Writing a good status report is not easy. As with pretty much everything in life, it requires practice.
Status reports are a very good source of information for project managers, as long as they are frequent (ideally every week). For employees, this is a good opportunity to indicate what can be improved and what is working fine. Once you get into the routine writing a status report should take no more than 5 minutes.
These are the two main characteristics that a good status report should have:
- Concise. Try to explain everything with 1 line sentences. If you find yourself writing long paragraphs and detailed explanations you are doing it wrong. Your boss or team manager will set up a meeting if additional explanation is needed.
- Easy to read. Think about the person who will read your report. Only use technical vocabulary if your boss is a technical person. The same applies to jargon. Only use jargon if you think there is no chance of misunderstanding.
The 5 sections of a good status report.
Your report should have at least information about accomplishments, pending tasks and what’s planned for the next iteration. Optionally you can report what issues or risks you detect and any improvements you have detected since your last report.
You need to provide information about the most significant accomplishments since the last reporting period. Keep it short and to the point. Avoid personal or subjective opinions.
Example: Add to cart button updated with new icon and background color.
Any task that was planned to be done during this iteration and it’s not finished yet should be detailed in this section. Along with the information about the task you should add a percentage indicating how much has been completed.
If the task will be included in the next iteration there is no need to add any extra information. If it won’t be included then write a brief report of what the current status is: On hold, deprecated, reassigned, etc.
Example: Blog upgrade on hold. SEO plugin is not compatible with this new version. We’ve requested support to the plugin creator.
Specify here the most significant accomplishments that you plan to do during the next period. One line is enough.
You should not add any task that can not be completed in this period. If a task is too big to be completed then you need to split it into smaller tasks and add to this iteration only the tasks that can actually be done.
If any pending tasks from last iterations are added to this one you should explain what needs to be done here.
Example: Create a new landing page presenting our new service for golf aficionados.
Issues and risks (optional)
Although issues and risks are not the same, the line between each other can be blurry for some people and that is why I prefer to have them reported in one section.
Anything that has impacted the last iteration or may be a risk for the next iterations or the whole project should be detailed here: problems, misunderstandings, lack of resources, poor coordination, etc. It is perfectly fine to express your opinions and be subjective.
Give a brief definition of the problem and be ready to offer a solution. The first thing a good team manager should do after being informed of a problem is asking for a solution to the person who reported it.
Example: Integration of the CRM into our product is going slower than anticipated. Our emails to the CRM company are seldom replied before 48 hours.
This is the other section where you can express your opinions and be subjective.
Give a brief explanation of any improvement you have detected since the last report. People tend to focus on what is wrong instead of what is right but we need to spend time thinking about what is working for us so we can continue doing that or find a way to make it even better.
This is also a good opportunity to mention any co-worker that’s been helpful and proactive. We all love peer-to-peer recognition, don’t we?
Example: The new Continuous Integration tool has been very helpful. I feel more confident when delivering new code.
A good way of considering what to write on a status report is to think what you should stop/start/continue doing.
Ask yourself these three questions. Since the last time I sent a report:
- What do I need to stop doing?
- What do I need to start doing?
- What should I continue doing?
A good status report shows how the project is progressing, keeps our project manager informed and sets expectations about what’s coming next.
Once we get used to it, it should take no more than 5 minutes to complete it.
Jorge Alvarez is an experienced Web Project Manager, mostly in the SaaS industry. He is the founder of Happy Mood Score a team management and employee engagement application for startups and agile companies.