Create Useful Project Status Reports: A Comprehensive Guide

An important and required responsibility connected to running a successful project is writing and delivering useful and comprehensive project status reports. Everyone, including project team members, stakeholders, management and CIO or CEO-level sponsors will have some level of interest in the details of work in progress.

There will be different audiences who need to know about and understand certain details of a project, so one report may be rewritten with varying language and format to satisfy those needs.

Read more: How to Write a Project Report

What Is a Project Status Report?

A project status report is a summary of the details of a project as it progresses along the timeline, including key milestones and goals with defined deadlines. The project manager writes this report with input from team leads and key team members.

The project manager is expected to understand these details and be prepared to speak to this progress on a regular basis, answering related questions throughout the project lifecycle.

What Is Included in a Project Status Report?

Standard project status reports should include some or all of the following:

  • A summary of project details, including program and project name, start and launch dates
  • A list of key team members, stakeholders, and project owners
  • The status date and cadence of the report (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly)
  • A summary of the project scope and budget
  • A timeline of key and cross-project dependencies (if any) to show what must occur before something else can start
  • Call-out of key issues and blockers to address, and what is being done about them

Benefits of Project Status Reports

Project managers write status reports to keep all project stakeholders up to date with the latest progress and details as a project moves forward. At a high level, it is a quick reference of key milestones and transitions between phases in the timeline.

Benefits of this report include creating easy visibility into successes and identifying blockers as they unfold. It also keeps communication simple and open across the organization.

Read more: Biggest Mistakes in Reporting Digital Marketing Project Results to Clients

Project Status Reports vs Project Health Reports

The differences between project status reports and project health reports are important to note, and may not be clear or obvious to those receiving these reports.

To recap, a project status report is a formalized report provided to project stakeholders that regularly reports on project status as a project moves through a project plan. It identifies things that have been completed and what is left and open. Over time, this report spells out a documented history of the project, from project kickoff to project completion.

The project health report is a separate report that identifies issues and risks in a project as they come up over time, so they can be addressed early. One benefit is to save time and money with early intervention and attention.

This report is different from the view of daily or weekly execution of tasks, in that it provides a higher view of the overall status; there is less task-based detail. It can also list and compare all active projects assigned to a project manager for a larger program view.

Project Status Report Cadence

The frequency of when to send project status reports can vary depending on the project and audience. The standard weekly status report traditionally follows and includes details from that week’s work, showing status updates and changes from the following week with new goals and action items identified for the following week.

A monthly report may be required to highlight what has been done month to date to C-level and executives to assist with the project planning, budgeting, and juggling of team resources decision-making for the upcoming months.

Some weeks it may make sense to check in with individuals separately, forgoing the weekly organized status meeting to just provide an updated report. The choice to do this instead comes when things are moving along and the project has hit a point where, for example, development is underway in a multi-week sprint and there isn’t much change from the previous week, as the teams tackle technical details day to day.

Project status reports empower project managers and teams to stay on top of project details, manage tasks and issues,` and continue to plan ongoing work intelligently and effectively. Grab a template to start, and customize the format and information to fit your needs. This will keep your projects running smoothly, and everyone involved aware of the latest details and status.

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Anne Meick

Anne Meick is an author, copywriter, and digital project management consultant, leading digital teams and projects in highly regulated industries. She is the founder of Writers' Connection and blogs on writing, editing, and book publishing.