Project reporting: 3 hidden benefits you should know about
by Greg Bailey / 12/14/2017 11:27:11 AM
Many project managers see project reporting as little more than a box-ticking exercise. They know they need to create a report. They know they need to tell customers and stakeholders about spend, about delays, about progress and about any issues that have arisen. So, at the end of each week, month or project phase, they write up a project report, perhaps with some graphs, maybe with a coloured Gantt chart showing ‘where we are’.
The problem is, project reporting can often feel like a low-value and fruitless exercise. Many project managers rush through the process, sharing the bare minimum in terms of information with their stakeholders. Those that do take the time to create detailed project reports can feel demoralized when those reports are quickly scanned by stakeholders to keep track of the headline figures but never read in depth. All in all, it can feel like a waste of time.
However, project reporting is not something you can scrimp on—and this is often for reasons that might not be immediately obvious. So, if you’re ever frustrated when you’re writing your project progress reports, remind yourself of the following three benefits.
Three hidden benefits of project reporting
Project reports, when done well, offer much more than a bland overview of data. In fact, they offer huge value to the organization, its stakeholders and can help protect you against unfair claims. Let’s look at three essential reasons you must carry out project reporting:
1. Keep communication channels open
A project report is not just about the document itself. It is a way of keeping communication progressing with your stakeholders. The simple act of sending your clients a progress report sparks conversation. Very often, clients will be hands off, leaving you to complete the project. This is fine, but it’s important to keep the conversation going because this means that the client knows what’s going on and means that if they suddenly want any changes, or feel the project is starting to go in the wrong direction, this issues can be cleaned up.
For stakeholders who are less ‘close’ to the project itself, sending them a project report keeps them ‘in the loop’ with regards to what is going on. And again, if they have any questions or comments, the project report allows them to voice their concerns or opinions.
Key takeaway: Don’t just see this as a document you need to complete for the sake of it. Provide important highlights and major points of interest. By producing a stakeholder report, you give your clients an anchor for understanding how work is moving along and a space to ask questions. It also gives them the option to make any suggestions or change requests in work.
2. Project reports keep you covered
We’ve all worked with nightmare clients before. You know the type:
- The kind of customer that is constantly delayed at their end, yet who also expect you to stick to deadlines religiously
- The kind of customer who is highly disorganized and is unclear about what they’re supposed to be doing, but will not take responsibility for their side of the bargain
- The kind of client who will blame you for delays and threaten legal action – even if these were ultimately caused by their own errors
In these cases, progress reports are invaluable. Producing a regular account of what has been done means that you are protected against any claims against you. Regular progress reports should highlight dependencies and include clear indicators of what is needed of the client for you to be able to continue. If you can show over time that you have always kept your side of the bargain, they will have little to hold against you.
Key takeaway: Produce clear, regular and transparent reports showing where money has been spent, what on and why. If there are any major announcements, or requirements you need from the client to continue, it’s a good idea to place these right at the beginning of the document so there’s no chance they will miss them. For further security, you should also consider getting ‘sign off’ from the client at each stage of the project, to ensure they are happy with what you propose to do next.
3. Provides a better customer experience for your clients
Many industries are coming to understand that customer experience extends beyond pleasant service in customer-facing jobs in retail, catering or call centers. Increasingly, businesses are thinking about customer experience as covering any interaction a customer has with your company – from before they’ve even spoken to you, during the project itself, right through to aftercare once a project has been completed.
Being professional, reliable and transparent will lead customers to trust your brand much more. And so, providing project reports is an important part of this overall customer experience.
If a regular project report is clear, comprehensive, professionally presented and easy to understand, it will inspire confidence in you and your professionalism. It is the kind of extra touch which, while hard to quantify, means clients go from seeing you as a simple vendor to viewing you as a trusted partner, which is key to maintaining a strong relationship.
Key takeaway: While your project report doesn’t need to be a work of art, it’s sensible to produce a report with a consistent design and style. Aim for easy to read graphics and charts over incomprehensible spreadsheets. Draw out highlights and key data in bold text and put the key messages up front in your report, so clients can understand the most important information while skim-reading.
Project reporting: not just a box-ticking exercise
For many PMOs and resource managers, project reporting is seen as an essential activity, yet one which offers little value. It’s something we do simply because it’s expected, because it’s become a norm. We know we need to do it to keep customers and stakeholders up to date, yet it’s something that no one enjoys doing, and something we usually expend the bare minimum of energy on.
However, by taking a different perspective on project reporting, we can see just how important professional, transparent progress reports can be. They keep the lines of communication open with clients, allowing you to resolve issues before they arise. Project reporting means you are covered if a client ever questions delays in progress or even threatens you. And, reporting means your customers see you as a reliable and professional partner.
By providing great project reports, you’re doing a lot more than just ticking boxes. You’re taking project management to the next level.
With over 25 years’ experience in the project management sector, Greg Bailey is Vice President Resource Management at ProSymmetry. He writes about tech trends, with a focus on resource management.