The complete guide to project reporting


It will come as no surprise to learn that a staggering number of projects fail as a result of communication breakdowns. In fact, a significant number of project managers do not have confidence in project success as a result in part of stakeholders who are out of sync.

Consistent and accurate project reporting is a way in which you can ensure that a project does not become one of this number. Project reporting is, however, not always easy, with many project teams finding themselves facing a number of challenges:

Project reporting challenges

The following issues are often a thorn in a project manager’s side:

  • Too much time spent preparing reports
  • Concerns that data may be misunderstood, leading to negative consequences
  • Reports not being read by stakeholders
  • Uncertainty of how to improve performance after bad reports

Issues can also occur for those in senior leadership as well, which include:

  • Differences in project reporting across different projects
  • No early warning detection
  • Superfluous or outdated information
  • The wrong metrics being tracked

Our complete guide to project reporting aims to help you write project reports that are effective and, more importantly, are something the necessary people will actually read.

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How do you write effective project reports?

It is important to stay focused on the task of writing your project reports. You need to think about what the intent of the report is, what results you are hoping to get from sending your report, and what, if any, call-to-action there is.

You need to ensure that your report is tailored to its intended audience. This means that you may need different versions of similar reports that contain only the information that is pertinent to the person it is for. Fortunately, there is plenty of reporting software out there that can help you do just this with just a little extra work.

Keep up your records

Reports should never be last minute. Should the worst happen and you have to be out of the office for a time, it is important that things are left in a position where someone else would be able to take over easily and continue those reports. Or, that on your return, you will not be too far behind. This can also prove helpful in future projects where the scope is similar and can even save you time in the long run.

Reports should be high-level

Your report should include:

  • Overall goals
  • Benefits
  • Health and progress of the project

It should use high-level snapshots and information before going into greater detail.

In addition to this, it is really important to ensure that your reports are consistent in timescale, so everyone knows when to expect them. All information that they contain should also be validated. Failure to do so could result in the loss of credibility.

Reports do not need to be complicated. In fact, there is a lot to be said for simplifying them as this will make it easier for everyone to access them.

Types of project report

There are 4 different types of project reports:

1.    Project status reports

These give a snapshot of the project and help to improve tracking. This type of report should include key highlights, project timeline completions, the status of the budget, any upcoming milestones and tasks, any items that need escalating, the key risks, mitigation plans and issues.

2.   Resource report

This indicates who is doing what and when and can help identify areas of over or under allocation. This can help with future scheduling. Remember to include proper allocation of time for each project, blocked out time when individuals are not available, and also a risk plan for any critical resources.

3.    Risk assessment matrix

This could help you to reduce the chances of project failure and is a quick and easy way to calculate the risks by making sure that you have a list of everything that could go wrong. It can also help when it comes to prioritising issues. The steps in creating this report include:

a.     Create a risk register

b.     Determine the likelihood, severity and impact of all of the risks.

4.    Project post-mortem report

Holding a post-mortem meeting at the end of your project is standard practice. This will allow you and your team to look at all of the successes and failures of the project. It will give you a chance to reflect and ask what you should consider doing differently next time. This is something that you should do regardless of the size of your project.

There are a number of steps that you should consider for your project post-mortem meeting, and they play a vital role in the way in which you could and should handle any future projects.

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Learning Lessons from the project post-mortem report

Your post-mortem meeting is something that will help when it comes to compiling your report. You should start by sending out questionnaires before the meeting. This will allow team members to offer their feedback and will also help them to prepare for the meeting. These questionnaires will not only help you formulate how to tackle the meeting but can also be important at the report writing stage.

This should be a more organised meeting; you will have a lot to go through, and it is important to be able to get the most value from the time.

Your report should look to include things like a brief project recap – those things that were needed from the project, and an outcome recap – the things that actually happened. It may also include some stakeholder input from individuals who were involved in the project at a ground level.

Remember that it is important to take notes at your meeting as there may be relevant information that is given that could be important for your report. You don’t need to document every word that is said, but notes will certainly help later. This report is an important way of closing off your project and gives you a reference point in the future that could help with other projects that have a similar scope.

2 thoughts on “The complete guide to project reporting”

  1. The key to good reporting is to have an executive overview at the beginning to summarise key points. Include graphics if they help tell the story. Because in reality how many people read the full report if it’s too long and detailed

    1. Good point Dave about including graphics in reports if they provide a clear and instant overview for stakeholders. Often, though, the detail is important for a full understanding in all sorts of project issues and without that fuller understanding decisions can be made (or not made) that have a negative impact on outcomes.

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