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Project Status Is Critical But Stable

Posted on | December 1, 2009 | 1 Comment

Most project status reports tell you that the project is doing well, others are braver and say that the project is “a little” behind schedule but there is “plenty” of time to catch up, some report on budget/schedule plan vs. actual but most fail to indicate what exactly has been completed and what remains to be completed as well as issues and risks.

Some status reports incorporate a red, yellow (or amber), green stoplight. Other more sophisticated are in the form of key performance indicators (KPIs). They both indicate the health of the project based on pre-defined thresholds of mostly time and cost that never satisfy everybody and are almost always misinterpreted or completely ignored by the readers.

The project status report is an important part of an effective communication process.

An effective status report must include:

• Milestones scheduled for the last reporting period and if they were completed

• Milestones scheduled for next reporting period

• Issues and their action items scheduled for the last reporting period and if they were completed

• Issues and their action items scheduled for next reporting period

• Risks and their response

• New risks identified and response plan

• Priorities

• Budgeted cost vs. actual

• A project health summary

This type of content is comprehensive and sure to provide an excellent value to its readers. Project sponsors and executives know where each critical component of the project stands and can decide whether they need to step in. The project team focuses on the priorities and what has been planned but not completed yet so that it doesn’t appear on the next report.

A link to a free project status report template can be found here. However, keep in mind that it is not about format but about content. You can have a beautifully formatted status report and if it doesn’t tell the story it is worthless.

Try to keep the report on the positive side, but if the status is critical say so, don’t hide it because sooner or later it will be obvious. Don’t you think so…? Well, I do.

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One Response to “Project Status Is Critical But Stable”

  1. alexandru.savencu
    December 2nd, 2009 @ 3:58 pm

    Hello, Jorge,

    Let me update a little bit the table of contents for the project status report:
    – project completion percentage status – this one combined with the project health status is the most relevant to the upper management;
    – completed milestones should highlight actual finish date vs. scheduled date;
    – closed risks and issues should also be highlighted;
    – regarding costs, the report should highlight the budgeted cost to date and the actual cost to date in order for it to be more meaningful;
    – change requests submitted against the project should also be highlighted.

    Another item I think should be mentioned in the status report is "Actions required from the steering committee". As you mentioned, the status report is an important part of the project-related communication, and thus it is the best opportunity to submit to the steering committee items like an issue, escalation or change request.

    In order for the project health to be meaningful, I always strongly suggest to have standardized health calculation method, organization-wise. This goes the same for all project-related KPIs.

    I believe in showing the real status of the project in the status report, but on the other hand, I also believe that the project manager should keep some buffers for the worse times :).

    Alexandru Savencu

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