Driving and managing a project is all a matter of having control over what people do and how much is allocated to complete it. What I’ll share with you today is how I keep control over client projects by providing context and achievements on a regular basis.

I usually do a report every two weeks (if not every week) where we identify a couple of points. When you’re a project director, there are three things that you want to have control over: the budget, the milestone delivery time and the delivered quality.

Let’s talk about reporting.

Remember the project context

Defining the project context is simply specifying why we are building something – what is the cause we’re working on and working for, and from that cause, what are we going to build, and with what budget and for what outcome.

So, it always starts with the cause – why we create something. Then from this ‘why,’ we move to the needs – the customers’ needs. From the customers’ needs, we then define what the allowable budget is and what the return on investment will be. Those are the first things.

When we start the project, we have to put the figures together. We should always write down and track how we move forward in terms of the achievements and the budget, and whether the return on investment is still the same along the way.

We also need to check the competition and the market. We need to make sure that the market really demands the product that we’re building and that there are no new factors. A factor could be a new competitor that just came in. It could be a new law that might change the context in which we provide the services.

This is especially true in the case of ride-sharing startup Uber. Uber is a great example of innovation. But in some countries, its introduction was met with protests and legal actions which delayed or put a stop to its operations.

In France, for example, taxi drivers and taxi companies held a series of strikes protesting what they deemed was unfair competition from the startup. In countries like France, when you want to be a taxi driver, you have to pay more than 100,000 euros to have your license. Uber drivers, meanwhile, are not subjected to the same type of fees and regulation. Uber therefore posed a threat to cab drivers’ livelihood.

An inevitable innovation that came out of this though is that these days, some taxi drivers also use Uber’s app to get new customers.

Depending on who you are going to share the report to, it might want to hide few details, but try to provide as much context information to your team, so they understand perfectly what you are building and what are you constraints in terms as a project owner.

What are the five things to put in a project report

1. What we planned and where we are

The first point is what we we’ve planned to achieve since the last report and where we are.

Basically, it’s what we’ve done since the last report and whether we have deadlines that are overdue. If we have a deadline that’s overdue, that leads us to one of the next parts which is the action plan.

So, the first thing is reporting what has been achieved since the last report, and it’s a task per team or per person. This depends on how many people you have on your project. If for example, you have a five-person team, you must identify the tasks of each individual.

2. What’s in progress

The second point is what’s in progress. On the ‘in progress’ page, we have the tasks that are ongoing. What is the percentage of achievement of that task? What is the deadline?

From time to time, the specified deadline might have passed. In that case, we’ll put it in red, which means this ongoing task is overdue. What we’ll do then is add something in the ‘comments’ column. There, the project director will see what’s going on – if we are late and why.

3. What’s the action plan

The third page is the action plan. The action plan is what’s next. It’s not the tasks that are ongoing, but the tasks that are to come after the ongoing tasks are completed. For this, we’ll put the deadlines for each task. We can also put the next milestone where we’ll identify who is going to do what.

4. What are the risks

The the fourth page is risk control or risk management.

Risk management is where we identify the tasks which we have no complete control over. For example, when you use a new technology or when you work with a partner or an outsourcing provider, that kind of setup involves risks. For example, your provider may not be able to deliver what is expected on the due date.

Here we’ll specify if it’s a high risk or a low risk. High risk means that it has quite a good chance to happen. Medium or low risk means that it’s not that important and we can assume that even if it happens, we’ll still have a good control over the task.

Also on this page, we’ll add a ‘workaround’ column which specifies what action plan to take if that risk happens. It’s not a real workaround, but more of an action plan to avoid the risk, and this needs to be discussed with the project director.

An example is if we have a contract with an outsourcing company that should have provided us with a piece of software for our entire project, but in the end will not be able to deliver it on time. In this case, we might think about hiring someone else or hiring another developer to provide more manpower to the outsourcing team. That’s an action plan for risk management. lt allows us to keep the project on track by specifying alternatives such as putting extra budget or extra resources into the project.

5. How much is the budget and what’s the forecast

The fifth page and final page is all about the budget. What is the budget for each task or each provider involved? For example, we might need to add more resources at some stage. For this, we then have to indicate the need for an extra budget.

So that’s how I do my project report for my clients. How about you? How do you provide a report to your project manager, project director or CEO? What are the data and the KPIs that you put in that report? Feel free to also share your practices and even your template with everyone in the comments section below. Thanks for taking the time to read this, and we’re looking forward to reading your feedback.