Measuring Project Progress with Status Reports

Four Critical Progress Updates Used in PRINCE2

When managing a project, it is crucial that the project manager has a way to measure project progress. If you don’t know the status of a project at any given time, you cannot direct project tasks to keep it on track. Therefore, status reports are vital.

In this article, we examine the general concept of project status reports, before looking at the specific project progress reports used in PRINCE2 project planning and management.

What Is a Project Status Report?

A project status report provides a snapshot of progress made on the project. It creates ownership, highlights risks and issues, develops accountability, and helps to keep the project on track.

Status reports give confidence to the customer that the project is progressing, and that money and other resources are being used effectively. They provide a paper trail, and can be used by project teams in the lesson learning process.

Project status reports may include the following elements:

  • An outline of the project – usually one or two sentences that describe the project as concisely as possible
  • The health of the project – progressing well; with some current issues; nearing crisis
  • Timeline and budget use
  • What has been completed in this stage and to date
  • Objectives for the next project stage
  • Issues that must be overcome

How the status report is delivered depends upon agreed delivery methods. There is no hard and fast rule. It can be produced on a PDF, sent by email, attached to a project management system, or a host of other ways. It may be delivered in a status presentation meeting, with project stakeholders given the opportunity to quiz the project management simultaneously.

Project Status Reports in PRINCE2

Progress is reported in PRINCE2 via progress updates. The project manager may also provide exception reports (that advise that the project has exceeded agreed and acceptable tolerances) and issue or change reports (that advise of issues and request changes).

There are four progress updates that are created and used in PRINCE2:

Checkpoint Reports

These are compiled by project teams to report progress to the project manager. The frequency of these will be agreed in advance. Information provided includes the progress made against the progress anticipated under the project or stage plan or work package.

The Highlight Report

This is a brief report that highlights the progress of the project against the stage plan. It is used by the project manager and presented to the Project Board. While not a detailed report, it will highlight the current status of tolerances of time, cost, quality, scope, benefits and risks.

End Stage Reports

As the name suggests, these are produced at the end of each project stage, comparing progress against the stage plan. This report helps the Project Board to decide whether to continue with the project, or to make changes to the project’s scope.

The End Project Report

This report is produced as the project is nearing its close. It will be used by the Project Board to evaluate the project and in their decision to authorise that the project be closed.

Making Project Status Reports Meaningful

While project status reports will follow an agreed format and presentation method, part of the project manager’s job is to make them meaningful. They must be informative, sent when needed, and encourage recipients to read them. Project managers need feedback from recipients to ensure that any action needed is taken, and that the project draws to a successful conclusion.

While progress reports in PRINCE2 projects are sent at specific times, the project manager will monitor progress closely by means that include checkpoint reports. Via highlight reports, end stage reports, and the end project report, the project manager manages the information flow and ensures that the Project Board and customer do not suffer the information overflow that could lead to critical information being ignored or missed.

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