RAG Status Template Excel

What is RAG Status?

RAG is an acronym that stands for Red, Amber and Green. RAG status comes into picture when you track the status of the business project. One of the most common and simple mechanisms to report on the performance and status projects is by using RAG indicators.

RAG project status
RAG project status 

Red – Houston, we have a problem! There is a concerning situation which demands immediate attention
Amber – It could have been better but let me do some project management and we’ll get back on track soon
Green – So far, so good, nothing to worry about, we plan to deliver against what was agreed


Let’s be honest: most project managers dislike project status reports. However, that does not mean that they are not important. In fact, how would senior management be able to know what is going on or if the budget of the organization is being effectively applied without a mechanism of reporting?

While I’m a believer of simplicity, by using a single indicator to reflect the status of your project, you may be preventing senior management from focusing on the areas that need tender loving care.

There may be important details to your project story! As such, some organizations prefer to decompose their project updates by applying the RAG status to the key dimensions of the project, such as scope, time, cost, or resources.

But what do we mean if a project has a red status for resources, for instance? It’s important that the same meaning is shared and that is an objective view rather than simply an opinion, thus today I bring you some examples. Behold, we have a RAG Status Definition Matrix!


Additionally, to get a sense of direction over time, you may want to include a section for “Trend”, as depicted below:

RAG status template
Additional RAG status trend

How to use RAG Status Reporting

Define your Status Report template: 

  • RAG status are usually captured as part of a Status Report template, which can also include a list of key active risks and issues or what has been accomplished in the period and is planned for the next. 
  • Regardless of what you decide to put in the template, how you want to call it (“project-on-a-page” or “performance update” are nice variations to the feared “status report”), or how you want to get the update (Excel, whiteboard, showcase), this needs to be the same for everyone using it, that is, consistent. 

Define meanings and expected action: 

  • There’s little things more frustrating in the project management universe than having to do something just for the sake of following a process. 
  • If your project board don’t know what is expected of them or simply do not bother that much with RAG status, there is less of an incentive for Project Managers to do it. 
  • It is thus important that everyone is aware of the RAG meanings and associated actions.
  • If I’m a project manager reporting an overall red status for my project, I’ll expect people to pay attention and even deploy some help (if I’m lucky).

Beware of Watermelon projects: 

  • Sometimes project managers believe that a red RAG will reflect on their level of competence, hence, are afraid to report the real status of the project, often leading to the ‘watermelon’ phenomenon: projects that look green in the outside but, at a closer look, are red in the inside. 
  • Thus, senior management should create a climate of trust that enable project managers to share their story. 
  • As important as managing projects is managing for projects. Focus on creating a forum for brainstorming, not blame storming!

Define a reporting cycle:

  • Keyword again: consistency! Individually, agree the frequency of reporting with your Project Managers and their project boards. 
  • It may be useful to define shorter reporting cycles for projects that are a priority or for which there are tight deadlines, and longer reporting cycles for projects with a wider time frame. 
  • However, for portfolio level reporting, it’s important that all reports are gathered at the same time (last Friday of the month always sound nice to me) so that you can see the forest and not just the trees. 

Set an assurance model: 

  • You should always assume that project managers are honest when reporting their project but…beware, optimism bias and watermelon projects exist! 
  • Therefore, why not to make use of the capabilities of your Project Management Office (I heard PMOs are usually quite good with assurance)? 
  • PMOs can do a reality-check by initiating an audit or conducting a project health check, in this way ensuring that senior management gets data that is as accurate and factual as possible.

Examples of Project RAG Statues


RAG Status / Dimension
Scope
Red
- Requirements unclear
- Significant uncertainty in scope and deliverables
- Scope creep and lack of a formal change request process
- Project not expected to deliver fundamental elements of the scope
- Significant concerns about the quality of the solution without acceptable workarounds
Amber
- Requirements are somewhat clear
- Only key deliverables are identified
- Scope is still moving / lacking clarity
- Significant change requests not yet approved
- Project will not deliver all items in scope but items not being delivered are not fundamental
- Concerns about quality but some workarounds are acceptable
- Plans in place to address the above
Green
- Requirements are clear
- All deliverables are identified
- It is clear what is in and out of scope
- Formal change request is in place
- Project is expected to deliver All items in scope
- Solution delivered by the Project is of the expected quality
RAG Status / Dimension
Time
Red
- Timelines not clear
- Critical path not identified
- Original project completion date unachievable unless there is intervention (funding, resources, etc.)
Amber
- Timelines are somewhat clear
- Critical path not identified
- Tasks/deliverables slipping against planned date but not expected to impact the original project completion date
- Plans in place to mitigate the above
Green
- Timelines are clear
- Critical path is identified
- On track to deliver to milestones
RAG Status / Dimension
Cost
Red
- Costs not understood
- Budget not available
- Project has overspent or is expected to overspend by more than 5%
Amber
- Remaining uncertainty about costs
- Budget identified but not yet signed off
- Project forecasted to overspend by no more than 5%
Green
- Costs are clearly defined
- Budget allocated to the project
- Project forecasted to be on track/under budget
RAG Status / Dimension
Resources
Red
- Project team not in place
- Unclear roles and responsibilities
- Team not motivated and underperforming
- Resources unavailable
Amber
- Project team still to be formed
- Unclear roles and responsibilities
- Team not motivated but performing
- Some gaps in resourcing
- Plans in place to address these
Green
- Project team in place
- Clear roles and responsibilities
- Team motivated
- No significant gaps in resourcing
RAG Status / Dimension
Stakeholder Engagement
Red
- Key stakeholders have no visibility over the status of the project
- Key stakeholders are not engaged with the project
Amber
- Some of the key stakeholders are being kept informed
- Key stakeholders are engaged with the project but expressed concerns
Green
- Key stakeholders are being kept informed
- Key stakeholders are engaged with the project
RAG Status / Dimension
Benefits
Red
- There is no plan in place for benefits realization
- Project expected to deliver less than 80% of benefits
- No plan in place to address shortfall
Amber
- There is a plan in place for benefits realization
- Project expected to deliver between 80% and 100% of benefits
- Plan in place to optimize benefits that can be achieved
Green
- There is a plan in place for benefits realization
- Project will deliver to expected benefits
- Benefits anticipated to be achieved when planned
RAG Status / Dimension
Overall / Delivery Confidence
Red
- Project management team has no confidence on the delivery of the project
Amber
- Project delivery is at risk but is still manageable
Green
- Project management team is confident on the delivery of the project within agreed tolerances of scope, time, and cost

What criteria do you use for project reporting? Are you a victim of watermelon projects? Tell us all about it!
Swapnil Wale

Written by

Swapnil Wale is an IT Professional based in Sydney, Australia with over 10 years of experience in technology and project management. He is a passionate blogger and focuses on project management and BRMS articles.

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