extending the schedule or budget due to an increase in the project’s requirements.

How project tracking software can help: Both reports and dashboards can be helpful here. Reports provide a static readout of key metrics, such as a project’s ROI, resource utilization and availability and open issues/risks. Dashboards can be configured with a live display of the same information—in fact, users often have the option of creating a report from the dashboard by exporting it or sharing it with other users.

Dashboard showing open issues, risks and change requests in Clarizen
 

The project manager dashboard above has been customized to show risks by assignee, and to show current open issues and change requests. From this screen, users can export or share the report directly with stakeholders (to accompany the project status report).

Team Progress

Tip: Avoid long narratives. Project requirements and stakeholder preferences vary, but the best rule for creating your weekly status report is to Keep It Short and Simple (K.I.S.S.). Don’t forget that this report is a snapshot: Be clear and concise, not overly detailed. It’s especially important in this section to keep things simple: Stakeholders may skim from the Overview straight to this final piece.

This section of the report should measure team productivity, comparing actual progress made over the past week to what was estimated in the previous status report. Teams should be praised for notable achievements, and attention should be called to incomplete items.

A good way to structure this section is to list:

Tasks scheduled for last week: Include all the tasks your team estimated they could complete.

Tasks completed last week: List all the tasks your team actually completed.

Tasks scheduled for next week: Any tasks not completed last week should top this list. After that, list the tasks planned for the next week.

How project tracking software can help: Our favorite addition to this section is a customized report. Using tracking software, you can send a weekly prompt for team members to submit their status summary, key accomplishments and upcoming tasks for the next week, and the system will automatically collate that information into report format (see below).

Weekly status report in Smartsheet
 

You can then condense this information for stakeholders and embed it in the project status report. Alternatively, you can choose to include the more detailed summary as a supplemental attachment—whatever your stakeholders prefer.

Next Steps

The project tracking tools referenced in this article can help you create better project status reports—and can help drive project success. If you’re interested in learning more about these solutions, call our project management software experts for a free consultation at (855) 998-8505.

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