One key element of project management is keeping team members and key stakeholders continually updated on project progress. For large projects and teams, though, keeping everyone in the loop regarding the project's status is often easier said than done. This is especially true when you consider that 60% of project managers are running between two and five projects simultaneously, while 15% are running 10 or more projects at once.
This is where project status reports come in, offering a simple way to provide project stakeholders with a weekly status report. And one way for project managers to streamline these project status updates even further is to use a weekly status report template. Below, we'll cover everything you need to know about creating weekly project status reports. (We'll even provide a free download for a high-quality project management template you can use immediately!)
What is a project status report?
A project status report is a document that includes details regarding a project's current status, its anticipated timeline, potential risks and roadblocks, and other key information that project stakeholders need to be aware of.
We'll cover all the details that a status report needs to include a little later. But for now, you can think of these docs as high-level summaries of the project intended to ensure everyone involved stays on the same page.
Why project status reports are crucial for agencies
Today, agency project managers have to work with many different parties. This often includes team members across different departments and potential stakeholders such as clients, vendors, sponsors, investors, and anyone closely involved with the project. Efficient collaboration between all of these parties requires that everyone is up to date and in the loop — and project status reports are a key part of this process.
(Teamwork.com was built with agencies in mind — see how the platform can transform your agency’s project management.)
How often should you generate project status reports?
You can generate (and deliver) project status reports daily, weekly, or monthly. But how often you should generate these reports depends on several factors: your project's complexity, how fast it's moving (or needs to move), and how often clients and stakeholders want updates.
Here's a quick rundown of the pros, cons, and considerations involved with generating daily, weekly, and monthly status reports:
Daily status reports: Daily updates may be necessary for especially complex or fast-moving projects. Of course, the downside of daily project status reports is that they are time-consuming to generate. They are also tedious for stakeholders to keep up with, making them best reserved for projects where continual updates are an absolute necessity.
Weekly status reports: This is the most common reporting period for project status reports, and, in most cases, providing a weekly report is more than enough to keep everyone aligned.
Monthly status reports: For slower-moving projects, project managers can get by providing status updates monthly. This reporting cadence reduces the workload associated with generating and delivering project status reports but may not be sufficient for keeping all stakeholders informed, depending on the nature of your project.
Who needs to be included in a project status report?
Anyone involved in the project's completion and anyone with a stake in the project should be considered for inclusion in your project status reports. This includes any team members or outside partners with project responsibilities and anyone with a vested interest in its completion (clients, sponsors, and investors).
In some cases, agencies may also wish to include their vendors in project status reports if those vendors are directly involved in the project.
Key sections of a project status report
While the exact details of your project status report will obviously vary depending on the project's specifics, there are a few standard sections that almost every status report should include. This standardized nature of project status reports is one reason why project status report templates are so helpful.
Regardless of whether or not you choose to utilize a status update template, though, here are the key sections that you will want to consider including in your status report:
The project information section of your status report should include basic project details such as the project name, reporting period, report date, and key stakeholders. While this is information that most stakeholders receiving the report are already going to be aware of, it's still important to include it for standardization purposes — and to help stakeholders understand the exact project that the report covers.
Overall project status
In this section, you will want to provide a high-level summary of the project's current status. This project status summary should include key accomplishments, completed work, planned work, project milestones, project health, project deliverables, and action items.
Several of these details will necessitate their own section in your project status report, but it's also helpful to provide a broad overview of them in the overall project status section.
Identifying milestones is an important part of creating a project plan, and you will want to include a section in your project status report that details your progress toward these milestones. This milestone review should cover the milestones you have already met and the project milestones still on the horizon.
Summary of completed work
Providing a high-level summary of completed work gives project stakeholders a better understanding of the project's timeline. It's a key part of keeping everyone updated on the project's status and is one of the most important elements of a project status report.
Summary of upcoming work
You'll also want to provide an executive summary of the work still in progress. This ensures that all team members understand their individual responsibilities (and are on track) and that stakeholders understand how much there is left to do before the project wraps up.
Relevant project metrics
There are a few important metrics to consider including in your project status update. This includes metrics such as planned value, earned value, actual cost, schedule variance, and cost variance. By including relevant project metrics such as these in your status reports, you can provide stakeholders with an enlightening numerical overview of the project's current status.
Project health: risks and roadblocks
Only 35% of projects undertaken are ultimately successful. One big reason why so many projects fail is unforeseen project risks and roadblocks. This makes it essential to keep a keen eye out for these risks and roadblocks throughout every step of a project's completion. It's equally important to keep stakeholders updated on the potential risks and roadblocks that you uncover so that everyone involved with the project can begin preparing backup plans.
Project schedule and timeline
This section should cover the anticipated timeline for the project's completion along with a rough schedule of the project plan and tasks that still need to be completed. This section of your project status report is especially relevant for stakeholders such as clients and investors who are invested in the project's completion rather than directly involved in the process. However, it's equally important to keep your project team updated on the project's schedule and timeline, too.
Conclusion: Recommendations and action items
The conclusion of your project status report should reiterate a brief summary of the project's current status along with covering any project recommendations or action items that stakeholders need to be aware of. This final section of your status report also provides the opportunity to cover any other important project details you want to mention, like resource management or project scheduling concerns.
One excellent way to ensure that all of these important sections are covered in your project status report while at the same time streamlining the process of generating these reports is to utilize free templates. Check out our helpful project status tracking template (did we mention that it's completely free to download and use?).
6 best practices to create helpful, actionable project status reports
Reports are a valuable tool for agencies and project managers — when they're done right. (It’s why we put together a comprehensive guide on how to create awesome project management reports — check it out here.)
If you are just generating these reports just for the sake of it, without putting much thought into how they're formatted or what they contain, they won't offer as much benefit as they should.
With that in mind, here are six tips for creating helpful, actionable project status reports:
1) Demonstrate high performance and progress
Project status reports serve the purpose of keeping everyone updated and on the same page, but they also serve the purpose of motivating team members and stakeholders alike. Clients and investors want to see that your company is actually going to deliver a project that provides them with value. Team members, meanwhile, want to know that their efforts on a project don't go to waste.
For this reason, demonstrating high performance and progress is one key objective of project status reports. While you certainly don't want to be a sunshine pumper and overlook potential risks and setbacks, you still want to highlight progress and performance whenever possible. This way your status reports can serve as a motivational tool throughout the project. You can do this by taking the opportunity to acknowledge important accomplishments and milestones met throughout your project status update.
2) Avoid adding too much detail
Keep in mind that stakeholders have to take the time to read the project status reports that you generate; if you are bogging them down with ultimately unimportant details, they may end up missing the forest for the trees.
While including all relevant updates and information in your status reports is important, be careful not to overdo it. Instead, focus on the most relevant details to your project stakeholders and keep your status reports relatively brief and to the point. This is something that using status report templates can help with since these templates serve as a guide for the information that you should include in your report.
3) Include attractive visuals and graphics
Human beings are visual creatures, and most people absorb information much better when it's presented visually. This should come as no surprise, given that 50% of the brain's cortex is devoted to processing visual information.
Graphics such as graphs and Gantt charts provide the opportunity to display important project information in a way that is easy to digest and understand. These visual elements also make your report more appealing and pleasing to the eye, increasing the likelihood that stakeholders will actually read and absorb the information they need.
4) Make the report accessible
Team members and project stakeholders may need to refer back to past status reports in order to refamiliarize themselves with important details, so you will want to make your project status reports easily accessible. One great way to do this is to utilize a project management platform that stores past status reports and makes it easy for anyone with authorized access to view them.
5) Use the right tool to track progress
Utilizing a project management tool such as Teamwork.com can go a long way toward helping you generate high-quality status reports more efficiently. With Teamwork.com, you can track and manage every aspect of your project within an intuitive and easy-to-use platform. You can then use the project data that Teamwork.com collects along with Teamwork.com's status report templates to generate quality status reports automatically.
Tools reduce the amount of time that project managers have to spend creating status reports while at the same time ensuring that those reports are well-formatted, accessible, and populated with the appropriate information.
To learn more about how Teamwork.com's industry-leading project planning software can help you track project progress and automatically generate insightful project reports, check out the benefits of Teamwork.com for project planning and tracking.
6) Ask for feedback
Your project stakeholders are the ones actually digesting and utilizing the status reports you generate: Why not ask them for feedback on how you can improve future reports?
From details that they would like to see included to suggestions about how often you should deliver reports and everything in between, you may be surprised at how much valuable insight you can get by requesting feedback on your project reports from team members and stakeholders.
To gather this information, meet with stakeholders individually (either live or asynchronously), send out survey forms, or simply encourage stakeholders to reach out with feedback whenever they see the opportunity.
Generate top-notch project status reports with Teamwork.com
Project status reports are an invaluable part of the project management process. Utilizing the right project tracking software and status report templates can make generating high-quality project status reports easier than ever.
With Teamwork.com, project managers can generate project management reports automatically via real-time project tracking data and best-in-class project status report templates. To see for yourself how Teamwork.com empowers improved project reporting, be sure to check out our free-to-download project tracker template.