You’ve probably heard it all before: producing and sending weekly reports to clients is invaluable to any project. But why? And what do we include?

What should be included?

There’s no real right or wrong answer for this. Below is an example list of items that we like to include. Of course, what works for one team or project, might not be suitable for another.

  • Date range that the report covers
  • Actions completed last week & to be completed this week
  • Schedule update
  • Questions and comments

Remember, reports can be delivered in any format you feel is appropriate. We prefer to use Basecamp to ensure everyone has complete visibility, but an email template works just as well.

There are also things you shouldn’t include. If, at any time, you feel the budget could be at risk of overrunning, or the schedule is slipping and needs revision, talk to the client directly. The report is not the place to surprise them with these concerns!

Why are they needed?

It improves internal status communication. Compiling this easy-to-digest project report is not only valuable for clients, but helpful for the rest of your development team too. If written correctly, it will contain all the relevant information for both parties and will ensure everyone is on the same page.

For anyone involved in running web projects, you all know that any number of issues can appear on a daily basis, no matter how well planned they are. The weekly report can highlight these issues and instigate the conversations that need to happen in order to find a solution for them.

Another benefit of the status report is that all issues that do occur, are collected and communicated at one time rather than via several conversations at different times and by different means. It’s a more efficient way of dealing with issues and has the added bonus of acting as an ‘in writing’ issue log that can be referenced in future.

Importantly, schedule visibility is encouraged. It’s pretty obvious, but everyone involved wants regular updates on whether the project it’s ahead, on or behind schedule and why. (especially the client!)
More often than not, after the kick-off meeting, the work begins and the schedule is not really communicated again until the first milestone approaches. This could be weeks from the project start and as we know, a lot can happen by then.

Our weekly project reports also include actions for both Cookies and clients that must be completed in the following week. The reason for this is simply to encourage momentum and accountability.

Monsters checklist

Many clients will be busy with other work and commitments and a short list of ‘To Dos’ can be very handy for them. These actions can also help with scheduling. For example, if a client fails to deliver an action that has been included in one weekly report, this could affect the schedule and should be communicated to them.

It forces good project management practice.

Juggling fail

Being a project manager is a juggling act. One constant challenge is to stick to processes when time is short and it’s easy to cut corners. Unfortunately, the weekly report is usually one of the first things deemed not critical.
Forcing yourself to deliver the weekly status report ensures you keep an eye on all projects you’re running and forces you to catch up with everyone involved.

Above all, it conveys professionalism. It makes the client feel looked after and shows that you really do care about the project.

General advice

Adapt the frequency to your project. Usually weekly reports work really well, but some projects may need more frequent updates. For example, we often conduct daily status reports for those with very short timeframes. We find that combining them with daily standups works well for this.

Adapt per client. All clients are different and they will all react differently to methods of communication and you’ll have to adapt accordingly. Some will be happy to receive a short email summary, whereas others respond better to a more detailed report and a follow-up phone call.

It may seem over the top to do this every week, but stick with it.

Paper throw

As the project progresses, things inevitably slip and it will be these ongoing weekly summaries that prevent unwelcome surprises. You’ll be glad you did.

Picture by Arpit Gupta on Flickr