Why Should I Use Reporting in Project Management Software?
Project reporting is the use of formal and informal reports to communicate the status of your project. If you’ve led a project, you know that often even before you begin to execute, stakeholders want to know your project plan and status. These early and consistent demands for information are why reporting is so critical.
If you can’t consistently report on your project, then your project is not only likely to get away from you, but your stakeholders aren’t going to be happy. Imagine an executive or customer asking for an update only to be told, “I don’t know,” or “I can’t give you one.”
Project management reporting enables you to stay on top of your projects and manage the expectations of others, including your stakeholders and team members. Reports allow you to consistently monitor and communicate your project scope, time, budget, and progress at any time to anyone who needs to know.
Benefits of project management software reports
Without project reporting functionality built into your software, how will you create your reports?
Your options would be limited to using a separate software system or exporting your data and then manually formatting your reports. Both options have significant drawbacks compared to project management software reporting.
Using separate software require you to either integrate your systems or duplicate your data. Even with integration, running the reports out of a separate system means your team has to learn and adopt yet more software.
Exporting the data and manually formatting your reports carries the risk of manual error. In addition, having to re-create reports can be incredibly time-consuming.
Imagine spending two hours formatting a report only for your customer to request additional data or for tables to be moved around. It can easily cost an entire day of time that should have been spent moving the project forward.
Other issues with manually created reports are:
- They take up storage space on your hard drive or company server.
- They can be difficult to share due to file size.
- Collaboration is hindered as only one person can edit the report at a time.
- The data is delayed and potentially even out of date by the time stakeholders get the report(s).
The most significant benefit of project management software reporting is that it enables you to view and report on progress in real time with just a click of a button.
So when you or executives are trying to make important decisions, you’re not forced to rely on information that’s hours or even weeks old. Instead, you can instantly see the current status of your project.
Real-time reports, viewed directly in your project software, can help you catch problems as soon as they happen, pinpoint missed deadlines, identify overworked team members, and flag unassigned work.
Plus, the use of live, interactive reports helps boost communication across teams. Team members can easily see not only what they’re working on, but what others are doing, and how their work impacts the project as a whole. This leads to less waiting and questioning and more doing.
Using standardized reports, you can help align everyone with a common view of projects to identify problems, communicate status, and drill down into details. Stakeholders can become familiar with and quickly interpret the reports they’re given, no matter which project they’re looking at or who prepared the report.
For instance, imagine a senior executive receiving 10–15 different project status reports, all of which look completely different. It would take much more time to review and understand each one than it would if they were all laid out the same way. This extra work is bound to lead to unhappy stakeholders.
Types of project management reports
A key area of project communication management is project performance reporting.
Your project performance reports must communicate information at an appropriate level for each of your audience groups. For instance, your team members will need more detail than your customer.
When projects involve many stakeholders, it’s often necessary to prepare a lot of different reports containing subsets of similar data and information, grouped and shown in different formats.
In addition to communicating project performance, you may have reports specifically for monitoring risks, budgets, timelines, and other important aspects of your project. You may need to regularly product create many different reports for your project.
That’s why you should select project management software that supports the creation and reuse of project report templates. This feature will allow you to create, store, and modify reporting templates as needed.
With customized templates, you can design whichever reports your project needs and then run them with the click of a button without having to recreate them every time.
The alternative is to look for a project management solution that already comes with all of the project reports that you will need. Here are the main ones you should look for:
- Team availability report – Who on your team has unallocated time or availability to take on more work. The team availability report will show you the breakdown of who is allocated to which task on which day.
- Status report – A daily, weekly, or monthly overview of your project’s current status. This typically includes recent tasks completed, upcoming work, any known risks or issues, and other key information.
- Project health report – This provides a brief overview of the health of your project. Typically it includes a traffic light (green, yellow, or red) assessment of key aspects of your project such as resource availability, schedule, budget, quality, and risks.
- Risk report – Risk reporting may provide an overview of all project risks or just the top 10. It often includes a ranking of each risk based on severity and probability of occurrence. The report may also include information about how each risk is being mitigated.
- Time tracking report – This report allows you to see what time has been spent over a selected project period, often the last week or month. It shows the time spent by activity or task as well as by team member within your project management software.
- Budget report – A budget report typically includes the overall project budget, as well as how much has been spent so far. Often, it will also include an estimated spend for the project so everyone can see if the project is predicted to come in over or under budget.
As a note: In many project software systems, budget reports are often shown in hours instead of dollars due to concerns around sharing sensitive employee payroll information.