Progress reports are clear-cut, with a more formulaic design than that of quarterly reports. The latter vary in their format from business to business and institution to institution. However, the following basic guidelines apply to both: Be mindful of your audience and what they expect to find in the report and keep your writing clear and concise, with a serious, no-nonsense tone and an accurate, open and reliable style.
Use traditional memo format for both the progress and quarterly report. Begin with the date, the name and position of the person to whom the report will go, your name and position and a clear, concise subject line. For example, the subject line for a progress report might be “Progress on Data Integration Project.” The subject line for a quarterly report is often less specific and simply says something like "Quarterly Report for Data Department, Third Quarter 2010." If the quarterly report is one of several going to the same person, make certain you know the exact format that the person expects. The reader needs to quickly digest all of the incoming data and will expect to find specific types of information in the same place in each report.
For a progress report, open with a summary of progress, such as “The data integration project is progressing on schedule and under budget.” If you are seeking something specific--help from another employee or department, additional funds, etc. --list it immediately to make certain it is not overlooked by the reader. Open the quarterly report in a similar manner by summarizing the information contained in the report.
Detail the project’s background, which can be included with the summary of progress if you wish, by quickly summarizing details and describing its purpose and timeline. Within the framework of the quarterly report, you can include progress made since the last report, accounting for both the good and the bad. Keep in mind that you want to be open and honest.
Specify in the progress report all finished work and use action verbs to emphasize that those working on the project have been industrious. You might also include specific dates when phases of the project were completed or when part of it became active or went online or whatever is the goal. At this point in the quarterly report and within the appropriate format, begin detailing the progress that has been made. List problems that need to be resolved.
Provide details in a progress report of any and all problems you are facing, strategies for solving them and a timeline for their resolution or explanation for why the problem is ongoing.
Lay out the work schedule in the progress report, along with accomplishments you anticipate during the coming time interval. You can wrap up the report with an overall evaluation of the project and what has thus far been achieved. In the quarterly report, forecast upcoming opportunities and challenges along with anticipated outcomes and important activities. Perhaps end with a request for comments, feedback and ideas.
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