Nothing shows a client your full commitment to their work like timely and periodical reports showing the progress of a project. Long-term projects require more reporting and documentation showing their progress owing to the length of time they consume, sometimes running into months and even years.
Short and mid-term projects can sometimes afford to go without progress reporting to the client, especially those that take anything from a few hours to a few days or weeks to complete.
While working on a long-term project, project managers can often get immensely engrossed in the management of the project, from administering tasks to their teams and collection of data, to the balancing of work and resources; not forgetting dealing with the clients’ demands and additional work.
With so much to handle, a project manager is more likely to forget to send progress reports to the client until they actually ask for it, and that may not reflect well on your management capabilities.
With the considerations that a long-term project is a huge undertaking, and probably a big deal for your business, this post is going to look at two ways of setting up reporting for such projects that not only makes the task of reporting easier, but efficient too.
Before we delve into that though, let us first look at three reasons why reporting for long-term projects is that important:
1. Knowing the point at which the project is at
This is very important to everybody that’s involved in the project and not just the client. With periodical reports about the project, it becomes very easy for you, your team and the client to tell exactly what stage the project is at, what hasn’t been done and how much work and time is required for the project to be completed.
2. Keeping tabs on milestones
Reporting also serves to verify whether the set milestones for the project have been achieved. When you know that on a certain date a progress report will be required, you and your team will work harder to ensure that you meet the required milestones by working to accomplish them before that time comes.
3. It demonstrates your ability and commitment to the project
This is more important for the client’s trust and confidence in your ability and that of your team, to handle that kind of project. The report demonstrates the progress of the project and gives the client the chance to confirm whether the project is taking their desired direction or not. This also helps the client to point out issues that may need rectification in good time.
So how do you effectively setup reporting for the long-term project you are working on now, or will be working on in future? Well, it’s rather easy if you have project management software that already has built in features to generate such reports. Set your management application to enable you and your team log in data and progress reports about everything, including utilization of resources and all issues you encounter during the project’s lifetime and the progress reports are going to be a breeze. The key to having adequate and timely reports is the ease of the processes of making them.
Once you have the best project management software installed, and accessible across your entire team, then it will only be a matter of deciding on the best times to provide the reporting to the client. That you can do after consultations with the client, and from there set up your system so as to have the reports ready at the agreed time.
A common practice is to have a system where you send bi-weekly or monthly reports to clients, and both of these have their advantages and disadvantages depending on the type of project you have.
Project management applications are customizable, and will generally provide you with the leeway of defining any duration of time in between each report that is generated and sent to the client. However the already defined week and month durations are the most common, and therefore it is only proper to use these and avoid progress reports that have non-standard time durations outside the norm.
Bi-Weekly Progress Reports
Note that the bi-weekly meaning that is being referred to here is that of happening once every two weeks. Now, setting up bi-weekly reporting is easy with good project management software, but what’s easier is the reporting that is done and that’s the advantage. You see, bi-weekly reports come very close together, and therefore do not cover a lot of issues since only so much can be done in two weeks. With a bi-weekly report, it will mostly involve status and progress reports on ongoing tasks.
The downside to bi-weekly reporting will be the fact that it will be a bit challenging for you as the project manager, to highlight new developments and showcase major steps in the project to your client. Such significant steps in the long-term project tend to be swallowed up bit by bit in the bi-weekly reports and therefore fail to stand out.
However, this all depends with the type of project you have; if your project is the kind that doesn’t involve new developments or steps, then the bi-weekly reporting is going to work just fine for you.
Monthly Progress Reports
Monthly reports are more extensive and cover a lot more issues that have been happening throughout the month. A monthly progress report will offer the client insights into new developments and steps towards the project’s completion. It will also ideally provide a comprehensive report on expenditure and the mile stones achieved. Since this kind of reporting will involve more issues, it is going to be bigger and much more elaborate.
Sufficient to say, it is going to take more time and effort to prepare a monthly report as compared to a bi-weekly report. The report normally covers a lot of things and therefore can tend to be long and complicated for the client to fully comprehend everything, especially where the long-term project contains a considerable number of processes.
Even though monthly reporting is made easier by your management software, it is best for projects with significant milestones that are set at monthly intervals. This will keep each monthly report fresh and devoid of repetition.
Image: Nguyen Hung Vu