5 Tips for Writing Better Monthly Reports
Project reporting is a useful tool for both on-project and off-project management entities. The monthly progress report is typically a book of record and can be called upon in a legal dispute. It’s the professional responsibility of all project members to accurately report the project to the best of their ability with the available data at the time.
The monthly report is also a tool used to help influence impactful change on a project. But if no one reads the report or it’s too confusing, it loses its purpose and effectiveness. Here are five tips you should consider when preparing your monthly reports to make them add substantial value to the project.
Wherever possible, substitute; text with a table or figure. You’ve heard the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words,” well nothing could be more true when it comes to creating simple, easy-to-understand reports. Large amounts of data are easily explained through the use of charts and other metrics. We follow the rule that the higher up the food chain your report goes, the more important it is to summarize the data to a “fifth grade level.” We are by no means saying that senior managers are fifth graders, but their time is limited, and a confusing text-driven report can leave them uninformed about the real project issues.
Split Long Complicated Sentences into Short Meaningful Statements
Many project team members make the mistake of typing long-winded sentences when much more could be said with less. Project reports aren’t meant to be entertaining. They’re supposed to be loaded with facts, figures and observations. A good report should represent where the project is, where it’s going, the critical issues and how those issues are being addressed.
Use a Table of Contents WITH Page Numbers
Many times a reader only needs one fact, figure or statement from your monthly report. Do them a favor and make it easy to find the information they need quickly. Make sure each section is well-named and represented in the table of contents WITH page numbers. Nothing irritates readers more than when they pick up a report, and the table of contents doesn’t have page numbers. If you’re going to exclude page numbers, just call it a “Report Outline” rather than “Table of Contents.”
Refer to Attachments in the Body Text
Report attachments are included to provide readers with more detail when necessary. Use the report to make a statement or an observation and refer the reader to the specific attachments in case they’d like to see the supporting data or details.
Write a Strong Executive Summary
A monthly report is not a college dissertation. The truth is most readers won’t go beyond the executive summary, and many will only read a few other sections. Use the executive summary to get your point across and influence actionable change on the project. If there are issues, don’t be afraid to state them. Burying issues will only come back to haunt the project team if they’re not addressed immediately.
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