Too Many Project Reports? Here’s How to Write Fewer!

A woman managing too many project reports.

In a survey of project managers, 42% of respondents say they would ditch chasing people for status updates if they could, and 13% say they’d love to take project reporting off their To Do list.

I don’t think reporting itself is the problem. After all, it’s part of the job. However, if you are managing more than one project, end-of-month reporting gets overwhelming. It can feel like you’re spending more time writing and getting input to reports than you’re doing actual project delivery and leadership.

Typically, project managers report weekly or monthly, sharing the current status, progress, risks, issues, outstanding decisions, budget situation, and anything else that speaks to project performance. Some teams may have a daily standup meeting to take the pulse of the project(s).

In this article, I’ll share a few tips from my book, Managing Multiple Projects, about how to streamline your reporting process if you’re leading more than one initiative.

Create an Informed Culture

As Graham Allcott and Hayley Watts say in their book, How to Fix Meetings (2021), a culture of good reporting leads to fewer meetings. The more you proactively keep people informed, the fewer meetings stakeholders will need from you.

We can’t get away from keeping people informed, and we wouldn’t want to. The first tip is to make sure you are being informative at all times, in meetings, in casual conversations, and in emails. Set the expectation that information is to be shared.

When the culture is communicative and collaborative, it is easier to get updates from people because you know what is going on anyway, and they have a good relationship with you and are happy to share.

Combine Reporting

If you are leading multiple small projects for the same sponsor or manager, then you can combine project reporting to make it even easier.

Best practice is to create a combined report template. I do this in a table. Agree on core performance items to report against and list these in the first column. Typically, they would be the ‘standard’ things you report against, like:

  • Summary: Write a short narrative summary of the progress or concerns for this reporting period
  • Milestones due this month: List key dates and whether they were achieved
  • Milestones due next month: List key dates that are coming up with confidence levels
  • Top risks and issues: List two or three risks or issues that the readers should be aware of
  • Budget: Summarize the budget spent to date compared to the overall budget, or any other budget metrics that you would normally share
  • Resourcing: Add a statement about whether you have the skills and people required at this time
  • Decisions required: List the decisions required to keep the project moving forward

Create a column for each project. Realistically, you can probably only fit three projects on a portrait-orientation page, so if you need one or two more, switch your page to landscape orientation.

Put the project names across the top. Add a way to show the overall project status for each initiative. We do that by changing the cell background color to the appropriate Red, Amber/Yellow, or Green status to reflect the summary project status, and adding a letter in brackets after the project name as an additional written representation of the color. For example, “Product launch (R). This increases accessibility and understanding.

Green means the project is progressing to plan, Amber/Yellow shows it is at risk, and Red shows it needs management attention. This is a very visual way of helping readers identify the projects they need to pay most attention to.

Mockup of a combined report template, available on

This approach works well where stakeholders overlap between projects. For example, the project sponsor is the same individual, or all the projects use the same IT resource. If the projects are completely standalone, with no shared stakeholders, a combine report might be easier for you to create, but it doesn’t add value to the audience as they will see information for projects they don’t care about.

Prioritize the Reports

The more projects you have, the harder it is to prepare consolidated reports that appear meaningful and are still easy to interpret. There’s little value in presenting a single slide on each of 20 small projects for a client and then expecting them to understand which of those projects they should pay the most attention to. The larger your portfolio of open items, the more work it takes to highlight where management attention is required.

Prioritize the way you present the projects. At the top of the list should be the projects that have a Red status and need input or decisions from your manager, client, project sponsor, or governance group. Focus on the initiatives that they need to be aware of for their work, because they can positively influence the outcome or remove roadblocks.

Report on Groups of Projects

Another way to streamline reporting of large amounts of small projects is to put projects into groups. For example, all projects finishing in the third quarter, or all projects that use a particular technology. Then, report against the group, not against individual projects. You can still call out progress or sticking points on each project, but you’re only creating one report that covers a variety of initiatives.

Highlight the key milestones across a group and report against those to show aggregated progress.

Focus on Benefits

Another way to report against groups of smaller projects is to identify the organizational benefits that will be achieved across a group. Flag the contribution of each project and report on how close you are to achieving those benefits.

While project-level reporting may be expected, there is often more organizational value in understanding the impact or contribution of a group of initiatives that deliver results towards a common goal.

This works well if you are reporting to a client or key internal stakeholder who is focused on outcomes and benefits over project-related milestones.

The Bottom Line: Think Critically About Reporting

Project reporting is expected, and you will have to do it, but you can have conversations with the PMO about the format and structure of the reports. If you have many smaller projects, it’s often more time efficient to look at smart ways to group and consolidate reporting to streamline the overhead of creating updates.

Not sure where to start? This month, if you have the time, prepare consolidated reports, as well as any individual reports that are mandated by the management team, and see how they respond to seeing the bigger picture. As long as people still get what they need to make decisions, you may find that your stakeholders are open to receiving reports in a different format and that you’ve reduced your reporting overhead and added value to how information is presented at the same time.

Related Content

Efficient Project Portfolio Reporting for Microsoft Project Desktop

Custom Visual Reports for Multiple Project Schedules

FORUM: Tracking Resources to Multiple Projects

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Written by Elizabeth Harrin
Elizabeth Harrin has over twenty years’ experience in projects. Elizabeth has led a variety of IT and process improvement projects including ERP and communications developments. She is also experienced in managing business change, having spent eight years working in financial services (including two based in Paris, France). Elizabeth is the author of 7 project management books including Managing Multiple Projects. She is a Fellow of the Association for Project Management and writes the popular blog, Rebel’s Guide to Project Management.
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