Project management reports are a versatile tool within every manager’s toolbox. Reports can be used to shared information with vendors, clients, members of the manager’s inner circle or departments beyond the initial scope of the project.
Lasting Value of Reports
So, what’s the real value behind reports? Why should you bother typing up a report that takes time away from engaging new prospects and coordinating among your team’s inner circle?
The answer is that reports can help managers keep a historical record of budget constraints, impending deadlines and the job duties of each team member. Reports are just a great touchstone to get other managers, vendors and a larger audience on the same page.
Reports are also invaluable in conflict resolution and give managers the chance to improve their own leadership skills. On the more micro level of inner-team organization, reports can keep employees engaged and motivated to fulfill their goals.
Writing Better Reports
Simply put, a project manager who can streamline his communication skills has an edge when it comes to scheduling and carrying out short-term goals and embodying long-term career success.
Under project management theory, project managers struggle against the constant threats of funding limitations and providing deliverables to clients ahead of schedule.
OK, that’s interesting, but where does report writing factor in? When project managers take the time to apply a few basic principles to their report writing – proper formatting, putting the audience first, and clearly outlining reports – the entire project management cycle improves since everyone understands their role and has an ironclad reference to go back to.
All reports drafted by project managers, in short, should have a few features in common:
- Audience-centric writing
You need to determine the core audience for your report writing since this will inform the report’s tone, formatting and underlying purpose. A report written for other employees within your own department is going to emphasize different facts than one that is geared towards the owner of your company or individual vendors. Isolating out your audience from the outset will help with formatting and staying focused later.
- Concise and actionable
Employees, vendors and clients are far more likely to heed your advice if you lay out the facts then tell each team member what his or her specific job for the day is. Keeping reports tight and concise allows your audience to quickly find the information that they need and ultimately carry out the tasks that they’re paid to carry out. It’s just a fact of life that people normally want to succeed but they need direction as well as motivation to consistently do so. Report writing can help provide that guiding hand.
- Just the facts, ma’am
Bearing in mind that one of the driving aims behind report writing is conveying hard information and spurring on action, a report that downplays opinions and hairy-fairy interpretations in favor of cold-hard facts is a winning strategy. When you winnow your writing down to the facts, you’re enabling reports to work their own magic – to act as a reference and motivator for employees and clients alike. Facts are also much harder to dispute later when it comes to conflict resolution.
- Respect your audience’s time
Your audience is going to find your report more useful if you make sure to break up the content into sections. Introduce the topic, mention the project’s methodology and get into the project’s early successes and areas for improvement. Mentioning the report’s two main findings at the beginning of your summary can also help even more time-strapped speed readers get the picture and take effective action sooner.