Business Analyst Status Reports – Always a Good Idea!

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One of the administrative tasks that so many people seem to hate to do is writing a status report.  A status report is a short, informative report that states the status of a project.  I’ve spoken to numerous people about writing status reports, and almost universally the reaction is “ ‘heavy sigh’ Do I really gotta do one?”

The answer is always yes….you need to send a status report.  This is a critical piece of communication with your client or stakeholder that must always occur.  The primary reason for a status report is to set expectations.  No one likes surprises, and status reports can help a business analyst communicate and document issues.  Of course, status reports are not the only means of communication, but they are important.

The overall process for a status report is simple:

  • Decide who needs to receive them
  • Do them every week
  • No really, do them every week

It’s that simple. Do plan on a status report taking about 60 minutes to prepare, write and proof-read.  Don’t forget about the proof-reading part…it helps ensure that you have included everything necessary and that you are communicating clearly.

The contents of the status report are also simple:

  • Quick Summary of Status.  This should be a short description of the overall status of the effort.  Consider it an introduction to the report.
  • Budget and Work Status.  Document how many hours are left to finish all known work.  If you need to keep track of how much money is left on the project, document that as well.  Including a burndown report of both the budget and the work is very useful.
  • Task Status.  This is the nuts and bolts of the report.  The focus should be on deliverables, not activities, and should include:
    • What was committed to do last week
    • What each person accomplished
    • What was not completed, but committed to do
    • Plan for next week
  • Risks and Assumptions
    • Risks would be anything that will stop you from getting to the goal.
    • Assumptions would be any prediction of the future, dependencies on other groups, and rationale used to generate the work burndown report.
  • Metrics of Progress.  Your work burndown report may be enough, but sometimes it is also beneficial to include additional metrics in your reports.  Examples include the number of features that are documented and complete, the number of features expected to be completed, comparison of past estimates against actual, etc.

And that would complete your report!  Here are some additional tips that you may also find useful:

  • Keep it informal
  • Send in an email and not as an attachment
  • Make it fun to read!

I also find it useful to reuse my status report from the past week.  It helps remind me what was communicated the previous week, and it has the format set up.

Remember, status reports are an important communication tool….be sure to use this tool, use it often and use it consistently!

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