In your mind, your project status report is a super computer filled to the brim with the brilliant assortment of data you have collected. Everything you need is always immediately within reach, and occasionally, you laugh maniacally just because such an incredible status report deserves a triumphant cackle now and then. But in reality, the project status report is seldom yours alone. Its contents might be dictated by the customer, or organizational policies and procedures, or executive management, or any number of other obstacles clogging up your computer. Brad Egeland writes in a blog post about what he believes are the elements that would create a perfect project status report. He finds that the following are the key features of such a report:
- Project financial status
- Project schedule
- Issues and risks
- Change orders
- Discussion and action items
Project financial status should focus on the heres and nows of how the money is being spent. If the data demonstrates you have gone over budget for the week, show that data to everyone on the project. When the information is shared, potential solutions on how to get the budget back on track can be created. The alternative, keeping quiet about it and hoping for the best, is risky at best and stupid at worst. The project schedule continues the notion that it is always best to share information:
The revised project schedule is something you should be giving to every key project stakeholder every week anyway and along with this project status report, it should be driving the weekly customer status meeting. But what from it should be included on the status report? In my opinion, you should include what completed last week, what’s in progress now, what’s overdue to be completed and started, and what’s scheduled to start next week. We need to know what’s happening now, what should be happening that isn’t, and what we need to be kicking off shortly. It’s all about preparation and awareness.
Preparation also means tracking issues and risks. Egeland says that regardless of how big it makes the status report, issues and risks must be accounted for, even if it means making them an addendum. Potential problems must be tracked and resources dedicated to keeping those problems in check. Similarly, a list of ongoing and completed change order work should be included. This helps everyone involved to understand the overall nature of the project in the most up-to-date way, as well as document how much extra money the customer has placed into the project.
Finally, the basic discussion and action items you would expect should be included on the status report. Whatever the team deems pertinent for one reason or another ought to appear and, when necessary, be followed up. Combine these key features and you have Egeland’s perfect status report, though he acknowledges that others inevitably have their own perfect reports. Your perfect report will inevitably be an approximation of his, except almost certainly bigger and more thunderous, as super computers are wont to be.