One of the criteria behind a successful project is effective communication. Together with key stakeholders, your team needs a clear, ongoing view of the project’s current and future expectations to ensure they’re delivering the right work at the right time.

As a project manager, you can help maintain alignment with the project plan and offer an appraisal of its outlook by routinely writing and transmitting a status report to team members and stakeholders. An essential communication tool, these bulletins provide a high-level executive summary outlining project progress, next steps, and potential issues.

While structured project status reports keep everyone on track, they also demonstrate to the team, upper management, and project sponsors that tasks are in good hands.

What’s a project status report?

In project management, status reporting gives a timely, at-a-glance appraisal of a project’s health compared to the initial project plan. Produced by the project manager on a regular schedule, this document uses graphs and charts to craft visual answers to questions from teams and cross-functional stakeholders about:

  • Work completed
  • Next steps
  • Budget and timeline changes
  • Action items
  • Potential threats and risks, and plans for mitigation and resolution

Project managers often offer this information before stakeholders even question a project’s progress, saving everyone time and providing trust-building visibility for external parties. A status report is also a means of building team alignment behind the project plan and goals, helping everyone stay on track throughout every stage of its life cycle.

Status reports versus progress reports

Though similar in offering project progress info, these documents differ in an important way:

  • Progress reports demonstrate progress to stakeholders by outlining specific tasks and milestones completed, showing that the project is in sync with its schedule or explaining delays.
  • Status reports are more comprehensive, communicating progress and other vital information to provide a snapshot of the project’s well-being and the team’s ability to deliver the desired outcomes.

The benefits of delivering project status reports

Reporting regular status updates keeps people informed and aligned on the project’s state. These documents also:

  • Summarize project health: Regular status reports help you track the team’s performance and productivity. If either drop significantly, you can take steps to bring the group up to speed.
  • Build visibility: Apprising stakeholders of project progress shows how well you’re sticking to the plan and prepares them for potential schedule adjustments or requests for additional support.
  • Showcase roadblocks: Proactively identifying blockers helps teams prepare for a delay or take steps to address the issue before it impacts the overall project timeline.
  • Clarify next steps: These reports help stakeholders and project teams understand upcoming action items, allowing those involved to prepare for the next round of work.
  • Save your team time: Everyone is busy, so why not replace daily standups with a status report and give teams extra time to do what they do best? You can then save meetings for brainstorming or all-hands sessions.
  • Foster confidence: Seeing concrete proof that an initiative is moving forward according to plan and issues are addressed builds confidence and trust amongst external stakeholders in your ability to produce the expected deliverables.

Types of project status reports

While the status report you choose depends on your project timeline and audience, all report types should include the project name, the date it was issued, and a summary of work completed.

If you’re unsure who to include in your distribution list, a stakeholder analysis can point you in the right direction.

Here are a few of the most common report types:

  • Daily status report: This report type outlines each team member’s activities and addresses issues preventing them from completing tasks. It summarizes the current day’s work and what the team accomplished the previous day.
  • Weekly status report: Similar to the daily version but with an extended cadence, the weekly status report provides a list of the team’s accomplishments over the last seven days and an action plan for next week’s tasks. It also identifies upcoming challenges or risks and the team’s planned response.
  • Monthly status report: As with previous types, the monthly status report encapsulates achievements from the last four weeks. As well as recapping accomplishments and outlining upcoming work over the next month, the report provides leaders with information to help improve process mapping and project management in the future.
  • Quarterly status report: Even though it addresses a project’s progress over the last three months, a quarterly status report should be brief and digestible. Include the same project information as in the previous status types, but use bullet points, graphs, and other visuals to summarize the information and make it easier to read.
  • Closing status report: A final status report is essential to project closure. It wraps up the work for stakeholders and marks the project’s official end. Your completion report should summarize all work completed, the project’s success, and lessons learned.

How to write a project status report: 8 guidelines

To communicate project status effectively, reports should provide consistent insights into the team’s activities and accomplishments. You can achieve this by following these eight guidelines.

1. Leverage project management tools

Simplify information gathering by setting up your project management software dashboard for upcoming and completed task tracking using metrics and KPIs. You can also use it to speed up production and provide a consistent reader experience by creating report templates.

2. Name and date your reports

Keep your project archives organized using a naming convention for your status reports — the project name and timestamp are ideal. A consistent system provides clarity and makes locating file information easier when conducting research.

3. Include a project health update

As you identify roadblocks and uncover risks, the project’s status will likely change over the reporting period. Ensure everyone’s aware by consistently including the current project status at the top of the document, making it stand out. Color coding your update can help. Consider green for On Track, yellow for At Risk, and red for Off Track.

4. Summarize content

Include a concise, quick-reading overview of essential project information for stakeholders who don’t have time to read the entire report. About 2–3 sentences should suffice to highlight completed work, identify roadblocks, and note unexpected risks.

5. Provide an overview of key project areas

In addition to your summary, use bullet points to update progress, spotlight accomplishments, and list upcoming tasks for each development area within the project.

6. Link to resources

Some readers will need additional background information to contextually understand the status report. Include links to vital documentation like the project roadmap, RACI chart, and RAID log to make accessing this information easier.

7. Identify roadblocks

Identify project risks, budget updates, and potential delays impacting your project timeline. Include information on current mitigation efforts and plans to address future issues so everyone can adjust their workflows to remain on track.

8. List next steps

Finally, include upcoming tasks, team member kudos, and any other information you want to highlight for stakeholders. And remind the reader of the next date they’ll receive another status report.

Best practices for creating and sharing status reports

Elevate the quality of your status reports by following these best practices:

  • Leverage other documentation: Use your project plan and roadmap to establish your status report’s structure and find information.
  • Consider your audience: Think about who’s reading the report, keeping the information you think they require in mind when deciding what to include.
  • Keep it organized: Your report should flow logically to encourage team understanding, so create a rough draft of your thoughts before writing.
  • Consider both the big picture and small details: Some readers might want a high-level outline of project progress and would appreciate monthly or quarterly updates. Others are more interested in knowing where each step leads and would like to receive daily or weekly updates. Incorporate each stakeholder’s needs into your reporting schedule.
  • Make it short and sweet: No matter the type of report, write as concisely as possible, keeping the content under two pages.

A project status report example

To better illustrate how to fill in this document, here’s a status report example for a software company that’s purchased a competitor. They’re incorporating the acquired company’s information into their website and adding the obtained product to their online software library.

NAME: Website Library Update – 09/23


PROJECT SUMMARY: Review of the competitor’s website is complete. The design team has delivered the wireframes to the development team so they can structure the microsite. The content team has found that 70% of the existing content is reusable and estimates it will take three weeks to migrate and generate additional copy and graphics.

INFRASTRUCTURE UPDATE: IT continues to review our competitor’s server logs to:

  • Estimate the potential load on our servers
  • Determine whether our equipment can accommodate the demand
  • Draft a report on their findings

RISKS: Depending on the outcome of the IT survey, we may have to approach management about purchasing additional server space. We outlined this potential risk in the RAID log during project planning. IT expects ordering and installing new servers will delay project completion by approximately 8–10 days.

NEXT STEPS: The development team is templating the new pages. Once complete, they’ll hand off work to the content team to begin migrating content. IT will complete its server space review and present its findings next week.

KUDOS: Thanks to Marlene on the UX team for suggesting we review the software to update any links to the website instead of relying exclusively on 401 redirects. We hadn’t thought of that. Good thinking!

Let Tempo’s tools support your report creation

As a project manager, you have a lot on your plate, so it’s best to spend minimal time researching project progress. That’s where project management tools from Tempo can help.

Quickly compare work completed against what’s expected using visuals generated by Roadmunk, Tempo’s project road-mapping application. Then, use Timesheets to view reports on how many hours team members spend on each task.