Document outline Project Report for project name Date Pagination Version no. Introduction At the end of a project or piece of work there is generally a requirement to provide the client with a detailed account of what happened, how it happened and with what results. More often than not this comes in the form of a formal written report, but that doesn’t have to be the case. It may be preferable to provide the same information via a PowerPoint presentation, or maybe a facilitated workshop. The very best time to establish what the client will want is at the beginning of the project – in the Entry phase when scoping the requirements. This guide concentrates on the written report and although the client may not know what s/he wants in precise detail it is useful to get a steer in terms of length, content and style so that their expectations can be managed. The template below illustrates the style of a generic report and its main headings. Further headings are suggested in annex 1. Based on the client’s steer the report is an opportunity for the consultant to deliver the right piece of work at the right time. It is an opportunity to ‘sell yourself’, sell your ideas and your company in a professional and convincing manner. If all goes well, then there is a good chance that you could win more business and that your good reputation is passed on to other potential clients. If things don’t go too well then the consequences are likely to be somewhat different, so time spent on producing a good report is a good investment. How to start The start can’t be soon enough, and a good tip is to write the report in stages as the project unfolds. At the very least it is advisable to collate information and data on an ongoing basis and allocate it to relevant parts of your draft report. These ‘parts’ could be the phases of the consultancy cycle or of the project. Some consultants use a mind mapping approach to help plan the report and its content. In this method the project title would be placed in the centre of the mind map and all the relevant phases, headings and sub headings populated around the outside. There maybe a report template that has to be followed, again a good time to find out is in the Entry phase. Templates are both good and bad. They are good because a clear structure is set out and the style is therefore a given. They are bad because there can be a temptation to manipulate the content to fit the template, or worse, invent something simply to fill the space. Whatever method is selected it is important to allocate sufficient planning time and to develop a clear understanding of what the overall purpose of the report is. Remember, the aim is to get the right message(s) across to the client whilst managing their expectations. Do they like lots of words, or would they prefer more diagrams/charts/pictures? Know your client and/or audience! Think about the cover sheet, font style and size, paragraph numbers, page numbers, line spacing, colours, indents, headers and footers, referencing system, annexes and so on. If possible and appropriate it can be useful to establish the proposed circulation or distribution of the report. Knowing who might read it and what it might be used for can inform the content and style. Date Pagination Version no. Typical contents This is neither exhaustive nor prescriptive. Cover sheet Contents page Glossary Executive summary Background/introduction Purpose Methodology Findings/results Conclusions Options Recommendations Annexes Detail to be included in each section Cover sheet Title of project, dates, author, client, logo Contents page The amount of detail to be included here often depends on the length of report. As well as outlining what’s in the report, the purpose of the contents page is to make it easy for the reader to navigate the document. If submitting in soft copy then hyperlinks can be very helpful here. Glossary If the report is full of acronyms and jargon then a simple alphabetical list in table format will operate as a dictionary for the reader. It also reduces the number of times that the full version has to written as the abbreviated version will suffice. Executive Summary This should be a short summary of the whole project/assignment. Five key points as a guide: a. Keep it short. b. It must be self contained. This means that it must summarise everything within the piece of work. c. It must satisfy the reader’s needs, or meet expectations. So, write about the essential issues of the project, give details of the methodology, the main findings, main conclusions and recommendations. d. The Executive Summary must be in line with the thrust and emphasis of the report itself. e. It should be objective, precise and easy to read. Date Pagination Version no. Background/Introduction This section is used to aid understanding of why the piece of work was commissioned in the first place, what caused the project to be launched, where the need emanated from, what has been tried before and with what results. Purpose Explain what the purpose or aim of the project is. The scope or Terms of Reference can sometimes be included here. Essentially, what is to be done and why. Objectives could also be listed in this section. Methodology Having described why and how the project came into being, and then what is to be done, this is the time to say how it will be done. Typically in a management consultancy piece of work this would involve elements such as interviewing, running workshops, conducting surveys, undertaking desk research, running a pilot, mapping processes and so on. Findings/Results This section provides an account of what has been discovered in terms of findings and results. Everything should be based on actual data and information, so it must be a factual representation. What has been found out from gathering the data and information? If the methodology was based on a series of workshops, say how many were planned and how many ran. If questionnaires were issued, what was the return rate? Make sure the findings answer or inform the purpose of the assignment, there should be clear links to the purpose and aim. Conclusions This is where judgements and views about what has been discovered can be detailed. What can be inferred or deduced from the findings? Conclusions must be fact based and they should link back to the objectives. Indicate whether the objectives have been met and to what degree. Options Options should flow from the findings and conclusions; there should be a logical connection. These can be displayed in table format, and should describe each option and then its advantages and disadvantages. Recommendations There should be no surprises here, as everything should come from the work undertaken, i.e. methodology, findings, conclusions etc.. If there is a priority order of recommendations then make this clear. Each one should be fact based, relevant, practical and achievable. Also indicate the implications of the Date Pagination Version no. recommendations – how much it will cost, how long it will take, what impact it will have on staff/resources/infrastructure. Annexes Here is an opportunity to relegate the detail to annexes, rather than overload the main body of the report. For example, include here a copy of any questionnaire, records of interviews, spreadsheets, project plan, workshop agendas, minutes of meetings, process maps etc.. Make sure there are clear links between the annex and the relevant page / section of the main body of the report. Other headings to consider Foreword Assumptions Constraints Objectives Aim Summary Analysis Benefits (Financial and Non Financial) Postscript Stakeholders Context Risks and Issues Timetable Next Steps Scenarios Acknowledgements Other aspects to consider Level of detail Version Control Referencing Language Review/Destruction Dates Font Spacing Confidentiality References Bibliography Terminology Signature Block Numbering Headers and Footers Date Pagination Version no.