Progress Reports in Project Management: Definition, Process & More

Progress Reports in Project Management: Definition, Process & More cover

Having to write progress reports may seem like a nuisance with all the other things you have to do, but they’re essential to ensure smooth project delivery.

This article explores:

  • What progress reports are
  • Why they’re important in product and project management
  • How to develop robust reports
  • Best practices for writing them

Let’s dive in!


  • Progress reports provide information about the status of the project: the work completed, work still to be done, and potential challenges.
  • They enable organizations to determine if the project is on track to achieve its goals.
  • By analyzing current progress and identifying obstacles, they help teams to accurately estimate the expected date of completion.
  • Progress reports also include valuable insights and lessons learned that can aid future project delivery.
  • You normally have to prepare such reports after key stages of the project and/or at regular intervals. For example, you may need to submit weekly or even daily progress reports.
  • Start writing the report by explaining its aim and summarizing the project’s purpose, the milestones you’ve achieved, and the timelines.
  • When preparing the report, collaborate with team members that have the right expertise. Sometimes they are more competent to write or deliver it than you.
  • Next, collect information from relevant sources, like team member updates, customer feedback, or product analytics data.
  • Collate the data in the report using the template used at your organization. When collaborating on the report with other team members, use software with version control.
  • Use the data to recommend changes in the project plan and follow-up actions.
  • It’s good practice to review previous reports and look for areas for improvement before you start writing a new report.
  • Using simple language, without jargon or technical terminology, will make the report easy to understand by stakeholders from different backgrounds.
  • If your report is data-heavy, use graphs and charts to make it more digestible.
  • Project management and analytics tools allow you to automate the process of project creation.
  • Userpilot is a product adoption tool that allows you to collect user feedback, track product usage, and visualize the results for easy reporting. Book the demo to find out more!

What are progress reports?

Progress reports are documents detailing the progress that the team is making toward achieving project objectives and deliverables.

Project managers create progress reports to provide an overview of the project status, the milestones that have been reached, and the tasks that the team members are working on.

Progress reports also offer information on the obstacles that the team has come across, new risks and threats that have been identified, and strategies applied to mitigate them.

Finally, reports outline the next steps to be taken.

Why are progress reports important for the project team?

Let’s be honest: most people hate writing progress reports.

However, reflecting on and documenting the progress of a project is essential for its successful delivery and enables organizations to learn and develop good practices for future projects.

Tracks project status and milestones

The main purpose of progress reports is to track project status and the milestones reached.

This is important for a number of reasons.

First, it allows you to objectively assess the effectiveness of your efforts.

Second, detailed reports help keep all team members on the same page, onboard new ones and facilitate handovers in case you decide to move on.

Moreover, they keep the key stakeholders informed so that they have realistic expectations as to when the project is going to be completed or how much it’s going to cost.

Finally, progress reports allow the senior leadership to make informed decisions as to whether to continue the project or pull the plug and divert the resources to another initiative.

This often happens when the project is unlikely to deliver on its goals within the planned timeframe or budget.

Identifies roadblocks that affect expected completion

Progress reports help team members to reflect on the roadblocks they encounter and identify opportunities to overcome them.

For example, if the tool stack is insufficient or the team lacks adequate expertise to complete their tasks, they may require additional resources to address the issue.

Sometimes a particularly difficult stakeholder, like a regulator, could be the roadblock and the team needs to work out how to bring them on their side to allow smooth project progress.

Aids in future planning of projects

Progress reports are also excellent learning opportunities.

Reflecting on what went well and the challenges you’ve encountered is essential to improve your processes at the subsequent stages of the project.

When the project starts, there’s often not enough information to make accurate predictions or estimates. However, as the project progresses and new data becomes available, your re-estimates are going to be more realistic.

By recording the lessons learned and sharing them across the organization, you help future project managers to deliver their projects successfully.

When to create a report for sharing project progress?

In waterfall project management, project managers report on their progress at the end of each of the key stages, like initiation, planning, or execution.

If the objectives are delivered in tranches or increments, there could also be a review at the end of each delivery.

This is how Agile teams work. For example, in Scrum, you’d have a retrospective at the end of the spring, normally every couple of weeks, when the product owner reports on the outputs.

Scrum teams also have daily stand-ups during which they report on what they’ve done, what they’re going to work on, and the roadblocks they’ve hit.

Ultimately, how frequently you have to provide progress reports depends on the organization and its culture. For example, for long projects, you may need to report on annual progress in Q4.

Finally, it’s common practice for all organizations to have a post-mortem review at the end of the project to reflect on the outcomes and identify lessons for the future.

Progress reports: project milestone examples. Source: Kissflow
Project milestone examples. Source: Kissflow.

How can a project manager develop a progress report?

Let’s have a quick look at the steps needed to write a progress report.

1. Define the report goals

Start writing the report by clarifying its purpose. Is it to report on achieving a major milestone or perhaps a monthly report to review the progress made since the previous report? Make this clear to your readers.

It’s also a good practice to provide some context about the project. Always provide a recap of the project goals, the milestones already reached, and the timelines. Make this brief and point your readers to your project charter, where they can find the details.

2. Decide which team members to be involved

Sometimes there are more competent team members to create a progress report or share its findings than the project manager. Even if they oversee the process, they often require insights from colleagues with specialist knowledge.

For example, if the project is going through a stage when you’re working on technical deliverables, you may require help from a member of the engineering team. If you’ve just launched a major marketing campaign, the marketing team leader may be a better person to deliver the update.

A word of warning though: while it’s perfectly fine to delegate parts of the report or lean into others’ expertise, don’t develop the habit of dumping unpleasant work on your colleagues. Ultimately, it’s the project manager’s responsibility.

3. Collect information to include in the progress reports

What information should you include in the report?

This is normally information on:

  • Tasks completed since the last review
  • Issues and risks you’ve identified
  • Reviewed project budget and schedule
  • Planned action for the next stage
  • Extra resources that are needed to carry on

The details of what you include in the report and how you gather the data will vary from project to project.

For example, if you’re writing a report on the results of a beta test, you can include customer feedback and use a product analytics tool like Userpilot to see how users are behaving in-app.

Progress reports: product analytics in Userpilot
Progress reports: product analytics in Userpilot.

4. Create the report and share project updates

Once you have the data, you write the report.

If it’s the first one you’re writing, check if your organization uses any specific template as this can save you a fair bit of time. Alternatively, create your own template that reflects the aims of the project or simply look for one on the internet and adapt it to your needs.

If there are multiple people contributing to the report, use a cloud storage solution with version control to avoid duplicating work and ensure that everybody is working with the latest version of the report.

Progress report template. Source: LogRocket.
Progress report template. Source: LogRocket.

5. Identify changes in the project plan

One of the sections in the report is likely to deal with planned actions and recommendations for the future.

This may include a review of the project schedule or budget.

For instance, if you’re running over the budget and behind schedule or the scope of the project has changed since its initiation, you will have to reestimate the duration or cost.

6. Develop an actionable plan for future reference

Once you’ve reviewed the progress and analyzed the new information that has become available since the last review, use the insights to plan what you need to do next.

The plan should include a list of the objectives for the new review period, specific tasks needed to achieve them, deadlines, and the team members responsible.

Finally, recommend the next review date if that’s within your remit.

Best practices to follow when writing progress reports

Now that we have the basics covered let’s look at a few tips on how to write effective progress reports and potentially save you time and effort.

Analyze previous progress reports for improvements

Start writing your next report by reviewing the previous ones. See if you can spot any areas for improvement.

It’s also a good idea to collect feedback from the team members involved and stakeholders. In this way, you will be able to tailor the reports to their needs and expectations.

Use simple language to aid understanding for each team member

Product and project managers work with internal and external stakeholders from multiple backgrounds.

To communicate the findings of your report, use language that’s easy to understand for all of them, regardless of their expertise in the field.


For starters, avoid jargon and technical language. Try to explain complex concepts as if you were talking to a high school student.

This is sometimes easier said than done, so use tools to help you. For example, you can use the Hemmingway editor to assess the readability of your text and then an AI writing assistant to adjust it to make it easier to understand.

Finally, try to put yourself in the shoes of your target audience. If you’re writing for senior leadership, appeal to things that matter to them the most, like business goals.

Quantify progress wherever possible

Instead of relying on generalizations, use data to back up your conclusions whenever it’s possible. This will make your report more reliable and trustworthy.

If you’re in the SaaS space, this shouldn’t be an issue because the majority of user interactions with the product happen in the digital space, so it’s very easy to track and analyze them.

Just get the right analytics tool, and you will be able to track literally every user click, scroll, hover, or tap.

Use visual aids to show progress

Data can be really daunting and hard to understand, so make it more accessible for your readers by incorporating visuals.

Using graphs and charts to illustrate progress, trends, or comparisons is going to make the data not only easier to understand but also more memorable – even if someone doesn’t remember the exact figures, they’re likely to remember the overall trend.

Product analytics tools offer visualization features, so this shouldn’t be a problem, but if yours doesn’t, export the data to a spreadsheet and create the visuals there.

Automate the process for creating the progress report

Apart from automatically generating visuals, there are also other ways to automate the process of creating progress reports.

With project management tools, like Asana or Jira, you can set up automatic status updates and generate automatic reports at regular intervals.

Most of them offer integrations with storage and communication tools, like Dropbox or Slack, so you can easily collaborate with your teammates and collect the necessary information.

Finally, remember to use templates not to replicate the work every time you write a report.

Asana reports
Asana reports.


There are two ways to think about the reports.

You can view them as an unnecessary nuisance that only adds to your workload and is a source of constant frustrations.

Alternatively, you can treat them as an opportunity to reflect on and improve your processes for more effective project delivery.

If you’re in the latter camp and would like to learn how Userpilot can help you prepare data-driven progress reports that resonate with your stakeholders, book the demo!

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