Best Practice Project on a Page Template

An eye catching summary status report can transform your project

This may be obvious but it’s worth saying if only because it’s so obvious that it’s easily forgotten when you are busy… Simple, clear, concise project status reporting can transform the success of your project and the way your are perceived by key stakeholders.  Over the years I’ve attended many project management workshops and training sessions and they nearly all focus on the technical aspects of managing and budgeting within large projects. If reporting and communications is considered at all they tend to assume that all your stake holders are equally engaged and skilled at reading summary reports.

Senior management seldom have the time to read through a 30 page progress report, what they want is a Summary on a Page (SOAP). In this blog I will share with you a “Summary on a Page” template that I’ve now used on numerous projects with great success.

The Project on a Page Template

You can use this project on a page template as it comes but I suggest instead that you or someone in your companies marketing department adapts the colour scheme, fonts, branding etc to match your companies house style or style guide for best results.

Project Summary on a Page Template

 

Let me talk you through this simple one page summary report step by step:

  1. You need to decide on your reporting period. I’d recommend the project manager produces a summary report on Friday after having walked around all the key players to ensure that report is as up to date and as accurate as possible. Doing this on a Friday lets you be clear about what’s been done that week and more importantly be precise about what must happen next week to keep the project on track.
  2. The Management Summary box should be used to give a very brief commentary on where the project is – certainly no more than 100 words. You should leave the bullet points to do most of the talking. Focus on what has been done and then what needs to happen next week, only picking on the 2 or 3 key things that need to be in the management summary. Remember that in a summary “Less is more”.
  3. Key Issues or Key Risks: As a project manager you should be maintaining a risk register.  One the summary report you need to use your skills to pull out the 3 to 5 key risks items that you want to communicate.  Feel free to include the full risk register as an appendix for anyone who wants all the details.
  4. Actions this week: You’ll no doubt have a long action list or work break down from your project plan.  In your summary report pick out 3 to 5 high impact actions that you want to communicate. Technically if you have items on a critical path these really should be on the management one page summary. I always include the full action log / register as an appendix (see below).
  5. Key Milestones: Pull out of your project plan all the key milestones. At a summary level just use simple RAG Reporting (Red=Bad/Trouble, Amber=Slipping/Needs attention, Green=On Track). This lets the summary report focus on the out come or delivery rather than how you get there in detail.
  6. Summary Gantt Chart: I like to include a very high-level timeline or gantt chart just pulling out the key milestones / activities.  You can show plan and actual on here.

Don’t feel constrained by how I’ve used the space in my template.  I’ll routinely rework this from project to project depending on what is most appropriate. In this template I don’t for example have a summary box for Budget but reporting if actual or committed spend is on track is often a requirement on larger projects.

As a project manager I find that focusing on clear concise reporting actually helps me manage the project and find the time taken to produce these reports to be time well spent actually managing the project better. Use the report as a working document, try not to have separate documents so your are not wasting time duplicating content.

Project Action Log TemplateAbove is a simple Project Action Log template that I’ll normally include as an appendix to the summary report for anyone who wants to see the detail. The action log is the detailed list of all the work that needs to happen on the plan and any follow up actions that are identified during project review meetings.

Project Issue List Template

This is the issue list template that I typically use.  The key is to make sure that every issue has a clear owner and a priority (RAG status). You will normally also want a column for the agreed completion date.

TIP: Don’t have a group of people or a department as the owner on issues – make sure it’s a named person with ownership and responsibility for seeing that the issue is resolved to the agreed schedule.

Summary Report on a page template – click here to download

Good luck using the template. I’d love to hear your feedback and suggestions for improvements. I plan to update this template from time to time as a I receive feedback.


A template for meeting minutes & agenda for recurring meetings

IT professionals often have to run meetings and this will involve issuing an agenda and recording actions that have been agreed in a set of minutes.  For one of meetings the agenda and the minutes will usually be separate documents.  For recurring meetings, for example a monthly help desk review or product review meeting it is more efficient to combine the agenda and the minutes into one simple document.

Integrated meeting minutes and agenda template.

Integrated meeting minutes and agenda template.

This is what I consider to be a best practice integrated agenda / minutes template for most small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs).  You can download a word version of this integrated minutes & agenda template by clicking here.

The key points in the template are:

1. The header should include your company branding / product logo etc.  To the right of this include the description and date of the meeting.

2. If your company operates over multiple sites then you should record the location of the meeting.

3. Include a list of the people who attended the previous meeting and those who sent their apologies for not attending.

4. The agenda should be broken down into the major sections / topics for your meeting.  Under these headings you should then include the individual discussion points and any follow-up actions (tasks/ work) that were agreed.  Every action must be assigned to a person and there should be a target delivery date.  Don’t fall into the trap of having everyone at the meeting agree that something is a good idea but not agreeing who should do it and when.  If that happens then it’s valid to record it as an action to be carried forward to the next meeting for further discussion.

5. The last items on the agenda should always be AOB (Any other business).  This is where people can raise things that were not on the agenda.

6. Under the minutes it’s then good to at the end of the meeting agree the date and time of the next meeting.  When the minutes are sent you should include at the bottom the confirmed date and time of the next meeting and details of where it will be held.

7. I also recommend including a note that people should table any items for the agenda to the chair no later than 14 days (for example) before the meeting so that the final minutes / agenda can be sent out for the next meeting.

If you are responsible for producing the minutes / agenda it is essential that you retain copies of these for at least a couple of years.  Depending on the project and size of your company it’s not unusual for auditors to want to see that projects and meetings are being run properly.  Your minutes may need to be produced as evidence that a good process has been followed.  Just because your auditors didn’t ask to see any meeting minutes last year don’t assume they won’t in the future – be prepared.

Good luck with this, it’s worked well for me over a number of years.  If you have any questions or suggestions for improving this template do please get in touch by leaving a comment below.  I’d love to get some good suggestions so that I can create an even better version of this document template to share with you.