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Progress reporting 101: how to review your projects in 5 steps

Projects tend to take on a life of their own—twisting and turning with each new development, milestone, and lesson. 

But as you collaborate with more stakeholders and journey further into the heart of a project, the details can become overwhelming, and you may begin to lose sight of where you’ve been and where you need to go. This is where progress reports have a vital role to play.

Last updated

1 Mar 2023

Reading time

7 min


This guide teaches you what a progress report is, and when and how to create one, so you can update stakeholders, solve problems, plan your next steps, and learn from past projects.

Add insights to your progress reporting

Use Hotjar to understand how customers interact with your website and product to add detail and direction to your progress report.

What is progress reporting?

Progress reporting is an ongoing study into the development of a project, usually for the team members involved. It focuses on events and tactical details, like progress drivers and anticipated roadblocks, to assess what your project has achieved and where you’ll take it next. 

For example, imagine a design manager creating a progress report for a homepage redesign project. They’ll use the progress report document to share insights from the product management team and summarize recent discussions to give everyone the same context moving forward.

A status report is another performance reporting type that the design manager could use, but it isn’t interchangeable with a progress report. While a progress report is an ongoing study of the project for the team, a status report is a snapshot of current progress for stakeholders. For example, while the homepage redesign progress report contains hands-on details for the design team, a status report for this project would tell the C-suite that the team completed its first two milestones ahead of schedule. 

Progress reporting is vital for project management because it consolidates information and identifies the next steps. The benefits of progress reporting include:

When to create a progress report

If progress reporting is an ongoing look at your project, when and how often should you create a progress document? There are two options. 

Create a progress report at regular intervals

Regular progress reporting—like weekly for shorter projects or monthly for more significant initiatives—helps when you have many stakeholders or the project moves quickly. For example, cross-functional collaboration benefits from a regular recap and check-in since not every person will be in every meeting or work session. 

Create a progress report after milestones

Alternatively, projects with smaller teams benefit from progress reporting after milestones rather than on a consistent cadence. For example, a one-person social media team would check in with their marketing manager as they complete phases of a new campaign or feature launch.

How to create a progress report in 5 simple steps

While progress reporting benefits a wide range of roles and projects, the basic structure is always the same. Here’s a 5-step progress report template to follow. 

Step 1: clarify goals and timeline

First, you need to briefly explain the project to give context to the rest of the report. Clarifying project goals and timelines brings priorities to the surface to make it easier for stakeholders reading the report to catch up.

Details to include:

  • Project summary: a brief overview of the project

  • Product objective: your immediate product goals and the long-term initiative they support. Think of these as objectives and key results (OKRs).

  • Milestones: the main tasks you've already completed or still need to complete for a high-level understanding of the project scope

  • Timeline: the progress you've made in the project’s reporting period

To illustrate the first step in progress reporting, let’s use the homepage redesign example from earlier. The design manager leading the project says their team is updating the website’s homepage to reflect rebranding and increase engagement. Then, the manager lists the major milestones, including wireframing, prototyping, and testing over a 3-month period, which they’re halfway through. 

Step 2: consider stakeholders

Reading a progress report that has nothing to do with you is confusing at best and boring at worst—so be sure to tailor your document to its audience. 

Determining who’s going to see and use the report influences what details you need to include. For example, a C-suite leader cares more about customer activation progress than a debate over whether the homepage banner should be cerulean or cyan. 

Details to include:

  • Project owner: who’s in charge of the project

  • Team: who’s on the team, and their role in the project

  • Report prepared for: who will read the report and if they had a particular motivation, question, or concern

  • Definitions: stakeholders might not know certain cross-functional terms. For example, your graphic designers probably haven’t reviewed a Google Analytics glossary in a while.

In our example homepage redesign project, the design team needs effective cross-functional collaboration. Throughout the project, they’ll work with the product team to test design effectiveness and with the marketing team to create copy and imagery for their target audience. Since the design manager knows this, the progress report needs to have insights across groups and summarize discussions different functions may miss. 

All together now! 👯

Effective collaboration and communication can make or break a project, whether you work with one other person or five other functions. Asynchronous communication in a shared document for project updates or new ideas is a must. Here at Hotjar, we’ve also established rules for what gets a meeting.

Every meeting requires an owner (usually the organizer) whose duties include the following:

  • Establishing a clear objective and agenda: what’s the purpose of the call, who’s attending, and why?

  • Listing relevant data and required reading so all participants can prepare

  • Documenting the meeting’s output and actions to share with the team on an agreed-upon channel (e.g. email, Trello, Discourse).

Learn more about our strategies and tools for better collaboration.

Step 3: share recent updates 

Progress reporting is an ongoing process, so you need to reference developments about questions or concerns stakeholders brought up in the previous report. If this is your first progress report, compare progress to any assumptions you had. 

Details to include:

  • Problem resolutions: any prior issues you resolved and how you did it

  • Answers to questions: queries from previous progress reports that need to be addressed

  • New insights: an overview of new data, metrics, priorities, or lessons that impact the project

  • Testing results: results and learnings from A/B tests or customer interviews 

For example, the design manager would include a screenshot of their data dashboard to provide a summary of how the first prototype of the homepage redesign performs. The progress report would also have notes from a cross-functional meeting that answered a previous question about the customer journey.

Hotjar’s Dashboard presents key sessions and user behavior data in charts and graphs so you don’t have to switch between multiple analytics sources

Step 4: identify drivers and blockers

Your progress report is the place to consolidate all your important Slack messages, meeting outcomes, and personal notes as you work through the project. 

Documenting what’s helping and hindering the project gets everyone on the same page, helps you prioritize the next steps, and creates a record you can learn from and reference in the future. 

Details to include:

  • Product experience (PX) insights: data that reveals how customers interact with your product or website to understand the project’s impact

  • Delays: anything that slows the project down

  • Questions: team questions or unknowns

  • Progress drivers: details that positively impact the project (so you know what to do more of next time!)

  • Upcoming events and milestones: what you’ll work on next

Let’s go back to our homepage redesign project. In this step, the design manager reminds the team they’ll be out on vacation next week and that there’s an upcoming meeting of designers, product managers, and marketing folks to watch customer recordings together. The meeting’s goal is to get new perspectives on the response to the new page design, and the team needs to document the results to include in the next progress report.

Bring your progress reports to life with product experience insights

PX insights help you break out of your team silo and get an outside perspective from the people you’re trying to help—your customers. 

Hotjar (hi, that’s us! 👋) is a product experience insights platform that adds data-informed decision-making to your progress report. Hotjar gives you:

  • Heatmaps (free forever) to uncover where website visitors pay the most attention

  • Recordings to see exactly how customers interact with your product

  • Surveys to learn what customers love and hate about your product

  • Feedback to get real-time thoughts on your design

  • Interviews to hear how customers describe their goals and preferences

  • Funnels to learn where and why customers drop off

Plus, adding context to your progress report with PX insights increases stakeholder buy-in with tangible results, gets new team members up to speed, and creates a knowledge base of your efforts to reference in the future.

Hotjar's tools give you a new perspective on your customers’ experiences

Step 5: list the next steps

Your progress report becomes actionable when you summarize what you’ve learned and create an action plan. 

As you create subsequent progress reports for a project, you can assess whether the tasks you'd initially set out to do were indeed the ones that took up your time. This information lets you rework future planning or rein in a project that’s straying off course. 

Details to include:

  • Tasks: deliverables needed, timeframes, and who’s responsible for what

  • Follow-ups: meetings to schedule or stakeholders to loop in

For example, with the progress report, the design team recognizes the need to follow up with the marketing team for the homepage’s new copy. They also need to review comments the website development team left on the first version of their homepage wireframe.

If you’re only ever focused on implementation, you’ll waste time and budget on tactics without knowing if they actually delivered growth or not. You should be constantly evaluating performance data, both qualitative and quantitative, to inform your efforts. Then, by packaging this data up in monthly, quarterly, or annual performance insights, you can use the reports to increase your organizational impact.

Sean Potter
Senior Content and SEO Strategist at Hotjar

Use customer insights to support your progress reports

Progress reporting supports projects by clarifying what has happened and what will happen. But you need the right insights to understand project progress and decide what to do next. 

As much as confident teammates and company veterans may think they know what’s best, you need to learn from customers to create for customers. When you prioritize customer empathy and curiosity, you create an accurate and impactful progress report.

Rather than relying on assumptions or guesses, teams need to use customer and PX insights—information that helps you test and correct as you work through a project. This customer-driven data helps you focus on what matters and get results, preventing you from going too far down a path to nowhere.

Add insights to your progress reporting

Use Hotjar to understand how customers interact with your website and product to add detail and direction to your progress report.

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