Project reporting is important in software development. Among all the reports that we write, a software engineering report takes a special place. Here, you can read about what a software project report is, the benefits of reporting and risks that arise if reports are not written, and how to write a report correctly.
What Is Software Engineering Report and Why Does It Take a Special Place among Other Reporting Documents?
A software engineering report is a document that communicates the implementation of design ideas to stakeholders. It is made to communicate the results of work and to outline the plan for future tasks.
At Mad Devs, we write a software engineering project report every month to:
- Explain the business value delivered by us during a one-month period;
- Show why the implementation of a specific feature or fixing of a specific bug was needed for the business, what value it brings, what issues it solves;
- Finally, a software engineering project report is an artefact that can be shown to investors to prove that a specific amount of work was performed.
On this software project report sample, we can clearly see that our software engineering project reports include:
- A short summary of all works completed during a given month;
- A detailed description of tasks completed and value that they bring for the business;
- A short overview of less important tasks performed:
- Plans for the next month.
If there are changes in the team, we mention them in the section Team's Updates & Changes.
How to Write a Software Engineering Project Report: Do's and Don'ts
The content and the structure of a software engineering project report might differ depending on the project. That's why it is impossible to provide some universal tips on the report's structure and content. However, there are common rules of what one shall do and what is better to avoid when writing a report.
At Mad Devs, we follow the mentioned rules strictly to make sure that our customers understand the reports we provide and that our reports comply with the widely accepted norms.
When we are preparing a report, we make sure it complies with the following requirements:
- Consistency, clarity, and correctness are vital to the report. No ambiguity or inconsistencies are permitted. The report is prepared not only for internal use by the company employees but is also aimed at the customer. Every person who reads it shall understand clearly what is reported on, what was done before, and what is planned to do further.
- The report shall be self-contained. It means that the client doesn't need other materials to understand it. So, make sure your report provides all the information and has all the data to be understood completely.
- The report is created with the participation of all team members. All the report aspects shall be clear to all team members and elaborated by them. Then, your report will include all the aspects of the work done.
- The report shall look as if it were written by one person even if all team members contribute to it (the same style, language, consistent terminology, etc.) A report that looks like it was made from different documents doesn't make a positive impression even if it contains all the required information.
- The professional appearance of the report is important. It shall be neat and easy to read. Therefore, it is always better to follow a standard format of report writing. Do not forget to include the title page, table of contents, and the main parts of the document.
- The choice of language is important. If the report is intended for a business audience, the language should not be technical. Instead, simplicity is the key here. The reason is that reports might be read by people who are far from being tech-savvy. They shall understand everything in the report. Only if they do so can your report be considered well-written.
In our software engineering project reports, we make sure to avoid the following mistakes:
- We don't add too technical details such as code or other details that might be not clear to a business. We know that for a business, these details aren't important. Our clients are interested in what the product or feature brings, not how it was built.
- We understand that a long document without any visuals is perceived as depressing. That's why we don't write just text without any images, graphs, screenshots, and other illustrative content.
- Slang is not for official documents. Firstly, a report containing slang doesn't look professional. Secondly, words used internally aren't necessarily familiar to anybody. The main aim of a report is to provide information, not to confuse the reader. That's why we never use slang or jargon in the official documentation.
- We never use specific expressions or terms used inside of the team only. Such details are familiar to a limited circle of people, and we want to make a report clear to a business.
- Jokes are not accepted in a report. Everything is good in its place. While we like jokes and often use them in communication within the team, we distinguish between business communication and communication with colleagues.
- Building trust is not only about talking about positive things but also about not hiding the issues that arise during every project. That's why we don't avoid mentioning issues and failures. If there are problems, it is ok to include a postmortem to analyze the failure reasons and solutions.
- We write reports not only for the sake of submitting them. For us, it is important not to just get rid of the task but to make sure the customer knows about the progress and understands exactly what work was performed. That's why, once the report is written and delivered, we follow it up by presenting it during a call with a customer. This procedure also ensures that the customer understands everything that we are doing.
- We don't delay reporting. We set specific deadlines to provide a report and follow them strictly. Reporting is one of our priorities when creating project documentation.
- We submit a report before sending an invoice for the job. A report explains what the customer has to pay for: what job was done, how much time was spent on it, what aims were achieved, and how they align with the plan. Therefore, the report shall be sent first. Only then, an invoice shall follow.
- We never accuse people and never mention their failures. In a report, we talk about problems, not people. We believe that one person's failure is the failure of the team, and the problem shall be solved jointly.
- Do not skip the table of contents or introduction. Before people move to the report body, they shall get an idea of what the report is about. Finally, these components ensure faster and easier navigation through the document.
- We do not add links to resources that might be unavailable to somebody from the report recipients. Moreover, we do not refer to such resources if they contain information needed to understand the report. Yeah, imagine yourself trying to open a resource with limited access. It would be at least frustrating.
What Happens if No Reports Are Provided?
You can imagine a customer asking about an update constantly because he doesn't know how the project is moving on? It sounds weird, doesn't it?
Well, this is exactly what happens if reports are not made. Ok, there is no need to report on every step. A report shall clearly show:
- What was planned to do within a specific period;
- What was done and what is not done;
- What is the action plan to handle the things that were skipped;
- What is planned to do during the next period.
For a project manager, it is a way to systemize the job done, assess it, and see:
- Schedule progress against the plan: how much was done? Is the team managing to complete the tasks as planned?
- Current scope versus plan: has the project scope changed since the project began? If yes, how shall the tasks and roles be changed?
- A risk overview: are there any specific risks to be managed (inaccurate estimations, not meeting stakeholders’ expectations, poor productivity, etc.)?
Without a report, it is impossible to reply to these questions. If a project manager cannot reply to these questions, it means that the entire process is out of control. A report is also an opportunity to assess the job done and to share it with a customer.
So, writing reports is crucial for all the involved participants: customers, team members, and managers. Reports help to provide an overview of things done, compare them against the original plan, and keep the process under control. Reporting increases the project’s visibility in all aspects and enables a manager to control the team performance and the quality of their work. And for customers to stay in a closed loop of tracking projects’ progress and state.