Presenting Project Progress To Management Effectively

Project managers dread presenting project progress to management, and for good reason. It’s hard to give a simple overview of something so complex! How do you present project progress to management? Follow these simple guidelines, and you can turn the dreaded project progress report into a showcase of your success.

Nerve-wracking? Yes. A chance to show your success? Yes!

Know Your Audience

You aren’t talking to the team. You’re not talking to your peers. You’re speaking with management. They have limited time, they look at things from the big picture view, and they want a concise project progress report.  Build your presentation around the big picture. Focus on the data. Be clear, concise, and stay on topic. Your goal here is to present what is relevant, clearly, as simply and accurately as possible.

Present your progress by milestones. “Our next milestone is vendor selection. We are about 60% of the way there. We have our list of possibilities, and we are gathering quotes and analyzing logistics for each one. By Wednesday next week, a vendor will be chosen and a contract prepared.” Now management has a clear picture of where the project is holding – that’s current project progress. They know what the next milestone is, and when to expect it – that’s future progress.

Management tastes skew to the minimalist. Extraneous detail only creates noise for them. By avoiding the unnecessary details, you are actually giving management a better picture of their needs than had you tried to be more detailed. Like a master minimalist artist, you want to maximize your use of empty space in painting your picture. 

wolf in the night
What is missing is what lets you see what is there. Management likes this kind of view.

Use Data And Numbers

Management thinks in data. Whatever your update is, they’ll want to know what it’s based on. Have a source. When possible, use numbers. You can measure project progress in percentages, for example. Saying “we are 60% of the way there” is more data-centered than “we are more than halfway there.” “Our project team is managing tasks at 95% capacity, with the remaining 5% lost to sick time and vacation days.”

Not all data comes in numbers. “Three of our project teams are operating ahead of schedule.” “The recent customer survey shows our customer success team is building trust with users.” Data speaks volumes to management. Use it wherever possible.

Present Project Progress Visually

A picture is worth a thousand words. This is true for project reports, too. Use visuals in your presentation. This is also a form of “negative space” for your artwork. Instead of explaining something, you can simply show it.

This is part of why project progress meetings are so stressful! The visual project managers often use is a Gantt chart, and getting it updated alone is a monumental undertaking. It doesn’t really work, either. The Gantt chart is a bad visual for project progress reporting because it’s a bad visual, period. Don’t use a Gantt chart here. At best, its ineffectual. At worst, it will violate “Know Your Audience” and “Use Data and Numbers.” And it will make your project progress report a disaster.

If your project management software provides visual data, use that. Far better to show the dashboard data from your project management software than a convoluted bar chart schedule of  every task in the project. That’s too much of the wrong data for management to look at. Pro Tip: Like you, management hates Gantt charts.

If you’re using the right project management software, you’ll have a dedicated visual for project progress reports to management. It will look something like this:

proggio project portfolio view

The Project Portfolio view in Proggio shows every project, presented by milestone. Clicking on a project will bring you to the project plan, with even more data available. Management can see the project structure, each task’s progress, and more. In one clear visual, management can see the milestones laid out for every project. With one click, management can see every project plan presented elegantly. The best part? This portfolio view updates automatically. You don’t need to create a visual presentation for management. It’s already there, waiting for your chance to show your success.