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Creating a project management report that’s read cover to cover is easier said than done.
For starters, shortlisting project metrics to feature in the report can be confusing. Choosing a report layout doesn’t make things any easier. To top it all, you need to revise the report at least twice to ensure there’s no reporting error.
So where do you start? What metrics should you choose?
We’ve got answers to these questions and more – all sourced from 48 experts who run multiple projects at a time. Half of these contributors come from the B2C services/products industry. For the remaining half, 25% are from B2B services/projects businesses, and 25% work in agencies (digital, media, or marketing).
Here’s what we’ll cover today:
A project management report is a short document sharing an overview of a project’s progress. It helps you:
According to our respondents, the most important metrics to add to a project management report are:
While these are the top there (Time Spent and On-Time Completion Percentage tie at number 2), other essential information to add to a project management report include:
That said, the exact metrics that you add to your project management report depend on:
Project management is all about juggling: resources, expectations, people, data, and much more. And as a project manager, you not only have to know where your projects are at any given moment, but you also have to be aware of where they’re going and where they need to be in the future. To do that using a project management system, you need an actionable dashboard that allows you to monitor metrics like:
Now you can benefit from the experience of our project managers, who have put together great plug-and-play Databox templates showing the most important KPIs for tracking your team’s performance. It’s simple to implement and start using as a standalone dashboard or in management 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 project management tool with Databox.
Step 3: Watch your dashboard populate in seconds.
This brings us to our next question: how often should you be creating a project management report? Let’s look at that next.
The answer to this depends on your project’s duration and reporting processes.
Our research tells us that the majority, 77.1% of our contributors, have projects running for about a year or less. Only 22.92% of respondents on average have projects that last longer than one year.
It’s why it makes sense to report either monthly or quarterly instead of daily. No wonder, more than half of our respondents share they typically report monthly on their projects.
That said, your reporting processes also play a role. For example, you could be having a monthly reporting process in place to keep clients updated on the project progress. Similarly, you could be creating internal project reports weekly or monthly.
Now that you know what to include in your project management report and how often to create it, let’s look at how you can improve your reports by writing them well.
Here are our expert-backed tips for you:
An effective way to improve project management reporting is to simplify everything – from the words you use to the metrics you add to the report.
To begin with, simple words make it easy to understand what you’re sharing. This is important because no one – neither your clients nor the stakeholders – have the time to decipher difficult vocabulary and technical jargon. Using simple language makes understanding quick and easy though.
Sonia Navarro from Navarro Paving agrees. “The most effective practice that has done wonders for my project management report would be being concise and straightforward.”
Navarro lays out how they ensure their project management reports follow this tactic: “Our reports move along the hierarchy chain and are seen by company stakeholders consisting of mostly C-level executives. Some of these individuals have technical knowledge while others don’t.”
“So, when creating a report, we assume that no one has the technical expertise,” Navarro outlines.
“This assumption allows us to use easy-to-understand terminology. This best practice allowed us to close the communication gap between managers and their respective team members. We avoid using jargon so that stakeholders can easily understand the report without having to read extensive texts.”
Related: Business Report: What is it & How to Write a Great One? (With Examples)
Again, this helps with making your report easy to read by making it clutter-free. The key here is to identify the most important project management metrics to add to your report and how you’ll present them.
Related: Reporting Strategy for Multiple Audiences: 6 Tips for Getting Started
Take it from growth360’s Sasha Matviienko who shares their project updates over three main areas only. These are:
Says Matviienko: “When we shifted to this methodology, we were able to get a good understanding of the budget, timeline, and hours that our team has. So we always know what to focus on in order to improve project execution.”
Not only that but having a strong grip on your team availability and the free hours available helps you decide how many projects to take on in the future. This way, these important metrics help manage open projects as well as project pipeline better.
Like Matviienko, Adil Advani from WELLPCB also focuses on keeping their project management reports simple. The layout they follow? “The most effective approach I use is a short summary of my achievements followed by some specific recommendations on what could be improved.”
“This combination enabled people who were not in the know about my work to see how successful it has been without having to read an entire report or dig through details they didn’t need, while at the same time helping those who want more information find out exactly where it can be found quickly and easily (for example with headings),” Advani elaborates.
“Another benefit is that this format requires less energy because there are fewer words per sentence than when you write everything down chronologically; as such, if you have writer’s block or just feel tired after working hard on your projects then this practice helps put the finishing touches back into perspective.”
Not to mention, the layout combats reader fatigue too.
If you aren’t a fan of writing reports, you can try any of the following two options – as suggested by Hannah Buchholz from ClearPivot:
In Buchholz’s words: “Instead of writing reports, we either have monthly meetings or share videos with clients to update them on how the project is going. We use Databox which makes it very easy for the clients to visualize and understand how things are trending.”
Creating videos is a straightforward affair. Simply record your screen sharing your project management dashboard and walk viewers through updates. Screen recording software such as Loom, VEED, and Vimeo can help with this.
However, it’s important to bear in mind that you need to keep your videos short and to the point instead of going on and on. In short, remember to respect your viewers’ time.
Plus, even as you create a video, you need to add captions to it to make it more accessible. And, make sure to include bullet points in written text with the video for a quick overview of what’s in the video.
To some of you, this can be a lot of work. An alternative? Buchholz’s second recommendation. Databox.
Use it to create dashboards showing project progress. The interesting bit? project management metrics are automatically updated in real-time so you don’t have to do any manual work.
What’s more, if you like, you can pair the dashboard update with a quick video. However, you wouldn’t need to supplement this video with written text as the dashboard already features all the required info in a visually engaging manner.
Only Stitch’s Susan Melony recommends keeping the report’s format simple to improve its readability.
Sharing their experience, Melony writes, “It took a while for us to come up with the perfect reporting style that everybody agreed to. The components of the report were the same practice. We have always believed in keeping the format simple and easy to read because we believe in transparency between the organization.”
“Reports are to be submitted monthly as an amalgamation of the progress at the company, giving an overview of the activities, highlighting strengths and weaknesses to work on in the next month,” Melony explains.
“We switched to a cost-effective project management tool that helped data collection and storage, the most commonly used is Monday.com and ProofHub.”
“Project management tools, no doubt have increased efficiency in the company as it has helped us plan a project, giving us valuable input depending on the inflow and outflow of cash and previous sales records,” Melony continues.
“It is time-saving as compared to manually entering data, it is automated and chances of error are also minimized. Digitizing project management has helped us largely in allocating resources and controlling project risks in the future.”
The takeaway? Using the right project management tool can help you save time, reduce the risk of reporting errors, and create reports that are easy to read.
Instead of sharing hard numbers as plain text, present them as charts and graphs to make them easy to read and digest. Doing so also aids decision-making as Victoria Mendoza from MediaPeanut notes.
“As a project management expert and as CEO at MediaPeanut, I have prepared numerous reports in the past decade and I think the most important thing to do is to separate data and figures from your insights, opinion, and analysis [using data visualization],” Mendoza highlights.
Snorkel-Mart’s David Morgan also applauds using visuals in project management reports. “Adding visuals to my reports allowed every stakeholder in my organization to easily understand where they are struggling and how it is affecting the entire project.”
“The color code option in Teamwork also made it easier to judge the status of a project, if it is active, late, or completed,” adds Morgan. “It was also critical to make our reports easier to interpret, as executives received dozens of reports every week. So, making them visual, cut their work in half.”
Sharing their process, Mendoza writes: “Whenever I prepare my PM reports in the past, I usually come up with a good layout to distinguish what are the hard data and numbers that need to be considered in decision making.”
“In my experience with various clients, they usually go by the numbers and would value the figures rather than what the one making the report has to say,” observes Mendoza.
“While it is also a good backup information for the graphs and tables, most of our clients really want the figures to speak for themselves. Why we separate figures, numbers, and graphs from our observations and personal opinion in the reports is important as we don’t want to be subjective with our reporting.”
Related: How to Visualize Data: 6 Rules, Tips and Best Practices
And one good way to separate the two is by using subheadings carefully. For example, when adding your recommendations, add a subheading reading “next steps” or “suggestions.”
In a nutshell, using this layout for project management reporting helps you back your observations by data and evidence according to Mendoza.
“The most effective way to write a project management report is to create a template,” opines Austin Fain from Perfect Steel Solutions. “You can create a skeleton that works for any occasion.”
Says Fain: “After years of writing technical reports, I have realized this is the best way to save time and energy. This unfinished draft can be filled in by every individual involved in the project and I can edit it later. It has increased my efficiency as I work on more projects simultaneously.”
“I also realized that the analysis part can be changed for each report depending on the requirements,” Fain adds.
“So, I don’t need to think a lot each time. I believe we saved a lot of time and energy after creating a comprehensive report. This is because we have a pre-prepared template, so we don’t have to create a new draft for each report.
The time spent on developing reports is utilized elsewhere, as I just change the structure a little and show it to the higher-ups. They can add essential information, and I edit it later on. This has an overall positive impact on our productivity levels.”
And, finally, before we wrap this up, let’s look at the tools used for project management reporting. Did you know that project marketing tools are among the most frequently used tools for performance monitoring and reporting (source: Databox’s State of Business Reporting)?
According to our research, over half of our contributors use Trello, making it the most popular tool. Other widely used tools include Asana, a centralized dashboard such as Databox, and Monday.
When choosing from these tools for managing your projects though, make sure you select the one that has the lowest learning curve. This will make it easy for you to not only get started but also regularly use the tool.
In summary, effective project management reporting helps you track progress and performance. In turn, this helps you handle current and future projects better.
But you don’t have to put hours and hours of work into creating project management reports. Instead, use Databox to quickly create visually engaging dashboards that show all your essential project metrics on one screen.
Since the metrics are auto-updated, you don’t have to worry about reporting errors as well.
It’s easy, isn’t it? So take Databox for a drive for free today and instantly improve your project reporting game.
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