How to Ensure Your Client Gets the Project Status Reports They Want

Problem: Unknown Requirement for Client Status Reports

Clients are not always clear on what status report they require, or even what other project reports they require. Your client may expect a certain type or format of project report, but the project delivers those reports in a way that the client does not want.

This leads to extra costs in redoing reports. It also means the client is not satisfied with the reports, often as they have to remake or reformat it themselves to match their internal reporting requirements.

I have been on plenty of projects in which we issued monthly reports to the client as a PDF. I have also been on the client side where we received monthly reports as a PDF. This caused problems as the client often needed to extract information from that piece by piece manually to input it into their own reporting format or their company database.

I have also been on projects in which we gave reports to the client in a database format that the client had no access to or which they had no understanding of how to use.

It is no use outputting reports from a database if the client wants to use that data but does not have access to a system that can read that data.

Solution: Ask the Client What Reports They Want

If the client does not specify the project report type, format and structure in the request for tender (which they often won’t) then you should request this as soon as you win the project.

This will enable you to format your reports in the way that the client needs. This leads to increased client satisfaction, and also much less work for your project later on.

If you don’t clarify this early, you will usually find you need to redo reports later to satisfy the client.

You may find that the client has their own required format or even their own template that they require all reports to be in.

Before starting to use a reporting system for your project or developing a custom client report, find out how the client wants their reports presented. Most good reporting systems let you customise the automatic output of the reports, allowing you to match the client requirements.

If possible, you should ask if they will accept your standard client report format (even better if this is automated). Include some examples of these so they can see what they will get. Many clients will accept this if they see the reports are professional and thorough. It gives the opportunity to show off how good and thorough your company is, and also lets the client ask for certain extra information to be included.

Asana has a good guide on how to write a project status report, saying their project management system allows you to automate much of this.

You should ask the client to specify the following for your reports:

  • File format (pdf, word document, spreadsheet etc)
  • Structure format (topics and headings, what should be included etc)
  • Whether attachments / appendices should be included in the document or separate
  • Will they accept your standard report format
  • Frequency of delivery (weekly, monthly etc)
  • Who to send to
  • How they intend to use the reports (information to the PM only, to extract and input into their system etc)

Some of the types of reports that client may require are:

  • Project status report
  • Risk report
  • Safety report
  • Budget report
  • Schedule report

Your weekly or monthly project status report should summarise all the above, however, some clients may want a report for each of the above separately (especially for very large projects).

If you ever need to hand over the project to another project manager, having good consistent project status reports will make the transition much easier and will help make it a lot less work to do the handover.

Automated Project Reporting

Many project management systems include automated templates that fill in the project status details for you. This automation saves a lot of work, and should be part of your project controls system. I suggest using these wherever you can.

Some of the project management tools I have seen with these automated reporting features include:

Lesson:

Client reports are important. At the start of a project, ask your client how they want their project reports presented. This includes file type (word, pdf etc) and also the format. If possible, use a reporting system that helps you automate the output and formatting of reports for your client.

Ask the right questions at the start to ensure your client is satisfied and to save rework later.

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