How we write weekly reports for customers

    Hello, Habr!

    Recently launched a new feature - weekly reports for customers. The bottom line is this: the project manager every Monday draws up a report letter that describes the current situation of the project. And sends to the client. The peculiarity is that for the report we came up with a special form. Now I will tell in order.

    So, the structure of the letter. The first two lines are the most important for the client. The first is the current state of the project, the answer to the global question “Is everything all right?” The second is the forecast: “Will everything be okay?”

    Next to each line we put a colored asterisk. Green - no problems, yellow - there are problems, red - the problems are critical.

    Thus, it is enough for the client to look at two stars at the beginning of the letter (without reading anything) and in half a second to understand how things are going on the project. For example, the combination means "now everything is fine on the project, but it may become worse in the future." And then comes a detailed structured report (with explanations why it might get worse).

    Details are given in the following order:

    • Dates, budget, release dates (project and individual stages), plans.
    • Then problems, ideas, risks, questions to the client follow.
    • After we note the "informative" moments that may be useful to the client. For example, the launch of a competitor service.

    How did you come to this?

    The client’s need to monitor the status of the project has always been present. At first, we also sent reports, text, in a "free" form. Then we came to the conclusion that we ourselves would like to weekly monitor the status of the project according to some indicators (important for us). They wrote this list:

    Then they tried to give all this “visuality”, to simplify the perception. They made a form with tinted areas (where green is everything is good, where red is critical problems that need urgent resolution). The table itself became wildly incomprehensible, but we liked the idea of ​​flowers.

    So there was a report with color pictograms.

    For the uniformity of the reports, specific requirements were presented to them: the

    Report should be “read” the first time:
    • The “pyramidal" structure of the report: first, the main thing, then the detail.
    • Active use of pictograms and color codes.
    • No attachments! Only the letter itself! (Sometimes they just don’t pay attention to applications)

    Differentiation of indicators in the report into groups:
    • Primary (this includes the first two lines (status and forecast), release dates of the project and the current stage, budget, important moments for the client).
    • Minor (plans, emerging problems, ideas, risks, and clarifying questions for the client).

    The presence of a summary part, which includes:
    • Feedback.
    • Information about events that may affect the client’s business.

    In the same report, we not only indicate the problems that have arisen (or may arise), but also suggest possible solutions. The client needs to respond to the letter.

    Why do I need a weekly report?

    He pursues several goals - both very obvious and not very.

    Firstly, it  provides transparency of the development process. The goal is strategic. This is convenient for the customer (business owner), and for his representative, formally "responsible" for the use of the budget. When you have the whole history of the work process on hand, it’s easier to report on it.

    Secondly, this report manages customer expectations. The report contains not only the current statuses of the project, but also realistic forecasts. And they form adequate expectations and reduce the risk that one day there will be a conflict of interest.

    Thirdly, the report notifies the customer of problems,possible changes and risks. A report is written at the beginning of each week, which means that the customer has time to make a decision on the problem, and we have to quickly fix it.

    Fourth, the report allows you to get feedback from the client. When the customer actively and regularly participates in the life of the project, it is more likely that the finished product will “fall into expectations”.

    Fifth, the report is an “ass-cover paper”. We intentionally write reports without any reference to specific people whose fault something went wrong (even if really the problems on the project arose through their fault). Only current problems, possible problems (in the forecast) and probable solutions to these problems. Thus, the manager representing the customer has a document on hand that can always be referred to in case of a conflict and explained to the customer himself that the problem arose for these specific reasons.

    By the way, there is such an imperceptible, but super-useful human quality, as "the ability to report problems." Not so long ago I even conducted a survey on this topic among my colleagues. If a manager is working with you on the client’s side and is prone to putting off problems for later, then a report is not the worst way to deprive him of such a privilege.

    We denote the problem, offer solutions, the responsible person on the customer side responds to the report, the problem is eliminated. The whole process is documented, so in which case the report protects both us and the client’s representative.

    So what we have:

    What: Report on the current and future status of the project.
    Who writes: Project Manager.
    How often: Every Monday morning.
    To whom it sends: To the email of the customer manager + copy to my mail.

    Of course, there were some problems. The main difficulty lies in the total dislike of people to write reports. Here's what you have to deal with:

    • Project managers will constantly put off such a routine task for later.
    • We’ll have to teach not only our own, but also the client’s managers - to read reports in a timely manner and respond to them.

    If you are personally ready to motivate everything “forgetting” about the managers' reports, then you can try to introduce this in your own. But I would not recommend to small companies.

    I ask you to express your opinion on such reports. How much, in your opinion, are they useful / harmful for the general process and why.

    Only registered users can participate in the survey. Please come in.

    How useful are these reports?

    • 86.5% Yes, a useful thing. 628
    • 13.4% No, this is superfluous. 98

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