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Why Use Excel for Your Status Report
If you only work on one project at a time, MS Word and even email work just fine for creating your status report. But, if you work on multiple projects at the same time, especially if these projects have different titles, different delivery dates, and different contacts or team members, then you should consider using Excel to create your status report form.
One of the nice aspects of creating a status report in Excel is that you can use different colors for your various projects. For one client, I kept all of my completed projects, over a 6-month span, on the spreadsheet. I just formatted the rows of completed projects with a smaller font and gave them a grey background. But they were there, so that as the spreadsheet grew longer and longer, the manager would be reminded of all the work I had done.
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What to Include in Your Status Report
If you need to design your own status report form, you can start by asking yourself these questions:
- What is the deliverable?
- Who is the SME (subject matter expert) for this project?
- Who is the team lead or business analyst for the project?
- What is the planned completion date?
- What is the actual completion date?
- Am I facing any delays or risks to meeting the deadline?
- Who is the intended audience for the completed project?
Beware of naming fields with broad terms like "Status," unless you have already specified that only certain terms or phrases should be used in the field. Left unspecified, a term like Status may tempt the author to enter “too much information."
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Sample Spreadsheet Layout for Multiple Projects
HEADER: Create a custom header with Page # of ## on the left, your department name (or the name given to your group of projects) in the middle, and the date on the right.
FOOTER: Use the middle field in the footer for your name. It will probably be helpful for your manager if you state “Prepared by" before your name.
MARGINS: Set the spreadsheet margins to .75 on the left and right. Allow the header a good 1 ½ inches to set it apart from the body of the spreadsheet.
COLUMNS: Naturally you can create column headings that best reflect your type of work, but the following eight headings worked well for me when I was creating multiple online training courses and other support materials.
APPLICATION NAME: What is the course or document would be listed when it was posted in the Learning Management System or on a Web page?
DELIVERABLE: If it is a course, what is its main emphasis? If it is a document, is it a user manual, a tri-fold cheat sheet, or a job aid?
AUDIENCE: Is the intended audience internal? What department? Is the audience external? Will they be clients, potential customers or suppliers?
CONTACT: Who is the SME, Business Analyst, or Developer responsible for getting you the correct information you need for the deliverable?
DELAYS, ISSUES, UPDATES: This is the widest column because it contains the most text. Use this column to mention the start-up meeting and final meeting, any materials you had to get changed, delayed information from the SME, network or application problems or posting delays. Mention if you are waiting for review or additional information.
STATE: This is a lot like Status, except that the first word in this column was always one of the following: Working, Waiting, Discussion or Complete. Some explanation could follow, but the actual State of the project had to be one of the four. I always formatted the State word in bold to set it off. Any following text would not be bold.
PLANNED COMPLETION DATE: This column was simple: it only contained the number of the week that the project was due. Therefore, the number would be anywhere between 1 and 52.
ACTUAL COMPLETION DATE: This column also only contained the number of the week the project was delivered or posted. At a glance, anyone reviewing the status report could compare these two columns to ascertain whether the staff member was generally on time or generally late.
As mentioned earlier, this spreadsheet approach works well for keeping a running record of your completed projects as well as those in progress.
Creating Status Reports for Software Projects: Use MS Excel (Part 3 of 4)
Creating a weekly status report of your work on a software project is vitally important to the success of the project. But it need not be drudgery, it can be exciting and rewarding.