A Guide to Project Reports
How to Report on Projects and Portfolios using SharePoint
As project manager, your to-do list seems never ending. However, no matter how busy you are, project reporting shouldn’t slip to the bottom of the pile.
Being realistic, that’s unlikely to happen as project stakeholders and your team look for updates on progress, upcoming tasks, risks, budget, and so on.
Instead of avoiding project reports, you can master this essential project management tool to get visibility into projects and keep your team engaged.
This guide to project reporting covers everything you need, from types of reports to portfolio reporting, and using SharePoint for reports.
Keep reading to learn more about status reports, portfolio dashboards, Gantt charts, and more!
Table of Contents
Click on any chapter to jump directly to it.
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Why do I Need Project Reports?
First things first – what is a project report and why are reports so important?
A project report is a document used to share project progress with the stakeholders and the team. A report can cover a single project or a project portfolio.
There are various types of reports and formats, and you’ll need to pick what works for your project.
At a high level, project reports can include:
- A summary of the project’s current status.
- Top open issues or risks.
- Complete and upcoming work.
- Overdue work.
- Resource allocation.
- Key decisions required from stakeholders.
Taking a data-driven appraoch to reports is an efficient way to track project health and make informed, objective decisions. Reports often start with key performance indictors and metrics at both the project and portoflio level.
- A key performance indicator (KPI) is used to measure a specific metric related to business goals, for example, return on investment (ROI) and resource capacity.
- A metric is simply a measurement of something and indicates progress agsainst the KPI(s). These include the number of open or late tasks, and Earned Value.
Reports can be delivered in numerous formats – a written report, a short email, a presentation, or a one-page dashboard using project management software.
Frequency depends on the project – a weekly update is the most common requirement.
Project reports are critical tools for effective communication. Reports help the wider team to deliver their part of the project in a streamlined way, increasing visibility into progress.
- Stakeholders rely on reports to track progress and deal with risks across projects and portfolios in a timely manner. Reports are also a useful way to record key decisions and approved change requests.
- The team use various reports to find and do work, raise issues, and stay up-to-date with the project.
- Project managers can monitor items such as tasks, risks, budget, and timelines on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. This makes it easier to stay on track without micromanaging the team and proactively deal with problems.
Depending on the project, reports may also be required for external clients, for example, timesheets, and other departments in your organization, such as finance.
In addition to managing current projects, reports from completed projects help with forecasting and pipeline planning.
Another benefit of project reporting is increased visibility. Project visibility is a clear picture of how a project is performing, including resource allocation and potential risks. Using reports to increase visibility helps everyone involved in the project to understand what the objective of the project is and their role in meeting this goal.
Now that we know why reports are so important to your project, let’s take a look at what reports can cause headaches.
- Time-consuming: Without a project management tool, creating reports from multiple sources takes time. Creating an unexpected report at the last minute for a meeting is especially challenging!
- Inaccurate data: Following the above point, it’s likely your data will be inaccurate if sourced from different files and people.
- Wrong metrics: Another issue is tracking metrics with little relevance or meaning for the team. What’s the point in reporting on the ROI of a new product that isn’t ready yet?
- No outcomes: If your time is spent compiling data with little focus on tasks and key decisions, your reports will do little to move the project forward.
- Unclear purpose: Want to save time by using the same report for different people? Unfortunately, your audience will struggle to find the information that is relevant to them.
- Unread reports: Some team members don’t have time to read reports, which will leave you feeling a little frustrated about the process. This also leads to miscommunication as some team members are out-of-the-loop.
A simple way to improve project reporting is the pick the right report for the intended audience. In the next chapter, we’ll review common project and portfolio reports, and using charts to visualize data.
Four Key Project Reports
Depending on your organization, project types, and available software, some or all of the following project report types may be required.
1. Project Status Report
The most common report is a project status report, a snapshot of where the project currently stands. Use this report during project execution.
A status report typically covers:
- Complete and upcoming work.
- Overall progress, including budget updates if required.
- Any key action items.
- Top open issues or risks.
To make the most of this report, agree on key milestones and project metrics during the project planning phase.
If you are using RAG (Red, Amber, Green) reporting, use icons to indicate the status of key project metric, for example, red suggests a problem!
The frequency of the status report is often based on the duration of a task, typically one week. If project tasks take longer or are based on two-week sprints, there won’t be much to report on.
In some instances, stakeholders prefer a monthly, high-level status report. This report shouldn’t contain any surprises so do raise issues or problems as soon as they occur.
Creating a status report becomes easier if you are using project management software to monitor your project on a daily basis.
As your team works on their tasks, their updates should automatically roll up into a project health dashboard. Use this information as the basis of the status report.
Regardless of how your report is compiled and shared, it’s important to add context so everyone can easily understand the data.
Perhaps your project is on schedule but already over budget – what is the underlying cause and what steps are needed to solve the problem?
Finally, ensure key tasks and actions are highlighted and assigned to the relevant individuals. Follow-up with your team within a day or two of sharing the report to make sure these actions are in motion.
Again, if you are using project management software, create and assign tasks with end-dates, moving other tasks as needed.
In Chapter 5, we’ll see how to create and share a project status report in SharePoint.
2. Project Resources Report
To deliver project tasks successfully and on time whilst balancing workloads for your team, resource reports are key.
These reports show who is assigned to tasks on your project, the duration of the task, and over or under-allocated individuals. This will help you to re-assign project work as needed.
You can only manage what you know so it’s important for your team to track all work – project and non-project tasks – and their upcoming vacations in one place.
Resource reports can identify problems on your project, for example, skill shortages for a key task or conflicting deadlines. Work with your stakeholder to resolve these problems.
As explained below, resource reports are also critical to portfolio management and planning.
3. Project Risks Report
A risk is a problem that could arise on your project. An issue is a risk that has happened.
To report on risks effectively during execution, take some time during project planning to develop a risk register, a list of possible risks.
It’s also important to review the risk management process with your team before work begins on the project. Ensure they know how to identify and report on a risk.
Once the project is underway, report regularly on risks. It may be tempting to include all project risks in a single report. However, this level of detail is rarely required and may distract from urgent problems.
An effective approach is to track all risks in a risk register and include the Top 5 Open Risks in a weekly report to the team and stakeholders.
If you are using project management software, automate a daily risk report to your inbox to easily track new risks and the status of open risks.
In SharePoint, you can also add a summary of project risks and issues to the homepage of your project site for easy visibility.
4. Project Work Reports
Useful for both team members and the project manager, work reports document:
- Upcoming work
- Overdue work
- Recently completed work
- Unassigned work.
Work reports increase accountability and transparency for your team without the need for constant meetings and emails.
Ideally, task owners should be able to update their work and flag issues in the same report.
If possible, share work reports via email on a regular schedule to help your team plan their work, for example, every Monday morning.
Additional project reports include timesheets, budgets, and lessons learned.
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Three Types of Portfolio Reports
Senior management and project stakeholders require high-level reports to manage portfolios and the project pipeline.
1. Portfolio Dashboard
A portfolio dashboard, containing roll-up data from multiple project sites, is a good starting point for senior management.
A dashboard is a one-page summary of key project metrics, providing instant visibility and at-a-glance updates into projects.
Dashboards also reduce administration work for project managers, reducing the need to supply daily updates to senior management.
Typically, dashboards are visual, using metric tiles, RAG icons, and charts to convey complex information quickly.
As these dashboards should update in real-time, project management software is essential.
In addition, stakeholders need key functionality, such as drill-down into uderlying reports and personalization options like filter and sort.
Of course, portfolio dashboards rely on accurate data so you’ll still need to remind your team to update their work!
Items to track include:
- Number of late items
- Number of top open issues or risk
- Overall health of projects, measured by time, cost, and issues
- One-line status report per project.
Focus on simple, easy-to-use dashboards that don’t require too much explanation for users.
2. Portfolio Risk Reports
As mentioned above, it’s important to track issues and risks at the portfolio level. After all, projects and resources are often interconnected so keeping an eye on the big picture is critical to organizational success.
Much like the portfolio dashboard, use a cross-project roll-up report to track risks across all projects.
3. Portfolio Resources Report
Resources should be tracked at the portfolio level at two key points in the project lifecycle – new requests and ongoing projects. These reports help with business planning and talent management.
New project requests
When assessing new project requests, it’s important to understand proposed resource allocation, even at a very high-level.
Stakeholders need to know what resources are required for the new project and how these allocations impact on other projects, both ongoing and upcoming.
Even if the exact details of every task are not yet available, taking a larger view of the pipeline helps to balance resources across projects to avoid over-allocation and bottlenecks.
In some cases, a new project may be delayed until another project is complete, thus freeing up resources.
Resource allocation reports can also identify skills shortages that could impact on current or future projects. In these instances, your organization can opt to train existing team members, recruit, or outsource certain tasks.
Similar to resource reports for individual projects, tracking resources at the portfolio level helps senior management to oversee work distribution throughout the organization. Resource management reports indicate over and under-allocated resources on current projects.
Having covered the basics of project reports, it’s time to take a look at some best-practices, including the use of charts, to improve your reports.
Project Reporting Best-Practices
Make sure your projects are useful to your audience with these tips.
- Share reports on an agreed, consistent schedule, for example, a stakeholder may like to see the latest status report the day before your weekly review meeting.
- Ensure everyone is regularly updating their work for accurate reports.
- Following the above point, make it easy for your team to find, do, and update work using project management software or a centralized tracking tool.
- Focus on actionable reports with clear requirements,required decisions, task owners, and due-dates.
- Periodically remove any team members or stakeholders who are no longer part of the project from automated report schedules.
- Use the right reports for your audience, for example, high-level portfolio reports are ideal for stakeholders. However, the team may need more detailed reports relating to tasks.
- Periodically ask for feedback on your reports and make relevant changes.
- Use reports where possible, for example, in team meetings or one-to-one sessions. This is an easy way to convey the importance of reports to your project.
Another key element of effective project reporting is clarity. As project manager, you know every detail of the project and may think this information is helpful to the team. Unfortunately, reporting on every element of the project can lead to confusion.
Your audience is time-short. Where possible, streamline information and use charts to simplify complex data quickly. Charts help to tell the story of your project by combining various data sources into one graphic, revealing data trends and outliers.
People process information differently. Use data, charts, and comments to communicate effectively with your team and stakeholders.
Below are some common charts to enhance your reports. Check your project management software for out-of-the-box templates.
Common Project Management Charts
A Gantt chart is a type of bar-chart used to represent the project schedule, plan milestones, and track tasks. The chart helps when planning activities and is ideal for smaller projects.
Use a visual aid when reporting on the schedule.
The PERT chart is also used to manage the schedule for more complex projects. The chart displays parallel activities, tasks that follow each other, and task interdependencies.
Again, use when reporting on the schedule.
Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
The work breakdown structure is used to plan project tasks and sub-tasks. Start with the final deliverable and work backwards, breaking each task into smaller sub-tasks.
The WBS helps with project planning and when assessing the impact of new requests during project execution. The WBS is also useful for visualizing current progress against the proposed deadline.
The RACI matrix is used to plan and assign project tasks.
RACI is an acronym for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed. For each task, an individual or group is assigned one or more of the four types of association.
This chart acts as a handy reference for clarifying roles and responsibilities, and balancing workloads.
Other charts include Pareto (quality tracking, especially for Six Sigma), Control chart (process changes), and flowcharts.
Now that we’ve discussed the important of project reports and different types of reports, you may be wondering how to leverage project management software for this task. Let’s continue with a review of project and portfolio reporting options in SharePoint.
Microsoft SharePoint is a collaborative toolset, with numerous project reporting features.
Using SharePoint for project management creates a single source of project truth, with all tasks, reports, and documents stored in a single location. This simplifies and improves project reporting.
Add lists and web parts to your site to track tasks, issues, timelines, and so on.
SharePoint also integrates with reporting tools like Microsoft Project and Power BI, bringing external data sources into a project report for extra context.
As explained in Chapter Two, there four key project reports you should be familiar with:
- Project status
- Project resources
- Project risks
- Work reports.
If you are managing projects with out-of-the-box SharePoint, create these reports using lists, web parts, and dashboards.
With a tool like BrightWork, the below reports (and more) are ready to use out-of-the-box to give you a fast start.
Project Status Reports
In the ‘Status reports’ area, you’ll find a list of previous status reports with RAG reporting, completion date, and comments from the project manager.
Before adding a new report, spend some time reviewing the project site and talking to team members as needed to fully understand the current status of your project.
When ready, simply click ‘New Item’ to add a new report, and work across the Excel-like grid. Key data is pulled from other areas of the site, such as % Complete and an estimated finish date.
Make your updates and save the report.
The homepage of the project site and portfolio reports are also updated with the latest report.
In addition to the project status report, you can also use the ‘Project Status’ dashboard (above the metric tiles on the project home page) for a more detailed glimpse into your progress.
Along the same menu, you’ll also find ‘Status Charts’, such as Tasks, Issues, and Project Scorecard. The project scorecard displays metrics over time, helping to predict the likely outcome of your project.
In a SharePoint project site, Resource Reports render as a calendar-like grid. Information includes start and end dates, hours, task owner, and area, for example, Risks.
Over-allocated resources are highlighted in yellow.
The report surfaces additional information such as Work Due Soon, Completed Work, and Unassigned Work.
Project risks are displayed a list and can be filtered in numerous ways, such as active items, owner, and status.
Click each risk to see more details including comments, impact, priority, and actions taken.
Use ‘Alert Me’ in the reporter ribbon to receive an email notification when the risk is updated or a new risk is added to the list.
There are two types of Work reports in SharePoint:
- ‘My Work’ report, based on the logged-in user. This report is aimed at team members, making it easier to find, do, and update tasks.
- ‘Work’ report is similar, but is used by project managers to track all work in a project site.
The reports can be displayed as lists or as a Gantt chart for extra clarity.
Having covered the main project reports in in SharePoint, let’s take a look at how to optimize your reports. We’ll start with navigation before reviewing BrightWork Reporter and automated sharing.
Finding Reports: Navigation
There are three ways to find reports in a SharePoint project site: the Quick Launch, across the report tab, and the project homepage.
In a SharePoint project site, reports are typically located on the Quick launch menu (left-hand side) of a site. In the below Project Lite template, reports are located under ‘Initiate and Plan’, and ‘Execute and Control’.
A report tab is located just above the metric tiles on the proejct homepage. Move across this tab to access additional reports such as schedule, status, and work gantt.
Depending on your project, you can add additional reports to the project homepage to keep certain information upfront for the team. Here, we’ve added ‘Top Open Issues’ and ‘Overdue Items’.
Project reports must be actionable and relevant to your team. However, it’s simply not feasible to create and share reports for each person on your team!
Instead, create a single report with personalization options.
BrightWork Reporter is a highly configurable web part, used to report on multiple sites, subsites, and lists in a single report. BrightWork Reporter allows individuals to:
- Filter data to find key data.
- Sort data alphabetically, numerically, or chronologically.
- Group data
- Add Totals
- Add or remove columns.
These options are located in the Reporter ribbon, available on any report in a BrightWork project site.
Using BrightWork Reporter:
- Team members can create personal reports, which becomes the default report when they log into the site.
- Project managers can build shared reports used by the team and stakeholders. This is an easy way to standardzied reports.
As we’ll see below, BrightWork Reporter is also used to report across multiple sites, sub sites, and lists rendering as a single report.
With a project management tool like BrightWork, you can build and share reports via email quickly to increase project visibility.
There are a few ways to share projects reports via email:
- Ad-hoc, for example, a last-minute update before a meeting.
- Scheduled emails, for example, a weekly work report.
Dashboards should be saved as either .PDF or .XPS format and shared as email attachments.
Email options are located in the Reporter ribbon. Simply fill in the relevant information and send the report.
Recipients can click on the links in the email to get more information in the relevant project site.
Portfolio Reporting with SharePoint
Lack of visibility into current projects is a common challenge for senior managers and project stakeholders.
Without a project management tool, managing portfolios in real-time with accurate data is impossible.
When extended with BrightWork, SharePoint gives senior management the visibility they need at portfolio level.
As team members work on and update tasks at the project level, this information rolls up automatically to portfolio dashboards for a quick snapshot of all projects.
BrightWork ships with two key templates for portfolio reporting: Project Office and Portfolio Reporting.
The Project Office template displays data from all the projects located under it in the hierarchy in a single dashboard.
Using the Project Office, senior management can track resources, work, issues, and risks at the portfolio level. At any time, it’s easy to click into a particular project site for more detail.
The hierarchy in the Project Office can be developed using relevant groupings in your organization, like department or region.
Similarly, the Portfolio Template Report tracks metrics from multiple projects sites.
In this instance, the template only reports on projects added to the list, making it useful for personalized reporting.
Resource Allocation is part of the Project Request Management (PRM) Template.
The Resource Allocation list allows users to plan resources at a high-level when submitting a request.
To get a full picture of the projects pipeline, combine the data in this report with other resource reports to make informed decisions.
Offering multiple project and portfolio reporting options, SharePoint will help you to save time and deliver key information to the right people at the right time.
Once you have mastered project reporting on SharePoint, you can avail of numerous options to enrich your data sources with tools such as Microsoft Project and Microsoft Power BI.
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Advanced Project Reporting with SharePoint
SharePoint is a powerful project reporting engine, particularly when extended with software like BrightWork.
As SharePoint integrates with numerous Microsoft products, data sources, and third-party tools, you can develop mature project and portoflio reporting processes quickly.
MS Project Sync
Many project managers use Microsoft Project to plan and report on projects.
However, the tool is quite cumbersome for inexperienced projects teams and expensive.
The sync between MS Project Professional and SharePoint allows project managers to plan work in MS Project and sync the updates with the relevant SharePoint projects site.
Likewise, any updates made in the SharePoint projects site are automatically reflected in MS Project.
The sync is ideal for managing complex projects schedules and reporting on multiple project sites in one place.
As an example – using MS Project, you can calculate the RAG status in various projects and display this data in the Project Office template.
Business Connectivity Services (BSC)
Business Connectivity Services is used to import external data sources into a SharePoint project site. Sources include enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and customer relationship management (CRM) tools.
Using SharePoint Designer, add the data to your site as an external list or column. Report on the new information as normal using the tools outlined above.
Business Connectivity Services applies to SharePoint 2019, 2016, and 2013 only.
Microsoft Power BI
Microsoft Power BI is a business intelligence tool used to transform data into visual dashboards and reports. The tool is included for free through your Microsoft Account, with premium options also available.
A no-code solution, the tool integrates with over 65 data sources.
On its own, Power BI can only query individual lists in SharePoint. This means you’ll need to report on each project site in SharePoint as a separate entity.
However, when combined with the cross-projects reporting capabilities of BrightWork, Power BI can report on across multiple projects sites in a single dashboard.
Although your team may feel project timesheets verge on micromanagement, tracking time helps with budget management and creating accurate bills for clients. Over time, a database of timesheets can inform project planning, providing a record of task duration.
To reduce administration work, look for a project management tool with in-built timesheets.
BrightWork customers can avail of TimeControl, a comprehensive time management interface for tracking time on a task-by-task and project-by-project basis.
How to Report on Projects and Portfolios using SharePoint
Project Reporting and Visibility
- 7 Benefits of Project Reporting
- How to Improve Project Visibility
- 3 Ways to Get Project Visibility with SharePoint
- Using Metrics for Successful Project Management
- 5 Common Project Reporting Mistakes to Avoid
- Project Management Reporting Types and Tips (TeamGantt)
- The Beginners Guide to Project Reporting (Hive)
Types of Project and Portfolio Reports
- 3 Key Role-Based Project Reports
- Keep Your Project On Track With Status Reports (The Digital Project Manager)
- The Ultimate Guide to Timesheets (Project Manager)
- How to Manage Your Team’s Workload (Project Manager)
- How to Effectively Manage Your Team’s Workload (Asana)
- 7 Tips for Easily Improving Project Risk Management (A Girl’s Guide to Project Management)
- Different Types of Risk Reporting (Ten Six Consulting)
- How to Use a Project Dashboard to Keep Your Team on Track (Lucid Chart)
- 4 Rules for Creating the Perfect Marketing Reporting Dashboard (Supermetrics)
- 5 Important PPM Reports for Project, Resource and Portfolio Management (The Project Group)
- 9 Common Project Management Charts That You Can Use in Your Presentation (Slide Team)
- How to Increase Project Visibility with a RACI Matrix
- How to Create Your Project Work Breakdown Structure
Project Reporting on SharePoint
- How to Create a RAG Status in SharePoint
- 4 Tips for Project Management Reporting on SharePoint
- Key Elements of a Project Issue Management System on SharePoint
- Using SharePoint for Project Issue Management
- How to Use BrightWork Reporter for Powerful Project Reports
- How to Improve Project Visibility with Emailed Reports
- Employee Timesheets on BrightWork
- Project Reporting with Microsoft Project and SharePoint Sync in BrightWork
- How to Track Project Milestones in SharePoint
- 3 Ways BrightWork Makes Task Management Easier in SharePoint
Portfolio Reporting on SharePoint
- How to Track Resources in SharePoint with Configurable Reports
- Why We Love Project Dashboards (And You Should Too!)
- How to Report on a Hierarchy of Sites and Projects in SharePoint
- Planning Projects with BrightWork Resource Allocation
- 3 Project Reporting Scenarios Your Senior Executives Will Love
- How to Engage Project Sponsors to Keep Projects on Track