Here’s a common misconception about business progress reports: their primary purpose is to give people a basic update on your current project. Contrary to what their name implies, progress reports are actually not meant to simply state what you did or didn’t do in the previous period.
But if this is true, then what on earth are they supposed to do? So much more.
Instead of being the kind of executive that lazily lists basic info in their reports, we’re going to explain how to write well-structured documents that are truly beneficial to everyone in the company. We’ll include business progress report examples in our article, so keep reading if you need advice and examples for your next business review.
This article will cover:
What is a Progress Report in Business?
Exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a report on the progress of a project, business goal, or a business as a whole.
Of course, making the report clear, eye-catching, and actionable goes without saying, but what else does it need to be?
While it can cover many topics, its main purpose is stakeholder engagement. You’re writing it for managers, leadership, and other interested parties. So keep in mind who you’re writing it for and whose point of view you’re catering to. This should help you structure it and present it in a way that’s relevant to their interests.
Related: Business Report: What is it & How to Write a Great One? (With Examples)
Why Is a Progress Report Important?
Again, the concept isn’t complicated. Stakeholders need to be informed about the progress of ventures they’re a part of. Progress reports give people an overview of how well things are going and whether something needs to be addressed so the company could fulfill its goals. It can be made to impress stakeholders by how well you’re handling your part of business, but mostly you should keep it honest and point out both good and bad aspects of a plan.
If something has gone wrong or has the potential to go wrong, there are people who need to know about it. The circumstances don’t matter, and being honest is the best way to conduct business. If workers and stakeholders don’t know what’s going on, that means they can’t react and adjust their plans accordingly. Basically, don’t use progress reports to cover for your mistakes — own up to them if you’ve made them, and try to present solutions. That will get you much more respect than misleading people.
In addition, a progress report lets people know when a certain project or a milestone will be completed. This includes predictions and estimates. Other people from the company or clients can adjust their plains to take the timetable into the account or step in to help if they need something done more quickly.
Learn more about the benefits of progress reporting straight from the pros in our roundup.
Progress Report Frequency
The reporting frequency depends on a variety of factors, including team and project size, project scope, the type of common activities, etc. Daily and weekly reports are usually done at the team level, while quarterly and annual ones are usually submitted to upper management, clients, and stakeholders. Monthly reports can fall into either category.
- Daily progress reports – These are short progress reports meant to update the team manager. There’s not much detail; they’re just an overview of completed tasks and any problems that may have come up. Most teams don’t even need them.
- Weekly progress reports – These are more expansive versions of daily progress reports. Still contained between managers and team members, they’re broader in scope and can include more detailed information. In addition, weekly progress reports can be used to plan the agenda for the upcoming week.
- Monthly progress reports – The end of the month is an excellent time to update the business as a whole about a department’s progress. It’s best to deliver it as an overview and to shine a spotlight on top performers.
- Quarterly progress reports – This is the time for quarterly business reviews. While the report focuses on big picture goals and doesn’t go into detail about specific tasks. It’s often useful to build several such reports and tailor them to specific audiences.
- Annual progress reports – Annual reports are THE progress reports you need to focus on. They’re usually scheduled near the end of the year and are aimed at the leadership and major stakeholders. The focus is on big achievements, lessons learned, and plans for the next year.
Related: Sales Report Templates For Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly and Yearly Statements (Sourced from 40+ Sales Pros)
Progress Report Types
Progress reports can be categorized according to their purpose and format. Not every team, business, or project will need each type of report. Since reporting is very time-consuming and can even waste time if not done well, consider each business report type carefully and determine do you need it and how often you need to build them.
- Timesheets – Daily progress reports can be replaced with simple timesheets. You can use a simple table to have workers record the time spent working on particular tasks or turn to specialized software. This method saves time and ensures the management doesn’t have to deal with the minutiae of tasks in progress unless it’s necessary.
- Expenses – Monitoring project overhead is a great way to ensure you’re on track with the budget. They allow you to compare budgets with results and actual goals achieved during implementation. There’s no reason to have these reports at anything less than a monthly or even quarterly level.
- Project portfolio – This type of report shows how various elements of a project interact. It relies on high-level data and is used to improve workflows, project processes, and ROI.
- Resource workload – Resource reports break down the project- or business-level resource assignments. This covers materials, staffing, and other types of resources. They’re primarily used to assess resource allocations and determine how to best utilize existing ones and plan for the acquisition of new ones.
- Overall project status – This is what most people think of when they imagine a business progress report. It’s a bird’s-eye view of the project(s) that shows the overall situation. It focuses on overarching goals, milestones completed, and any issues that came up along the way.
PRO TIP: Monitor Your Sales Team’s Performance in One Dashboard
Smart Sales Managers know that to achieve your monthly and quarterly goals, you have to monitor your team’s sales performance on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. To do that, you need an actionable dashboard that summarizes both team and individual sales rep metrics and allows you to:
- Understand the current sales pipeline.
- Track sales rep performance.
- Compare team results to revenue goals.
If you use the HubSpot CRM, you can benefit from the experience of our sales experts, who have put together a plug-and-play Databox template showing some of the most important metrics for monitoring your sales team performance. It’s simple to implement and start using as a standalone dashboard or in sales reports, and best of all, it’s free!
You can easily set it up in just a few clicks – no coding required.
To set up the dashboard, follow these 3 simple steps:
Step 1: Get the template
Step 2: Connect your HubSpot account with Databox.
Step 3: Watch your dashboard populate in seconds.
Progress Report Format
The format depends on the exact type of the report and the target audience. It’s a good idea to pick a reporting template that covers all the basic information and presents it in a way that aligns with your goals.
Names, Dates, and Departments
Don’t forget to include the reporter’s name, essential dates (when the data was collected and the reporting period, for example), the department submitting the report, and so on.
Goals are an essential part of a business progress report. Remind the readers what your department is doing and what it’s aiming to achieve in the designated period. It’s also a good idea to cover why are certain projects in focus and what are the benefits of success.
Related: Goals Based Reporting: Everything You Need to Know
Top-Level Progress Overview
Every report needs to include an overview of how goals and projects are doing. It’s best to display them using charts or graphs with percentages. You show milestones achieved, overdue projects, and any issues you came across that are slowing things down.
This is similar to the above point, but it goes into more detail. This segment will cover each project the department is working on, what are their objectives, and what have they done to accomplish them. Bar graphs and pie and line charts are excellent for this. Don’t forget to include actionable tips on how to improve performance and overcome any difficulties.
How Do You Write a Business Progress Report?
If you’ve never written a progress report, it can be difficult to know what to focus on. A business progress report needs to be written in such a way as to produce effective results with actionable tips and insights. It helps track a department’s progress and lets stakeholders know if there’s anything that needs their special attention
The Basics: Following the PPP Method
PPP stands for Plans, Progress, and Problems. This method tracks these indicators and helps you understand the project’s performance. Plans are short-term and long-term goals and objectives. Cover them in broad strokes and leave room to add or explain more things later when you have a more coherent idea of what your report is going to look like.
Keep Your Progress Reports Concise and Focused
Progress reports need to brief your coworkers, the management, and other stakeholders about how the project is going. Going into detail is usually counterproductive and can make the whole thing too bloated.
Provide the additional and supporting information, but ensure the focus is on brief information points that will help everyone understand where the business stands and actionable insights that can improve it.
Do Not Avoid Writing About Problems
Mistakes are progress too, especially if you learn from them. The third P in PPP stands for problems, and you need to include them in the report. This can help you identify issues and concerns and even potential solutions. In addition, people involved need to know about pitfalls you’ve encountered and may be able to offer advice on how to deal with them.
Related: 13 Biggest Bottlenecks That Keep Your Business from Growing
Even if the problem was solved, including it will help stakeholders understand what you had to do to overcome it, why some resources may have been reallocated, and what can be done to avoid such issues in the future.
Stick to Relevant Topics and KPIs
This ties into the conciseness point. Focus on what’s really relevant to the intended audience. Executives usually don’t have the time for nitty-gritty details and issues outside of their scope of operations. Respect their time, and develop multiple different reports tailored to different audiences rather than building one huge report.
Make Progress Reports Regularly
As we mentioned, the frequency of progress reporting depends on a lot of external factors. Still, it’s important to be consistent and provide everyone with regular updates.
While making a progress report can be time-consuming, it actually saves time in the long run as it ensures everyone knows the status of projects and what needs to be done to reach the next milestone.
Most proper business progress reports don’t need to be made any more frequently than once a month.
Progress Report Writing: Best Practices
Every progress report is different, but there are some universal rules that are broadly applicable for most of them. They should be clear, easy to understand and follow, and include actionable advice.
Here are some basic tips:
Be Clear and Concise
We mentioned it before but it bears repeating. Making your business progress report snappy and understandable will do wonders for everyone involved. Don’t forget to include a summary, because, odds are, there are people who won’t have enough time to read anything else.
Explain Industry-Specific Language
As a rule, don’t overuse technical jargon; but when you must use industry-specific language, make sure to explain it. You can have a section with bullet points explaining them or cover it in brackets next to the terms used.
Number and Title Projects
Organize your report into clear segments. Each project should be both numbered and titled. While you want to give a general overview to the audience, projects should be distinctly labeled and easy to follow.
This goes without saying. A progress report is not the place to show your witty side. While you don’t have to be stiff, stay formal, direct, and respectful.
Data is the backbone of your report. It can be used to show progress or setbacks and, you need to ensure every information you’re presenting is backed up with reliable data. Also, think about how the existing data points shape your report and how you can display it in an eye-catching way.
Related: How to Analyze Data: 30+ Experts on Making Sense of Your Performance
This is a must. No one wants to read reams of text these days and most people don’t have the time for it. Visuals make the report clearer and easier to understand and they can actually save time. A single dashboard with clear graphs showing progress and key information can explain the situation better than a full page of dense text.
Transparency is incredibly important if your report is to be productive and show everything clearly. You need to highlight to everyone who’s contributing that progress reports must be transparent. Hiding setbacks or mistakes behind fluff or cherry-picked data will do more harm than good.
Make Sure Everything is Dated
Date every important piece of information and provide the timeline for the project. Mark due dates, task deliveries, report dates, etc. This will make it easier to extract useful metrics and better understand the resources available at that time.
Include Company and Department Goals
People outside of your department may not know about specific goals you accomplished or are still working towards. If they explain how you reached certain milestones or how they affected the project you’re working on, include them; but be mindful not to clutter the report with excess information that isn’t relevant to people receiving it.
Related: Content Marketing Goals: 15 Ways to Set, Track, & Measure Your Efforts
Discuss Problems and Progress
This is the main purpose of the report. It’s there to show the progress that did or didn’t happen. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and start a discussion with clients or stakeholders. They may want some more detailed information and can help you by providing input or advice that’s specific to their industry.
Share It Wisely
Consider who needs to see the report and make it with that in mind. Is it just the client’s management? Other stakeholders? Is it an internal report? Does someone need to review it? Tailor the report with the audience in mind and ensure everyone who needs it has access.
Double-check who can see what information as not all people may be cleared for the entire report. Make multiple versions of the report if necessary and make sure each version gets to the right address.
Make It Easy to Access
You can send a link to a completed report in an email and ensure everyone who needs to has access. In addition, make sure the specific reports are easy to find. Figure out what people looking for a report might be searching for and make it easy for them. This will save a lot of time and allow clients, coworkers, and management to access them at any time.
Progress Report Examples
Databox offers a large library of progress report dashboards that come pre-built with the most common metrics and KPIs tracked across different departments. All you have to do is pick a template, connect your data sources, and the visualizations will populate automatically.
Sales Report Examples and Templates
Sales progress reports allow you to track sales performance from a variety of data sources, including Pipedrive, Salesforce, HubSpot CRM, and more.
This Sales Overview Dashboard will provide you with a visual snapshot of monthly performance by the sales team by providing information about sales performance KPIs, productivity KPIs, and other important metrics. You’ll be able to understand the current sales pipeline and compare team results with revenue goals.
Marketing Report Examples and Templates
Marketing reports cover the important metrics related to your marketing efforts and present them in a clear and visually-pleasing manner. From social media and Google Ads to SEO, you can find the right template for anything you’re looking for.
You can use this Google Analytics landing page SEO dashboard template to get a comprehensive overview of your on-page SEO by monitoring which pages need to be updated and optimized, which ones are performing well, and which search queries generate the most traffic.
Project Management Report Examples and Templates
A project management report will provide you with an overview of your project and allow you to monitor employee performance or client behavior. It should support integration with project management software like Jira and Harvest and provide you with the most relevant metrics for all of your projects.
A well-made Jira Dashboard Template will give you all the information about custom Jira metrics instantly. You’ll be able to track value points by project, issue status, resolved issues, team’s response to issues, and tasks completed.
Financial Report Examples and Templates
Financial reports will provide information about profit and loss, revenue, expenses, and cash flow. A good dashboard should support both pre-built and custom integrations and allow you to understand the state of your finances at a glance.
This Quickbooks dashboard template will provide you with full insight into your business’ cash flow, sales and expenses, and bank accounts entered in Quickbooks. You’ll be able to measure the financial health of your business, track credit card purchases, and more.
Ecommerce Report Examples and Templates
Ecommerce reports can cover every aspect of your online sales performance, from the store overview and ecommerce sales to paid ads for ecommerce.
Using this free Shopify store dashboard template will give you a quick overview of your online store’s performance. It covers metrics like discounts, abandoned checkouts, net sales, new customers, orders, gross sales, and more. You’ll be able to discover how well is your online store functioning and what you can do to improve it.
SaaS Report Examples and Templates
SaaS reports can identify trends related to churn, growth, revenue trends, and MRR. A customizable dashboard will allow you to develop an eye-catching and simple report that will bring the most relevant metrics into focus.
Using Databox’s Profitwell Churn Overview Dashboard makes it easy to track the top sources of churn for your SaaS business. You’ll be able to learn where your company is losing recurring revenue, whether customers are churning delinquently or voluntarily, and where you should spend your time addressing it.
Customer Support Report Examples and Templates
If you want your customer support service to run smoothly, you need to use proper reporting in order to identify any weak points that might need attention. You can use customer support templates that focus on the help desk, support tickets, help documentation, customer success, or build your own version that caters to your needs.
HelpScout for Customer Support dashboard template will help you monitor responsiveness and handling time across the support team. The integration with Help Scout Mailbox allows you to better understand the service team’s performance and to find ways to improve it.
Software Development Report Examples and Templates
Software development reports can help with the optimization of processes and ensure your team, tools, and goals remain aligned. Databox templates that focus on reporting about databases, IT metrics, DevOps, and app stores help you visualize the overall progress of projects you’re involved with and are fully customizable, allowing you to build your own custom interconnected reports.
The MySQL dashboard template can be used to pull data from proprietary databases and showcase it alongside data drawn from services like Google Analytics, Salesforce, and Mixpanel. You’ll learn how many active connections you have in MySQL and be able to track monthly sales transactions.
Automate Business Reporting with Databox
Building individual progress reports can be a time-consuming chore. Gathering all data points, collating information from a variety of tools, coordinating efforts with other people involved… the effort can add up. That being said, progress reports are incredibly valuable, as they identify pain points in the project workflow and can kickstart company productivity.
Fortunately, Databox templates can make the process much simpler and quicker. You can tick pretty much every checkbox we mentioned in this article and make your progress reports better than ever. From visualizing data from multiple tools to custom data calculations, you’ll be able to make better business forecasts and enjoy peace of mind with automated notifications and reminders. The software even allows quick access to dashboards and reports on multiple devices – from your desktop, phone, and TV, to your wrist.
Sign up for Databox for free now to finally decrease the time and effort spent on monthly, quarterly, and annual reporting. You’ll have more time to deal with other tasks and foster better cooperation both within the company and with clients and stakeholders.