You drive the project meetings on a weekly basis – both with your creative team and with your ad, marketing, campaign or design client. Communication and collaboration is critical, and at the heart of all of this is what? The project status report. At least it should be. That weekly project status report – along with a revised, up-to-date, detailed project schedule – should be the lifeblood of the communication flow of the project. Expectations are set, tasks assigned, progress reported, issues acknowledged and timeframes agreed upon... it all goes into this vital weekly communication that should be happening on every creative project, everywhere, every day. Do this, and little - if anything - can fall through the cracks.
But not all status reports are created equally. And not all organizations have the same project status report “template” that they like to use. And not all clients want to see – and want their teams to see – the same status information. But we have to start somewhere, right? Yes. There has to be some starting point to call a template and then anyone and everyone can modify it from there based on project needs, client needs and management needs.
I have my own opinion - which I will share here - as to the basic components that all status reports should have, in some form or another - at least as a starting point. After reading this, please provide insight into how you report status on projects, what you consider to be key information for the reports and what your organization requires.
Components of the creative status report
What’s been accomplished. This is pretty basic; what’s been accomplished on the project. Usually this just covers the last reporting period. However, I have seen situations where management or clients wanted this to be an ongoing reporting of key major accomplishments with dates. That way completed project milestones are always available for all to see, even if you’re not looking at a master project schedule (which, surprisingly, many clients hate to look at because they either find it hard to follow or don’t understand it).
What’s happening right now. This portion of the report covers what activities are in progress right now. This is usually a summary of all active important tasks on the project schedule – at a high level… not the detailed task level as reported on the master project schedule. Often this is the basis for most of the discussion that will happen on the weekly status call or meeting with the project team and client.
What’s coming up. This one is great because it helps ensure that no one is surprised when an activity is about to start. I like to look at what is coming up, not just in the next week but over the next two weeks. People need time to mentally prepare; showing them just a week window of what tasks are about to start is not enough time for them to really take charge and be ready to lead their upcoming tasks. A two week heads-up usually helps significantly. After all, my goal is to make them productive and successful... not catch them off guard and contribute to their failure.
The financial health. The financial health of the project, meaning basically the financial health of the project budget, is always a helpful thing for teams on both sides to see. However, I have had clients who don’t want this information on the report for whatever reason. Even just a high-level view is good; the detail can be saved for a more detailed financial analysis view for whoever wants to see it.
Current issues status. Every project has some issues. And a list of those outstanding issues, what the current status or action item is for each issue, and who each issue is assigned to is a great thing to include on the status report. It keeps it in front of everyone and makes it easy to include it as a vital discussion point during your weekly status calls.
Change orders for the project. The change order information is really for informational purposes only. It’s a good idea though to include a summary of these on the weekly status report so the client is aware of how and why the scope (and budget) has changed so far over the life of the project.
Now that you’ve read through this, how does this differ from your standard project reporting practices? What items that I’ve listed above do you not consider vital? And what items do you include weekly that I have omitted or failed to mention? As a side question – how many have had project clients who see no point in looking at a project schedule or don’t seem to understand it? Please share and let’s discuss.