Overview with tools, software, best practices and alternatives

What is a progress report?

Progress reports are periodic reports done by a project team with regards to the changing status of an ongoing project. Project teams back up their ideas by means of progress reports. Details of a typical progess report most likely will contain the following data:

  • The accomplishment of relative goals under the main project goal
  • The resources management data which details project expenses with respect to progress attained by the project
  • Problems, impediments and obstacles that hinder project development. Could be external or internal, existing within the framework of the team.
  • The time management data which will show progress of the project relative to the target completion date.

Changing situations within the project’s status necessitate the application of changes in the way the project is being done. The type of change that would be applied is determined from what details the progress report contains. Into this project instrument are the inputs of individual team members contained and these inputs convey recommended course of actions that may be taken by the client and the company supervisors. Improvements in project management are greatly facilitated by the regular updates that a progress report gives. Same situations within the company between different teams, such as shortage of funds for example, can be analyzed, compared and studied in the broader picture of overall project status by means of progress reports. Irrelevant data are also determined and given their proper placement.

Progress reports may be given by the reporting team member or even the project manager in several formats such as memoranda, letters, short reports or sometimes in the form of presentations. Memoranda are written notes that remind the client about the team’s proposals. Letters and short reports are brief updates to the client on project’s progress. Presentations are multimedia demonstrations of the various aspects of the project’s progress.

Who does progress reports and why?

Progress reports are done by the project team in order to update all the people involved in a project, especially the client, regarding the current state of affairs of the project. The project team’s proposal of actions takes their merit from what the progress report contains. Inside of the project team, an understanding between the members already exists and a reckoning of the project situation already in place. The progress report narrows down that reckoning of project situation into what is needed and acceptable to the client and to the company supervisors. Both client and project team each have their own concerns besides the common goals of project completion. Progress reports brings everyone to the same page by putting to the fore the most relevant issue shared by everyone on the project development.

How to write a progress report

The first consideration to take in the writing of the progress report is its purpose. Is the purpose to inform and educate or is the purpose a proposal for funds? Different proposals needs different styles and content of reporting. The persons to whom the report is to be given to should also be considered. How the progress report affects each and everyone receiving the report should be made clear. The audience will also assume that what concerns each one of them are adequately presented for them to formulate decisions and actions to be taken.

Next thing to consider is the form and kind that the progress report would take in order for it to be most accessible visually and mentally to the audience. Check with the project team as well as the supervisor on the matter of form and appearance. The appearance of the progress report could be bulleted, graphical with charts and tables or may even include pictures. And for easier reading of the progress report, divide it into subsections that deal with different aspects of the project’s progress. The standard parts of a progress report are:

  • Heading – dealing with the main subject and the personalities involved (names , positions etc.)
  • The introduction which states the purpose of the report
  • The body which contains the pertinent facts the audience needs
  • A final note on upcoming goals and objectives and a statement of the amount of work already consumed by the project.

Advantages of having progress reports

Progress reports keep everyone on the project team as well as the client updated about the different aspects of the project’s progress. Different members of the team especially those working as remote working members of the team needs continuous status updates on the project in order for them identify problems and to implement changes. Progress reports gives a broad picture of how the project is developing and the details it contains regarding separate and related aspects of the project enables team members to be competent in dealing with contingencies that may arise.

Pitfalls that may happen in a progress report

As with every group activity, group discussions on progress reports can also be hampered by human factors. Humans are not machines, ergo, human weaknesses can contribute to the malfunctioning of the status reporting system within a company. For example, the human desire to be pictured as competent in light of workplace events could lead to misreporting of progress reports. Project team members afraid of answerability, paint a rosier picture of the project’s progress where a bad picture would have been more appropriate and accurate. Optimistic personalities in the project team tend to cover shortcomings in the project in order to project an image of competency in their part and an image of positive growth in the company’s part. And all these are parts of covering actions which mislead clients and supervisors from taking necessary actions. The native cultures of project team members also influence their accuracy and consistency in delivering progress reports. This is especially true of remote working teams with wide distributions. Cultural backgrounds predispose a team member to report in a manner consistent with his culture. Individualistic cultures ( America for example), responds to rewards for accurate reports and have greater tendency for shifting blame on others. Collectivist cultures ( Korea for example) on the other hand have greater tendency for hiding bad news. They both misreport according to their cultural predisposal.

How to give the best progress report

Notwithstanding the human factors that affect progress reporting, several good practices can be implemented in order to produce best results in progress reports.

  • Don’t stray off the agenda of the meeting for the progress report.
  • Avoid complications that may only becloud important matters
  • Complications can lead to vagueness. Avoid them both.
  • Be objective with usage of wordings. Expressive words ( such as amazing, astounding, deplorable) belong to literature and not in a progress report.
  • Finally cite source persons and material.

Teamreporter, an easier way to make progress reports

Teamreporter is a web based email application that is especially designed for project teams , remote working team or otherwise, for them to remain constantly updated on project status enabling them to adapt and adjust to whatever changes may develop in the project. Teamreporter is a great productivity enhancement tool for remote workers. It helps them to keep in touch remotely with regular emails that Teamreporter automatically sends. Each member of the team receives emails that contains structured forms that they simply fill up as part of their team member status reporting. These individual status or progress reports are then summed up by Teamreporter into an overview and then resent to the team members as the current project progress report. The interfaces of Teamreporter are simple and easy to operate for a quick and concise group and project progress report. Teamreporter steps that the project manager takes are as follows:

  • Creating questions that the team members will answer.
  • Tailoring the questions to be asked to fit project needs
  • Scheduling the sending out of email queries.
  • Upon receiving individual team member reports,scheduling of team status updates to every team member.
  • Adopting preset business scenarios.
  • Prompting team members who forget their reports.
  • Arranging an archive of team status reports

It has the following advantages:

  • Ready in 5 minutes
  • Free startup
  • Accessible even to novice users and managers
  • No IT software or hardware requirements
  • Only email login required for Team members

Teamreporter can produce accurate progress reports quickly, accurately and concisely due to its simple to operate application.

Alternatives to progress reports

Progress reports are fundamental to a project team’s progress and as such there is little point in creating an alternative to it. However, there are many forms of progress reports that may constitute as alternatives to a standard progress report. There are memoranda, letters and multimedia presentations, all may convey the same message of demonstrating the progress of the project.

A memoranda contains the project team proposal and details the position of the project team with respect to the project; letters are short reminders to the client regarding project status; and multimedia presentations are comprenhensive reports covering various aspects of the project with lots of audio-visual media.

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