Well-designed reports contain large amounts of useful information in a time series, making them a valuable data repository. And if the report covers the right questions, the process of gathering the information can generate valuable insights for the project team to act upon.
That information also allows stakeholders to extract trends and status.
And if you deliver them in person or attach a note to highlight specific issues or messages, reports can form the basis of a targeted, purposeful communication.
Some people simply like getting reports--and dropping those people off your distribution list make them more upset than you realize. This also applies to cutting content. As a rule of thumb, by the third month it's probably too late to remove sections or drop recipients without encountering some issues.
Another benefit of reports is only starting to be recognized. Jon Whitty of the University of Southern Queensland here in Australia has been measuring the emotional effect of project artifacts. Based on Jon's work it seems a well-formatted report will in itself increase positive emotions.
The project manager feels comfortable because she or he has a "proper report'' that is part of the "clothing'' every project manager wears along with their Gantt charts and other expected artifacts. And senior managers experience positive emotions because the existence of a well-presented report suggests control, order and capability.
The challenge is to design reports that are relatively easy to produce, ask the right questions, are well-structured and well-formatted, and contain needed data.
What are your experiences with reports?