Most businesses have had to deal with failed projects. Ever wondered why? Among other reasons, poor communication and lack of accountability are major culprits.
According to Project Management Institute (PMI), poor communication negatively affects project success more than 50% of the time. It also causes 33% of project failures.
Lack of communication can make your project veer off track and fail. The good news is that creating project status reports can help tackle these issues.
Project status reports keep stakeholders updated about the project’s overall health. It also helps identify and mitigate issues and keep the project on track.
Fortunately, creating project status reports isn’t a hard nut to crack.
In this article, you’ll learn how to write an effective project status report. We’ve also included some design tips and a project status report template to ensure you’re on the right track.
Table of Contents
What is a Project Status Report?
The Benefits of a Project Status Report
6 Elements of a Project Status Report
How to Create a Project Status Report
What is a Project Status Report?
Whether you’re running a short-term or long-term project, you’ll want to gauge its performance and progress. One of the best ways to do this is to create a project status report.
Project status reports are clear and timely updates about the status of any project. It provides comprehensive information about crucial project elements such as:
- Budget, cost and other financial resources
- Milestones and timelines
- Outstanding and completed tasks
Below is an example of a project status report:
Essentially, your project status report should answer these questions:
- What have you achieved?
- What are the outstanding tasks and who’s responsible?
- What tasks are on track and off-track?
- What are the major risks we need to manage?
- What constraints or roadblocks are hindering the project’s success?
- Are you hitting the desired goals?
- Is the project moving in the right direction or heading to the rocks?
Progress reports keep teams, investors, management and other stakeholders on the same page. How often you create status reports is up to you and the stakeholders involved.
Depending on the project type and scope, you can generate weekly reports, monthly reports and even quarterly and annual project status reports.
Regardless of the time frame, the goal is to keep everyone in the loop and manage their expectations.
The Benefits of a Project Status Report
A project status report is a valuable tool for managing projects successfully. Whether you’re viewing it from an employee or management lens, the report provides clarity about any project type and size.
Let’s take a closer look at some benefits of writing a project status report.
Monitor Project Status and Quality
After you set your project in motion, status reports help you keep the project aligned with the plan. They provide all the vital information about the project and its performance.
As a project manager, you don’t want to hit a project milestone only to discover you were off track the entire time. This could cost your organization a lot of time, money and resources. Hence, there’s a need for thorough project status reports that show what’s working and not working.
Since project status reports contain a blend of metrics and charts, they give stakeholders an expansive view of the project.
If the project is off track, you’ll be able to:
Streamline Communication Across Key Stakeholders
Communication is vital in project management from the goal-setting stage to the completion stage. It drives teamwork and sets your project up for success.
In contrast, poor communication could put your resources at risk and jeopardize your project outcomes.
According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), two in five projects fail to reach their project goals. And 50% (one-half) of these failed projects are due to ineffective communication.
Writing project status reports could bridge communication gaps between key stakeholders. Plus, it connects every project team member to the strategies, goals and actions. With project reports, stakeholders can adjust or stick to the project plan accordingly.
Automate Reporting Processes
As the project team lead, you probably have a lot of work on your hands. You’d have to deal with things like:
- Coordinating project activities
- Managing personnel and other resources
- Holding team meetings
But that’s not all. You’ll need to regularly provide your team with progress reports about various aspects of the projects.
Creating project status reports saves you a lot of the hassle. You don’t have to spend hours explaining data from different sources. Or struggle to show how various activities align with the overall project goals.
Project reporting tools like Visme bring the information you need in one place. This means you can easily automate the project reporting process, saving time and effort.
Outline Key Action Items and Next Steps
Project status reports ensure stakeholders keep track of everything they need to do. It also highlights task owners and provides vital information for decision-making.
Project status reports also amplify project goals, action items and next steps. They record past events, actions and decisions so everyone knows what to expect.
Here’s a mobile app feature launch infographic you can use to outline your project’s key action items and steps.
Data from the project status report on pending and completed tasks can inform future actions.
For example, if reports show the limited number of team members is slowing down the project, you can hire more people for the next phase. What if your communication strategy is stalling the project? In that case, you can change the mode and style of communication.
Proactively Identify Project Bottlenecks
Dealing with risks or bottlenecks can be a nightmare for project managers. It gets worse when they emerge close to the deadline and you have limited time to resolve them.
Here’s the thing. Project bottlenecks can cause delivery delay, loss of revenue and project failure. And identifying them is the first step to getting your project back on track.
With project status reports, you can:
- Spot bottlenecks early on
- Identify what’s causing them
- Take proactive steps to remove them
This proactive approach is critical to managing projects effectively. It helps you resolve issues before they impact your project deliverables and timeline.
For example, when bottlenecks occur, you may need to take actions such as:
- Improving communication with the project team
- Reviewing the deliverables and timeline of the project
- Mapping, analyzing and adjusting project processes
- Evaluating and adjusting project flow
- Increasing operational efficiency
- Revising the budget and committing more resources to the project
Stay on top of your project activities, deliverables and timelines with organized reports like the one below.
Improve Cost Management
Managing costs during the project life cycle can be tricky. This is the reality for many organizations, as corroborated in PMI research.
According to the report, about 57% of the surveyed IT projects were completed within their initial budget. In comparison, the other 43% exceeded their set target.
Without project status reports, you could end up with cost overruns. This may not only impact the current project. But it could also hinder your ability to execute future projects.
Progress reports give you a clear insight into these things:
- Approved budget
- Cost estimates
- Resource requirements
- Current expenses
- Projected expenditures
Having this information at your fingertips can help you track your expenditures and keep them within the approved budget.
Ensure Productive Team Meetings
Project status reports shouldn’t replace team meetings. Rather, you can use them to make your meeting more productive.
Whether you’re holding an in-person or virtual meeting, set aside some time to review project activities and status. Beyond keeping stakeholders up to date, team meetings keep everyone accountable.
Reviewing project status reports during a meeting can provide visibility into:
- Activities and events in the coming days, weeks and months
- Pending action items and those responding for execution
- Upcoming project milestones
- Potential risk and bottlenecks
Since these reports are accessible, team members can dig deeper to get more details.
Make your project team meetings productive with meeting agenda presentation templates like the one below:
Drive Overall Project Success
Every part of your project, no matter how small, requires monitoring. That neglected part could become a bottleneck and hurt your entire project.
Considering how many projects fail, project status reports increase your chances of success.
It helps you optimize workflows, team performance and existing systems. It increases project productivity and profitability.
6 Elements of a Project Status Report
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to writing a project status report. You’ll probably find a lot of project report writing formats on the web.
However, your report structure will depend on the project type and audience. If you want to make your project status report relevant, make sure to include these sections and information.
General Project Details
The general project details include unique identifiers that keep the reports organized. At the beginning of the report, make sure to write the following information:
- Project name
- Project code/ID
- Project manager and other key team members
- Report date and timestamp
- Project start and end dates
You may or may not include all of the above depending on the type of project. This information is often included in the cover page of a project status report.
Here’s an example of a project report cover page with a simple format:
But how do you make your cover page stand out? Watch this video for some tips to take your report cover page design from drab to fab.
Your executive summary should summarize the critical details of your reports. At a glance, anyone who reads this section should get a birds-eye view of the project’s progress and overall health.
Let’s take a look at each of these sections in more detail.
The project summary should have a brief review of the project status. Here you should:
- Identify project goals, scope and deliverables
- Describe the progress you’ve made in meeting those objectives
- Highlight project milestones, target dates and deadlines
- List major issues or bottlenecks that require attention
- Highlight financial details like budgets, expenditures and profit margin
Make sure to keep the project summary brief and retain only critical information. You can dive into deeper details in the later part of your project status report.
Provide a brief snapshot of the project’s overall well-being. You can either visualize the information or put it in writing.
We recommend using visual aids like the RAG method to provide clarity.
This method uses the red, yellow and green color codes to indicate the health of the entire project or each project element
- Green means the project or task is on track
- Yellow means there’s a pending issue that the project team should look into
- Red means the project or task requires immediate attention
For example, suppose project costs are rising faster than expected. In that case, you could color the budget yellow to indicate that it is “in trouble.” This will help stakeholders identify items that require urgent attention.
Pro Tip: Remember to write the executive summary after writing the entire report. This will make it easier for you to parse out the major details you want to include in your summary.
Project Task and Milestone Review
In this section, you want to dig deeper into the details of each project task, milestones, deliverables and deadlines. Therefore you should include information like:
- Individual project tasks (completed and uncompleted)
- Percentage of milestones completed
- Planned project start and end dates (individual tasks and overall project)
- Actual start and finish dates
Breaking down the tasks will uncover the progress made on each milestone. And setting project deadlines is a great way to gauge whether your project is on track or delayed.
While listing the project tasks, highlight the dependencies between them. Indicate if the team is waiting to complete specific tasks before moving forward.
It’s an excellent idea to visualize the information or communicate your progress in this section using graphs, charts and tables.
Since a list of dates can be tough to process at a glance, use a format like in the template below.
Projects Risk and Bottlenecks
This section should identify risks and bottlenecks that could hamper the project’s success.
Here you should explain how you plan to mitigate the risks, address issues and change requests to keep the project back on track.
This section should outline your budget, cost and other financial resources.
Pull up information from timesheets, estimates, expense reports, bank statements and everything you need to show a complete financial picture.
Highlight the current expenditures and mention if the project is on budget, under-budget or over-budget. Also, mention if your project requires more resources like funding, personnel or equipment.
Capture budget, expenditure and key financial information using the template below.
Project Team Status
In this section, group teams into departments and highlight their responsibilities, including:
- Scheduled tasks
- Task completed
- Pending tasks
- Upcoming tasks for the next report period
- Team progress and achievements.
Remember to visualize the team’s tasks on a calendar. Visme’s calendar maker makes it easy for you to design a personalized calendar that meeds your team’s needs. Create a monthly calendar, weekly schedule and daily to-do lists to to keep your team organized and your project on track.
This section should highlight if the project is on track to meet the quality standards. Are there quality issues that the project team needs to address? If yes, how do you plan to address them to attain the required project standards?
This section is optional. However, capturing this information will boost investors’ and stakeholders’ confidence in your project.
How to Create a Project Status Report
With an effective project status report, things are less likely to fall through the cracks. But how do you create reports that capture these critical project details?
Keep reading to learn how to create your project status report. And watch as we use practical report examples to show you how to put them to work.
Step #1: Gather Data for Your Report
Before you get started with your report, you’ll have to assemble data from sources.
Depending on your project organizational structure, you can collect data at the department or divisional levels.
If you are executing a big project with a complex structure, it’s best to use a project management tool.
For example, if you’re build a learning management software, you’ll need timely updates from:
- Product design
- Development team
- Quality control team
Leveraging a project management tool brings all the information to one place. Hence you can easily access everything you need for your report.
Best of all, you don’t have to face the hassle of manually collecting information from a host of sources. With a few clicks, every information you need will be at your fingertips.
Here are a few project management tools we recommend:
These tools are also excellent for project planning, resource management, accounting, team collaboration and reporting.
If you’re looking for tips on documenting information or sharing findings for your business, check out our article on how to write a report.
Step #2: Identify Your Target Audience
Who is your target audience? What matters most to them?
Once you know your target audience, you’ll be able to deliver the information that matters most.
For instance, clients, CEO, investors and high-level executives care more about the big picture. Most key stakeholders skim through status reports for the necessary details.
Due to their busy schedule, they may not have time to read through lengthy reports or dig deep into the finer details.
So you want to do these things:
- Double down on the most important information,
- Summarize report elements or
- Use visual aids in most sections of your report.
So, make sure to include key takeaways in the executive summary. Also, remember to highlight key points early on in each section of your report.
Doing this will prevent crucial information from getting concealed in the details.
For managers, supervisors and project team members, you’ll have to dive into more details. Plus, they may settle for weekly reports. In contrast, top-level management like CEOs and directors may require monthly, quarterly and annual reports.
Whatever be the case, identify what works best for your readers and serve it to them.
Step #3: Use Project Status Report Templates
Creating a project status report from scratch can be very challenging. And without templates, you could mix things up or miss an important detail or two.
Using templates can help save time, reduce errors and increase your productivity.
Clearly, not all project reports are the same, but report templates can be a strong starting point. You can edit them to suit your project needs and share them with relevant stakeholders.
There is a wide range of templates you can choose from in Visme’s report template library. However, it’s essential to choose one that covers every element of your project in detail.
You’ll find hundreds of templates covering every industry, niche and project type you can think of. Since each template is editable, you can tweak it to align with your brand and project needs.
For example, here’s a project status report template you can use. Customize it to suit your project needs and share it with your team to keep your project on track.
Step #4: Write Your First Draft
Now you have the information and template you need for your report. The next step is to set your report writing motion.
Start by outlining the key segments of your project. Using an outline that aligns with your project structure can help keep your content on track.
Feel free to use the structure we shared earlier as your starting point. Once you’ve identified the important sections of your plans, you can start writing your first draft.
Drive excitement for your ongoing project and keep your team motivated using beautiful templates like the one below.
Step #5: Make Your Executive Summary Compelling
Your executive summary is the first and most important segment of your project report. Sometimes that’s the only portion of your report that clients, investors or top-level management might read.
If you’re looking to secure funding or boost investors’ confidence in your project, treat your executive summary as an elevator pitch.
It should pique your readers’ interest and compel them to dig deeper into more details. At a glance, your readers should find everything they need to know about your project.
Therefore make sure to include major project highlights or key areas such as:
- Project goals and key deliverables
- Progress made and potential setbacks
- The overall health of your project
- Key Milestones
- Unexpected project risks
- Financial details of the project
Here’s a good example of how to highlight the key details in your executive summary.
The goal of our project is to expand our production capacity. We have spent about $100,000 on the first phase of the project, which includes:
- Purchase of equipment
- Installation and equipment testing
- Training and personnel cost
To enable us to increase distribution for our new product, we’ve expanded our network of suppliers to about 15 cities.
Our key project milestones include:
- Onboarding of new suppliers (Start & End date)
- Purchase of production equipment (Start & End date)
- Installation of equipment and factory set up (Start & End date)
With the current expansion, we project a 35% increase in sales for our product.
We’re set to embark on the next phase of the project. The finance team is working with the executive team to secure funding. The next phase will involve working on key target areas, including:
- Launching new flavors or new lines of products
- Setting up production lines for our new products
- Expanding our workforce to cater to the increasing market demand for our new and existing products
Step #6: Write Different Sections of Your Project Status
Depending on your project, the sections may vary. In any case, you’ll need to provide cover various aspects of your project in detail, including:
- Project tasks and deliverables
- Timeline and targets
- Notable changes,
- Funding and budgets
- Team roles and performance
- Risk management (Bottlenecks, risk and contingency plans)
Keep in mind that your report should be a snapshot of the entire project. So for stakeholders who want specific or more in-depth information, it would be best to include links to related documents or resources.
Let’s say you’re highlighting specific milestones. You could provide links to detailed documents showing:
- Completed and pending task as well as dependencies connected to that milestone
- Team members responsible for executing tasks needed to hit the milestone
- The Financial resources required to reach the milestone.
Similarly, while highlighting financial information, you can add links to:
- Projections and estimates
- Approved budget
- Details records of expenditures
When you’re writing about the project goals, you can reference the broader business goals the project is contributing to or the overall impact.
Share your weekly or monthly updates with your investors and other stakeholders using the template below.
Step #7: Flag Current and Potential Bottlenecks
No matter how much work you put into your project management plan and execution, you could run into roadblocks.
These roadblocks could be due to internal or external forces. Plus, they could come in the form of:
- Project risks such as increased import tariff or natural disaster
- Unexpected budget increase or limited resources
- Lack of team collaboration and communication
- Unpredictable delays
When you identify, you can quickly keep stakeholders in the loop. Then you’ll be able to take proactive steps to remove bottlenecks and put the project back on track.
Here’s an excellent example of how to document your project roadblock.
“The government has recently increased the import duty for production equipment by 35%. This will shoot up our projected expenditure by about 40% and delay our overall project timeline”.
Step #8: Use Visual Aids
Visual aids are a staple for writing effective project reports. Yes, you read that right!
They make it easier for project managers to communicate complex information or share multiple data points.
Even more, visual aids make your report appear professional and visually appealing. Rather than writing long paragraphs of texts, aim to visualize data whenever possible.
You can seamlessly display project information using visual aids like:
- Pie charts
- Bar charts
- Mind maps
- Pictures and videos
Visuals make it easy for stakeholders to grasp things at a glance. Let’s show you how to use visual aids in your project status report.
The red, amber and green color codes indicate project status or overall project health.
- Use the color green to indicate the task or project is on track.
- Yellow or amber shows the overall project is at risk or some parts are experiencing problems.
- Red means the task or project needs immediate attention.
Another great way to enhance your written reports is by using tables. They are excellent for communicating numeric data, including estimates, costs, expenditures, budget, timesheets.
Sort and organize numerical data in your project status report using the template below.
Gantt charts are perfect for visualizing the entire project. Whether you’re using Agile, Scrum or waterfall-based methods (or a blend of different methods), they can serve you in many ways.
Rather than list your project schedule or milestone in tables or bullet points, consider using Gantt charts to project this data. You can also use Gantt charts to visualize project elements like:
- Project phases
- Timelines and deadlines of various activities or tasks
- Relationships and dependencies between tasks
Provide visibility into team workloads and keep your project on track using a Gantt charts like the template below.
Use Kanban boards to highlight significant project steps, processes and progress. Then go ahead and include a snapshot of these high-level boards in your project status report.
While creating Kanban boards, use card colors to group the work type. For yellow for the purchase of equipment and green for installation. Or use card color to depict urgency or priority (e.g., red for critical or expedite, yellow for important and green for normal, etc.)
Documenting your project requirements may require lengthy and detailed notes. But using mind maps is a smart and easy way to visualize this information without missing out on important details.
But that’s not the only way to use mind maps in your project report. Using mind maps can help project managers in several ways:
- Capture project task deliverables
- Highlight team roles and responsibilities
- Map process workflows and task dependencies
Optimize your workflow and manage work across different project teams using mind maps in the template below.
Projects have a number of processes and a complex flow of activities. Creating charts can help you simplify them for readers.
With Flowcharts, project managers can:
- Project different phases of their project
- Showcase workflows, activities and bottlenecks
- Visualize the relationship between various tasks in their progress reports
Manage your project activities with ease using the flowchart in the template below.
Pie charts are suitable for showing the percentage completion for different project phases. Bar charts are perfect for visualizing financial data like funding, expenses for different periods.
Suppose you’re presenting an annual project status report. You can create a pie chart to show monthly or quarterly funding and capital expenditure like the one below.
Infographics use a rich blend of elements, such as text, numbers, images, icons, charts and diagrams to convey information at a glance.
For example, you can present compelling statistics, facts and figures in your project status reports, such as:
- Project efficiency and completion rate
- Operating margins
- Profitability margins
- Net present value
- Debt to equity ratio
While writing your summary, you can compress your entire report into visually appealing and bite-sized infographics.
Keep your team updated with project stages and timelines using stunning infographics like the one below.
Photos and Videos
If you’re looking to convince stakeholders or secure buy-in for the next phase of your project, consider adding images and videos to your report.
If you’re looking to convince stakeholders or secure buy-in for the next phase of your project, consider adding images and videos to your report.
Photos, videos, screenshots, models, prototypes and samples bring your project progress into perspective. Visuals give your audience clearer insight into areas like operations, technology, personnel and more.
Here’s an example of a sales report for a fashion company that makes good use of images throughout. You can use this template for your own projects.
Let’s take another example. If you’re building an app, consider sharing images and videos during the different stages like:
- UI/UX Design
- Beta testing and quality assurance
- Demo and
At Visme, we have a massive library of 10,000+ vector icons, stock photos and charts you can choose from.
Step #9: Pay Attention to Design
Your report should be readable, polished and visually appealing to your readers. Throughout your report, stick to consistent styles, branding, palettes, fonts, colors and design elements to boost visual appeal.
If you want to design beautiful reports, communicate your message and impress your audience, we recommend our online report maker.
You don’t have to be a professional designer to use Visme. The tool offers thousands of templates, fonts and other design elements to help make your project status report compelling, engaging and memorable.
Step #10: Highlight Next Steps
Project next steps will depend on the project type and phase you’re in. However, it’s a good idea to let everyone in on where the project is headed.
By highlighting the next steps, stakeholders know what to do next and when. This will not only keep everyone updated about their responsibilities, but it could help prevent bottlenecks.
For example, let’s say the product designer has just completed the UI/UX design for your app. The next steps could be to review the design or secure approval from top-level management to commence development.
Here’s an action plan template you can use to outline next steps:
At this point, the project manager may have to send emails to investors for approval of funds for the next phase. The development team may have to start building the framework for the app. And the finance team will review the request for funds and disburse it in line with the budget.
Project tasks and workflows are interconnected. Therefore keeping everyone abreast will up your chances of executing the project successfully.
Step #11: Review and Edit Your Report
Before sharing your project report, read through and make additions and corrections where necessary.
Errors like wrong figures, incomplete information or cluttered designs can ruin your reputation. You could come off as careless or incompetent. So, make sure your progress report is accurate and clear of errors. Sending flawless reports shows that you pay attention to details and quality.
Double-check your report for spelling, punctuation and grammar flaws. Also, check if your report covers the essential elements of a project status report.
Feel free to cut out anything (text, figures or visuals) that doesn’t add value to your report. This is also an excellent time to check with your team to see if there are additional updates or details to add to the final draft.
Let’s say you created your first draft one or two days (or even a few hours) earlier. You can go ahead and include details about key activities that took place within those few days or hours in the final report.
For our example, the designer may implement recommended updates a few hours before you complete your weekly report. In that case, make sure you include that update in your project status report. Most importantly, remember to add the next steps.
You’ve put a lot of work into writing your project report. Great job! Once you’re satisfied with the content and look of your report, you can share it with your intended audience.
You can share it directly with your team members using the share option in Visme.
Alternatively, you can download the report in PDF format and share it via email or cloud. It’s a good idea to ask your recipients to confirm receipt and provide feedback.
Bear in mind that stakeholders may ask you to present your report during the project review meeting. Consider this a great opportunity to:
- Exchange ideas with your team or client,
- Highlight challenges or concerns
- Make necessary adjustments to speed up project execution or improve project outcomes
If recommendations have been made during the meeting, go ahead and implement them and resubmit the project status report.
Here’s the thing. If you want to put up a good presentation, you need to fully grasp everything in your project report.
Create Effective Project Status Reports in Visme
Creating effective project status reports is the cornerstone of any successful project. They quantify completed and pending tasks in measurable terms and provide high-level information about the project’s progress.
With effective project status reports, project teams and other stakeholders can get the hang of what’s on track, roadblocks, next steps and the overall health of the project.
Ready to create effective project status reports that keep your project on track? Visme’s report maker makes it incredibly easy for anyone to build status reports for any project type, size and industry.
Remember to follow the tips we’ve shared for creating effective project status reports. This will increase your chances of executing successful projects.