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Most employees and contractors who work on software projects are required to file status reports. Regular status reports can make the difference between the success or failure of a software project. Since managers cannot gauge the progress of a software project just by oberservation alone, they depend on regular feedback from software builders like programmers, system analysts, instructional or game designers, technical writers and graphic artists to know if a project is going well and if not, why.
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What is a Status Report?
Basically, staff members file status reports to inform supervisors and managers about the progress of ongoing software projects. Since status reporting is not an exact science, the required information varies with the company and even with the manager, but most status reports include some or all of the following:
- project start and completion dates
- which milestones you’ve passed
- percentage of the project that is complete
- any accomplishments worth mentioning
- important meetings attended
- any threats or potential risks to the projected timeline
- description of any problems you’ve encountered and resolved
- personnel or equipment limitations
A status report is not just a copy of your daily activities for the past week. Status reports describe the work you’ve completed and forecasts how close you are to finishing the project. Ultimately, these reports indicate whether your work is on schedule and if anything threatens your meeting the deadline.
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What should the status report look like?
Because status reports vary in format, length and delivery, it is difficult to nail down what to include in them. This is due to the communication format preferred by managers, which is dependent upon individual preferences. Some companies require verbal status reports every week. These verbal reports may be given in a group or one-on-one. Generally the staff member knows in advance the type of questions that will be asked or the format their group delivery should follow. While the verbal report is given, the manager writes down the salient points. Some employees like delivering verbal reports because it saves the time it would take to wite one themselves.
Most status reports, however, are submitted in written form and follow a preferred company format. All software projects have deadlines, and contain milestones throughout the project. Milestones make reporting and gauging progress much easier. If the project timeline does not contain milestones, then the status report should have a place to enter the percentage of the project you have completed.
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How Managers Use Status Reports
Project stakeholders want to know if the software project is going to be completed on time and within budget. Team managers, project managers and department heads combine their employee status reports into a broader report that is submitted to their next-level managers. This upper-level manager then forwards the essence of these reports to the stakeholders. On every level, status and progress reports depend on the information gathered from other managment levels, a process resembling dominos. For instance, if a project manager needs status reports from 10 people working on a project, but only receives 8, the report prepared will not be complete, nor will the ensuing reports.
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How You Can Use Status Reports
Creating and filing a status report dosn't have to be painful. Actually, periodic status reports give you, the creative person, a chance to shine. If you work on a software project you probably spend hours and days alone, working on the computer. Creating a positive, upbeat status report gives you an opportunity to show how good you are and what you have done. If you have solved a problem, helped a coworker, posted a procedure, or passed a milestone be sure to put it in your status report. It’s like writing a little bio of yourself and the work you've done.
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There's More to this Article
This article is Part 1 in a 4-part series on Creating Status Reports for Software Projects. Here are links to the rest of these articles:
Creating Status Reports for Software Projects: The Fundamentals
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.