How to write progress reports (plus their benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 14 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Writing project management (PM) progress reports is one of the most effective ways of measuring business growth and fostering productivity in the workplace. PM reports provide project managers with detailed information about the outcome of different stages of a project, which incremental goals you've met and where you can make improvements. To write an effective report, it's essential to understand what they are and their benefits. In this article, we define what progress reports are and how to write them effectively.

What are progress reports?

Progress reports are documents that include up-to-date details of the progress made towards the completion of a project. A wide range of businesses and organisations use PM reports, and they're an effective management tool outlining all the activities completed and targets achieved. You submit PM reports to a supervisor, team leader or client and include:

  • achievements made during each phase

  • potential issues that could impact project completion

  • performance figures

  • cost updates

  • expected completion dates

  • incremental revised estimate reports

  • randomised data at the request of a client or supervisor

Related: A detailed guide to project manager vs programme manager

The benefits of writing PM reports

When used effectively, PM reports offer several benefits for project managers to track progress, including:

Improves business efficiency

Writing reports regularly is one of the best ways to maintain consistency with project progress. Checking in frequently allows team members to realign with the goals of the project and highlight any issues that need resolving to improve business efficiency. Progress report writing sets expectations for all project team members and identifies areas of improvement to drive action. The more frequently you write reports, the faster you can identify any drops in productivity and system issues and resolve them. Being flexible with tasks and making changes quickly is key to project success.

Accurately projects budget planning

By outlining all past project details in a progress report, marketing budgets for new projects are easier to calculate to prevent resources from depleting and reducing business efficiency. By outlining a project's timeline, the number of people working on it and other details, team members can estimate the work involved and settle on a realistic budget based on evidence.

Progress data is useful for planning marketing strategies and identifying any loopholes that require an amendment. Identifying these loopholes makes it easier to determine if the marketing budget of a project requires an increase or decrease.

Related: Your guide to controlling cost in project management

Identifies market changes and trends

Detailed reports make it easier to track market changes and identify emerging trends in a highly competitive environment. This is essential for fast-moving industries where staying one step ahead of the competition is crucial. PM reports can occasionally make the difference between business failure and success.

For example, if a project report highlighted a shift in market activity, businesses can adjust their target market accordingly to meet demand. You can identify trends, challenges and patterns by displaying internal team patterns, project status and more in a shared dashboard.

Promotes team accountability and collaboration

A detailed project progress report enables businesses to keep all employees on track and on the same page regarding business expectations and team targets. Every employee has access to a project's reports, which keeps them motivated because they can clearly track the progress of the project from beginning to end and see their accomplishments.

With multiple departments working towards the same project goals, reports foster collaboration by reducing task redundancy and streamlining business operations. Reports also aid in accountability if team members make mistakes by providing a detailed paper trail of team activities.

Increases productivity

A clear and concise project report can speed up all projects, as it allows project leads to identify any issues that might impact progress and productivity. Reports can also identify if certain employees have too many responsibilities, so supervisors can redistribute tasks to other team members suitable for the job.

This can not only improve productivity but can also prevent team members from burning out. Well-written reports also give team leaders a clear outline of the activities of every department working on a project, so they can see if their achievements align with company-wide goals.

How to write a progress report

The key to writing an effective progress report is to outline each step required beforehand to ensure you cover all the essential information. The steps to writing a project progress report are:

1. List the project's goals

The first thing to do when writing a project progress report is to write a comprehensive list of the project's main goals so that you can ensure that they're in alignment with the progress made. Then, create a list of requirements for meeting these goals, such as sticking to the initial budget, meeting incremental deadlines and producing work that meets company standards.

Focusing your reports on how closely a project team's activities meet these requirements is an effective way of covering all the most important areas.

Related: How to write a proposal for a project (plus definition)

2. Identify deadlines

At the start of any project, it's essential to identify any vital project deadlines and milestones to create an outline for the direction of the project. If the project doesn't have any set deadlines, creating your own milestones can give team members motivation and accountability for their tasks.

Milestones offer something to compare the project's progress to ensure that the team's work is successful. In the report, you can compare where project managers predict the project to be at each stage to the reality of where it is to identify if any changes are to take place.

3. Keep it up-to-date

The most important thing to include in your report is up-to-date details about any changes made throughout the project. The updates included in the report may vary depending on whether the recipient is a client or team member, but it's important any to notate any relevant updates or strategy changes clearly.

If you have revised the project's priorities to closer align with company-wide goals or if a new development appears, write this in the report, including a brief summary of its significance. It's essential to use discretion regarding which updates to include in your report and only add essential information.

4. Stay organised

To make your report easy to understand, organise its content to highlight the most important information, ensuring it's clear to read. Keep the report concise and accessible so that you can circulate it widely without causing confusion in your team and with your clients. Adding visuals is a good way to illustrate the project's progress and key milestones, such as in the form of a graph or a colour-coordinated chart.

Different phases of the project could be in order and colour-coded to display their current status. Add headings to divide up your content and create a clear structure.

5. Improve your format

If you submit reports regularly, make sure they're as useful and as clear as possible by making small improvements to your format and content where possible. Having someone else review your report from within your team is a good idea to get an unbiased opinion of its professionalism and clarity.

If your reports are for clients, it's important to ensure that they're as professional as possible because they reflect your care and attention to detail. By providing the recipients with helpful check-ins and updates, you can maintain their confidence regarding your leadership and the progress of the project.

6. Create a summary

At the end of your report, create a clear summary of all the most important details of the report and all the work completed up to that point. Then, briefly describe all the issues encountered by your team and how the team amended them, plus any recommendations for future project development from your supervisor. Outline whether the project needs further assistance and discuss what improvements you want to make to meet the project's goals effectively. By writing a quick summary, you can make your report easy to scan for clients and supervisors.

7. Review and proofread

Making sure that your reader can understand all the information provided in your report and the significance of each point is essential for writing an effective progress report. Proofread the document for clarity and ensure that it's suitable for your audience. For example, if the report contains technical jargon that may be difficult for a non-technical audience to understand, try to simplify the content by rephrasing it. Explain points where required and ensure your formatting is consistent and amend any spelling and grammar errors.

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