5 steps to make stressful reporting a thing of the past

We’re pretty sure we’re preaching to the converted to here, but every good project manager should know just how important effective communication is to the successful delivery of their project. When your clients and senior managers ask for a report on the project’s progress, it’s essential you can communicate this in a quick, accurate and accessible way.

The fundamentals of good reporting are great data and never giving stakeholders more information than they need. Keeping your reporting short, sharp and to the point is always the best way. There may be a time and place for a detailed progress report, but you should never cloud the facts by providing more detail than is necessary.

Here are 5 steps to make stressful reporting a thing of the past:

1. Garbage in, garbage out

The key to stress-free reporting is working with data you know to be accurate and up-to-date. You need to make sure all the data collected by your project management software is the latest data available, with issues affecting each task’s deadline, costs and risks detailed clearly. To do this, put processes in place for your project team to update the status of each task as they go. This will help to keep your information as fresh as it can be.

2. Create regular project status reports

Creating a project status report that you update every week will make it easier to measure your progress. Data such as actual spend vs. forecasted spend and completion date vs. estimated completion date will provide the headline details your stakeholders are looking for. You should also include a forecasted completion date for future stages of the project.

Your status reports should also include a forecast of the cost, time to completion and estimated man hours for each stage of the project. When forecasting in project reports, make sure you do so conservatively, or you’ll have to explain why you haven’t hit your targets next time around.

3. Include task completion updates

A project report is the perfect tool to show clients and managers the progress you have made. As part of your report, you should detail your progress against the tasks listed on the project schedule. By creating a summarised view of your project plan updated to show your progress through each task, the stakeholders will feel the project is an ‘open book’. This can provide the reassurance that the project is on the right track. This approach can be particularly beneficial if more buy-in or support is required.

4. Plot your progress against project milestones

Rather than getting bogged down in the detail, the stakeholders will want to see the project’s progress plotted against its milestones. Providing an update that details the percentage of a deliverable that is complete, along with a predicted completion date, will give stakeholders the simple overview they need.

5. Tell the truth

Project stakeholders will always want to hear that a project is coming in under budget and within the deadline, but only if it’s true. The reality is that this is rarely the case. If you want a little help to get part of the project back on track, it’s essential you give the stakeholders an explanation of the problem in the report, along with the help you’re going to need.

If you want more time, money or resources, don’t be afraid to ask for it. This is exactly what project reports are for. Far from worrying the stakeholders, showing that you can identify problems and recognise when you need help (within reason) will provide the reassurance that you’re doing the best job you can. The truth is that reporting issues early is a great way to share the responsibility for fixing them.

How can we help?

Hydra project management software allows you to customise your own dashboards and generate instant reports that deliver the data you need to make informed strategic decisions. You can track any data available in the system in real time and give executives, partners and customers instant access to their own dashboard. Book your live demo to see how Hydra project management software can make stressful project reporting a thing of the past.