Project status reports are controlling documents for anyone trying to manage a project, whether it's a single-person job or one involving hundreds of people over multiple locations. The project status report serves as a concise summary of a project's progress, its expected completion date and what actions have been taken on it since the last project status report was compiled. It helps managers keep tasks on track and identify problems early enough to generate meaningful solutions.
A project status report typically begins with a brief description of the important elements of the project. This paragraph or block identifies the name of the project, the date of the report, who is responsible for the project or its managing department and a statement of the project objective. It may also include contact information, such as phone numbers or email addresses of key project team members. This section is unlikely to change much during the course of the project and is often copied from one status report to the next with just the date being updated.
A section describing the project deliverables is key to a project status report. This section should list the deliverables and give their current status in a word or two. For example, a product launch project sheet might have such deliverables as print advertising, vendor launch party, trade show booth display and price sheet creations. Next to each deliverable, the project manager should write such things as "complete" or "ordered" or "at printer." This serves as a summary of the project with the more detailed tasks listed in the timeline section.
The task timeline is the element of a project status report that often gets the most scrutiny. This section should detail work that was completed since the last project status report, what work is due in the next period and dates when tasks are expected to be completed. Many project status reports present this in a grid with dates given for expected completion and actual completion. Many project managers choose to color-code this section with different colors representing tasks that are on schedule, ahead of schedule, behind schedule, completed or on hold.
Notes, Recommendations and Explanations
The project status report also needs to list any red flags, change requests or challenges that the project is facing. This is a place to list where additional resources might be needed or where delivery dates are going to change. This section can also report how unexpected events have affected the project, such as software problems, late delivery from a vendor or defective supplies. Some project managers will separate this section from the report and list it in a discrete document that they attach to the project status report.