What is a highlight report? (Definition, benefits and tips)

Updated 30 September 2022

Regularly sharing project updates with key stakeholders is an important responsibility of project managers and business leads. It allows them to make sure the project board knows about everything that's happening within a project and that the project team is on track with their work. Learning about the key components of status reports can help you develop stronger project management skills and improve the way in which you approach project updates. In this article, we discuss highlight reports, list their components, explore the benefits of creating project status updates and share additional tips that you can use to create effective reports.

What is a highlight report?

A highlight report, also known as a project status report, is a document that informs stakeholders about the most important updates and project progress. In many cases, project managers and business leads are responsible for collaboratively creating these reports. They work together to develop at which frequency to produce them, which usually aligns with the pace of the entire project. For his reason, it's common that the highlights for larger projects also include more detailed information about the project team's progress, such as a breakdown of the individual workstreams.

Related: How to write a report in 9 steps (with definition and tips)

Why are project status reports important?

Highlight, or project status, reports are important project management tools that nurture healthy communication between the project team and the board. Here are some of the most significant benefits of these reports:

Improving communication

Project status reports act as a tool for improving the communication between project managers and stakeholders. Effective communication inspires mutual trust and minimises the risk of conflict or misunderstanding. It also helps the project team better understand what the project board expects from them.

Keeping projects on track

Creating regular highlights is essential for keeping projects on track. This is possible because every status report focuses on identifying the team's effectiveness through monitoring the project's unique timeline. In larger initiatives, reports of this type are more detailed, which means that the project manager also monitors each individual team member's performance to make sure there are no internal delays.

Quickly addressing any issues

Through continuously monitoring projects, stakeholders and project managers can easily identify any project issues or risks. As a result, they can quickly address them, for example, by implementing risk management strategies or changing the internal structure of a project. The regular stream of information in a form of reports increases the likelihood of full project success.

Assessing project's results

Through creating regular status updates, project managers can gain more understand on the specific element's of the project. It allows them to make sure that all teams or processes work smoothly and effectively assess the entire project's results. This is especially critical when they want to identify each team's or team member's contribution to it. Using the information that they gather from all the highlights, business leads can create a more detailed final result to present to the project board upon successful project completion.

Improving internal processes

Project status reports are important not only for the project team, but also for the entire organisation. After completing a project and carefully analysing all reports, organisational leaders can gain more insight into specific processes that take place within the company. They can use this information to improve how the organisation functions, for example, through eliminating waste or inspiring more efficient use of available resources.

Key components of a project's highlight report

There are various components that go into a project status report and they usually depend on the project's specific needs. For example, larger initiatives usually require more components, as they tend to share more details about specific milestones or the team's contribution. Some important sections that appear in most reports are:

Overall status

The first section of the highlights is an overall overview of the project status. For example, this includes information about current project duration and how many weeks or months are there until the final delivery day. This allows stakeholders to gain general understanding of the initiative before going more into the details of it.

Related: 8 types of project deliverables (definitions and examples)

Progress in the current period

This section of the report focuses on providing information about any new tasks that the team started since the manager produced the last report. It also provides information on any tasks that they've successfully completed and goes into more details about how effective the project team's work has been with them. For example, it can inform the stakeholders about the quality scores that completing these tasks generated for the project.

Any variance from the plan

Most successful projects are often highly flexible, which means that, at any stage, the project team knows effective methods for implementing any unexpected project changes while still making sure they achieve the desired final result. A project status report also takes that into consideration, as it aims to provide stakeholders with important information about any variance from the initial plan. For instance, this could be any schedule variance that occurs as a result of delays that external vendors generate.

Related: 10 change management models to use in the workplace


Another important element of a project plan that can determine an initiative's success is a section on milestones. Milestones are an effective tool that project managers use to mark specific points on a project timeline. Reaching a milestone signifies a significant accomplishment of a project team, which is why managers often use them to maintain team members' motivation and productivity. In a project status updates, milestones often signify that an external review or a budget check is necessary.

Related: 13 milestones in project management (with definitions)

Key risks and issues

In a project status report, project managers also describe any risks or issues that the team has encountered since the last report. This can come in a form of a list of open issues. It's helpful when each issue has a clear description, due date and its unique ID. Stakeholders can decide to confront the project manager or task owners about it, which is why it's also vital to mention which user is responsible for the tasks that caused particular issues.

Plan for next period

The last section of the report concentrates on providing the stakeholders with key information about the next stage of the project. For example, when stakeholders request weekly project status reports, the project manager can simply describe all tasks that are due next week. The template for this section is similar, or the same, as the progress section, but focuses on the future of the project and not the things that the team members already accomplished.

Related: Project management scheduling: definition, benefits, formats and steps

Additional tips for creating effective project reports

If you're an aspiring project manager, remember that learning to create the most effective project reports can take some time. Whenever you're responsible for presenting an update to the project board, consider seeing this as an opportunity to learn and further develop your management skills. You can also use these additional tips that can help you improve how you create and use project highlights:

  • Focus on simplicity: Creating simple project status reports is usually the most effective strategy, as delivering too much information can be too time-consuming for stakeholders. Remember that whenever they want to learn more about a certain aspect of a project, they can simply request it to appear in the next report.

  • Identify the best reporting format: Project status updates can come in a form of PDFs, Word documents or even plain email messages. Asking the project board for their preferred format and delivery method shows that you're considerate of their time and allows you to use a format that suits all recipients.

  • Ask for feedback: After creating a report, your job is to present the progress of your team to key stakeholders or the project board. Once you complete your presentation, consider asking them for feedback, which you can use to improve the project or reflect on what skills you can improve to create more effective report presentations in the future.

  • Create a universal template: When you're starting a project, consider creating a universal document template to use for status updates throughout its duration. This way, you can make your highlights more consistent visually, which also helps with making them look more professional.

  • Use a project management software: Many project management systems can help you create your highlights, as they exhibit a lot of important project updates via their dashboard. Consider exporting this information and including it in your report to make it more concise.

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