As project managers we just can’t get away from Governance. Regardless of how long you have been working as a project manager at some stage you would have had to generate a report. Possibly as part of a standard requirement from the Project Management Office or directly to the stakeholder. A report could either be automated, via available tools or by hand. The following is a set of must have reports and how they should be used with the intended audience. There are several different types of reports to use, but the following five are must haves in your arsenal.

The more common types of project reports needed for the successful running of a project are, Status Reports. This report can be produced either weekly or monthly, but more commonly depending on the size of the organization, status reports are generated on a fortnightly basis. The frequency depends on where you are in the project and how much there is to say. There’s not much point reporting daily if your tasks all take over a week, as you won’t have any progress to report from day to day.

As you will spend a fair amount of time producing status reports, it is worth considering ways to make it faster to write them. Better yet, automate as much reporting as possible. Create a standard status report template or use the one that comes with the project management software used.

Another must have report is the risk register. Many PMs Report on risks at least monthly, and the report is normally the output that comes after a risk review meeting. A risk register can be updated at any-time, normally an organization will dictate when it must be done. Also team members should be encouraged to contribute risks to the log whenever they feel something needs recording.

The risk report should include a summary of the risk profile of the project, how it is presented is left to the Project Manager. A good approach would be to only include the details for the risks that have the potential to create the most problems for the project. Then, include a statement on the lower-level risks, perhaps summarizing how they are being managed.

Possibly produce a report about all the risks in a project, regardless of how significant they are. It’s probably easiest to do this as an automated download from your project management software, or if you keep your risk log in another format like a spreadsheet, by issuing a complete copy of that document.

Board/Executive Reports are definitely required, and tailored to the people who are going to read them. So the report produced for the project board will have a different level of detail in it compared to the weekly status update that goes to the internal project team and key business stakeholders.

For the project board reports, the information should be of a high level. They will want to read about things that are important to them, like issues they can help resolve, a summary of the budget position, and whether or not the project is on track, and the upcoming and delivered milestones.

Make sure that the board or SteerCo report is in a format that can easily be read. For example, if executives are always on the road and use their smartphones to check emails, don’t produce reports in the form of a complicated spreadsheet that won’t display correctly, or include loads of large graphics that will take ages to download. A pdf will render across devices when emailing a static report. Or possibly grant licenses for board members or senior leadership so they can see real-time dashboard reports on the go.

Resource allocation report is another, using the project management planning software to work it all out is a great tool to have. Most software tools, whether they are a standalone Gantt chart software or fully-featured project tools with integrated time sheets, will have the option to create a resource report.

The resource report will show the breakdown of which project team member is allocated to which task on which day. They can also be used to pinpoint over allocation problems – where a team member is allocated to more than one task. If a resource is working on more than one task at a time then this can be detrimental to the outcome of the project. Use the resource report to ensure that there aren’t any individuals over committed and reschedule those tasks as necessary.

Resource reports can also be useful for scheduling more than one person. By seeing when someone becomes available, and that is a good sign that they can be given more project tasks at that point. If you compare the resource availability to the project’s timeline you can also plan more efficiently. As one task done by one person ends, you can make sure that someone else is available to pick up the next thing that needs to be done, so that tasks don’t stop halfway through waiting for the next person to become available.

Overall, resource reports are one of the most useful types of project reports to be had as a project manager, although they can be a bit difficult to interpret at first. It really is worth spending the time getting to know how to read the reports so that you can make changes to your project schedule as appropriate.

Finally, a mention of variance reports, ensuring that the project is in fact progressing as planned. That’s the beauty of a variance report, as it compares the planned against the actual outcome, providing a metric to measure if you’re on track, ahead of schedule or running behind. The variance report will collect and organize the data on what is being compared, whether it be the budget, schedule or scope of the project variable being measured. The variance report gives you the tool to many a variance analysis or a measurable change from the baseline.

There are several variance reports, such as cost variance, variance at completion (budget surplus or deficit), scheduled variance and others. Mostly, variance reporting is used in budgetary analysis, trend reporting and spending analysis.

The variance report is a great tool for the project manager, who needs a lens into the project’s progress so as to make intelligent decisions on allocating resources. But not only project managers benefit from the reporting. Stakeholders are interested in high-level reporting, and variance reports give them a thumb’s up or down as to the progress of the project and whether it meets its schedule and budget.

How often you should run a variance report depends on many factors. For example, what kind of project is it? What’s its duration? Where is it taking place? The accounting methods a project manager uses will likely be different from project to project, but a regular variance report is a powerful metric to determine the health of your project.

It would be great to hear from you on which reports you consider to be valuable, you can download some of the templates for your project from here.

Author's Bio: 

Part of the IT industry for over 30 years, working in many varied and challenging organisations. The last 24 years have been directly working as a Project Manager, complemented with certifications.
I have worked in many different fields as both the vendor and the customer, between established organisations to start-ups; I have enjoyed each role, for their diversity and the people I have met along the way.
As a career Project Manager I have had the opportunity to work on the Archery Event during 2000 Sydney Olympics, involved with the technical core infrastructure / network build of Data Centres, site mobilisation to name a few within the utility, telecommunication, financial and retail industries, my career has seen many changes over the years which I have embraced, especially if I wanted to keep on moving forward.