In general the prevailing opinion about project progress reporting focuses on two things:
- the importance of keeping reports succinct
- the importance of understanding the information needs of the different stakeholders
After analyzing the reporting requirements in their architectural/construction company, project managers M. Abdomerovic, G. Blakemore, and J. Stewart (2000) found the following results:
The customer and . . . top managers need only between 1% and a little more than 4% of the information available. The larger the project the smaller percentage of the available information that is needed.
. . . For an average project, facility or contract managers need 13% of the available information.
. . . The remaining information, about 83% to 86% was needed at the operational level. The bigger the project, the bigger the percentage of the available information is needed at this level. (29)
They also found that the work breakdown structure (WBS) is the most effective tool in providing a baseline for reporting project progress. If stakeholders have access to the WBS, they can better put the project progress reports in context, and the reports can be more succinct.
According to Abdomerovic et al., "reports can be shown simply, even though the structures that create the basis for reports could be numerous and complicated" (30).
Since stakeholders are more likely to read and respond to project progress reports when they are succinct, as a project manager you are more likely to get credit for your work and get the support you need on your project. When a project status report is too long, your sponsor or your boss is more likely to forget the information and therefore forget who did the work. Furthermore when a project stakeholder is clear about a project and its progress, he or she is more likely to support it. As Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology, says, "one of the most useful ways to stay on the radar is through weekly project status reports. . . . Are you keeping them brief and straightforward, so your manager actually has time to review all of your accomplishments?" (39).
As far as the specific information that should be provided on project progress reports, current theories are very consistent. Most of the literature is general about what information should be provided. Gantthead.com, a popular resource for project managers, provides this list of the elements that should be included:
At a minimum, the project status report should include a status of the project (description, milestones for the last reporting period, milestones for the next reporting period, impact of achievement/non-achievement of milestones for the remaining period of the project); budget report (planned expenditure, actual expenditure and deficit/surplus); risk management report (specifying any changes to the major risks identified since the previous report and modification to the strategies put in place to manage them, if appropriate), issues report (including areas of concern, specific problems, and any action/decision that needs to be taken by the project steering committee); and recommendations.
- Abdomerovic M., G. Blakemore, J. Stewart. Show It Simply. Project Management Journal. Project Management Institute, 2000, Vol. 31, No. 4, 27-32.
- Lee, Katherine Spencer. PR 101: Getting Credit for Your Work. Certification Magazine. October 2004.
- http://gantthead.com/deliverable.cfm?ID=224103, 2005.