The 2020 Pulse of the Profession® by the Project Management Institute (PMI) revealed that on average, 11.4% of investment is wasted because of poor project performance. And organizations that don’t consider project management, a key competency for driving change, are 67% more prone to having their projects fail! Can you imagine?

What's in this article:

Everything you want to know about RAG status:

  • RAG status definitions and how to set them up
  • RAG status reports and how to keep them consistent
  • Limitations of RAG status reporting
  • How to do RAG status in Jira, alongside its limitations
  • Suri: your best option for Jira RAG status reporting

What is a RAG status?

Every project demands status and progress reports on a regular basis. Why? Because stakeholders want visibility over progress; they want to avoid surprises and make sure they’re able to correct if/when challenges come up! Project managers therefore use RAG status, a traffic light system and simple approach that makes it easy for projects at risk to be identified and for action to be taken on time.

What does RAG status mean?

RAG status is very commonly used to report on project status; it’s an acronym for Red, Amber and Green:

  • Red: the project is likely to deliver late and over budget; there are serious issues and dates are being missed. For this, you’ll need a recovery plan.
  • Amber: the project has missed some of its goals but the end date and budget haven’t been touched per say; there are some issues which are being managed and the project needs close monitoring.
  • Green: simply put, the project is on track.

How important is the RAG status definition?

Having a standard definition for each status will ensure your reporting is consistent. You don’t want to end up with one project manager being hardcore in their reporting and the other being too relaxed. You want to make sure that there are no inconsistencies with your RAG status definitions; all projects that are similar in terms of status are reported with the same RAG.

How to choose project RAG status definitions?

It’s very important to trust what’s being reported for a project; which is why you need to have clearly defined criteria for selecting RAG status.

1. What are the criteria for RAG status definitions?

Define the following criteria and be very clear about them; make sure they’re objective and easy to understand :

  • Schedule
  • Scope
  • Costs
  • Benefits
  • Overall Status

2. Make sure to document RAG status definitions

The Project Management Office (or PMO, or information hub) has to communicate the RAG reporting definitions and criteria, especially to the project managers; there has to be common understanding!

Write down your project RAG status definition
RAG status definitions

3. How does the PMO review RAG project reports?

While reviewing project report submissions, the PMO goes through the RAG status on each project. They ensure that the RAG being used reflects the status of the project and that it’s consistently applied throughout all projects.

4. Be granular in your RAG status approach

Sometimes, red, amber, green simply don’t cut it; you need a little more. You can try naming them Green 1, Amber 2, Amber 3, Red 4, Red 5 for example. That way if a project goes from Red 1 to Red 2, you know there’s progress. But make sure to always stay consistent!

Also, what they do sometimes is add arrows:

  • Up Arrow = status is improving
  • Down Arrow = status is deteriorating
  • Side Arrow = status is still the same

How to keep a consistent RAG status report?

Who does the RAG reporting? Most of the time, RAG status reporting is considered an administrative function which is how a lot of these reports end up being completed by employees with less experience. The RAG status report is done for the sake of it, which doesn’t exactly bring in the best results.

Who uses RAG status in project management?

The RAG status reporting system is a single spreadsheet that combines the status reports from many projects. Management uses it to pinpoint those projects that need assistance.

Project managers use RAG status reports to get management’s attention; good project managers understand how important these status reports can be.

1. Look back at the milestones

Every week, project managers set aside some time to look back at the status of their project so they may correct early on. In their RAG status reporting, project managers look at:

  • What was achieved
  • What wasn’t completed
  • What are the blockers to progress
  • What needs to be done next

2. Communicate to key stakeholders

The RAG status report is an awesome tool for project managers to communicate key messages and engage stakeholders. The report should be accurate, whether we’re talking success, challenges or failures. There’s a way to present problems without overwhelming others; proceed with caution.

3. Speak everybody’s language

Whenever we communicate, the language we use is everything; talk to people close to the project in the way they understand. Keep it simple and accurate; maybe let someone read it before you present.

What are the limitations of RAG Status Reports?

Of course, as with everything, RAG status reporting has a couple of downfalls you should keep in mind:

  • RAG status reports are subjective; they’re prone to interpretation
  • Green doesn’t necessarily mean green; sometimes, there may undiscovered issues that will resurface later on
  • Project managers sometimes lie to postpone dealing with problems
  • You don’t get all the relevant information in RAG status reports; you might need a little more digging
Limitations of RAG status reports

How to do RAG status in Jira?

A lot of people will go about the process of doing RAG status in Excel, MS Project or Powerpoint. But if you work in Jira, doing things directly in Jira saves a ton of time, effort and money. That’s how it should be, isn’t it?

Create a dashboard for your RAG status in Jira

The way you’d go about doing Jira RAG status is by creating a dashboard using:

  • a simple select list custom field
  • a custom issue type called "Project" to track your projects
  • an Issue Statistics gadget to create a dashboard that identifies projects at risk and off-track.
Jira dashboard setup for RAG status
Setup of dashboard gadget

The steps are simple:

  1. Go to System Administration ➡️ Issues ➡️ Custom Fields
  2. Create a new Custom Field called "How are we tracking?"
  3. Add the following options for the select list: "On track", "Off track" and "At risk"
  4. Add the custom field to the appropriate screens on the issue; you can now update the issue status using this custom field.

To create your dashboard, go to “Create a new dashboard” and add the "Issue Statistics" gadget. Keep in mind that you can add the gadget to an existing dashboard if you want. Now, select the statistic type to your "How are we tracking?" custom field and you’re good to go!

Jira RAG status dashboard setup
Set up dashboard in Jira

What are the limitations of Jira for RAG status reports?

Jira is a popular project management tool used by many organizations, and it’s a fantastic tool. But one problem it has is that the default Jira dashboard isn’t easy to configure which makes it difficult for less tech-savvy customers.

What happens is that many managers end up asking for weekly status updates from their teams directly, then they store the info outside of Jira, in spreadsheets or powerpoints. It is simply too much manual work for a simple status update. Project status reports should be connected to real project data, and updated automatically.

What is the best option for Jira RAG status reporting?

For managers and stakeholders looking for a simple way to report on project RAG status in Jira Cloud, in a single place, Suri is the answer. The app provides a portfolio project dashboard where you can see key project metrics and progress, and track your project’s RAG status and history, without needing to set up anything!

Portfolio overview of Jira RAG status with Suri
RAG status portfolio overview dashboard

Get a simple project status dashboard in Jira  ✨

  • View all your Jira projects in a single, simple dashboard
  • Get the key info you need at a glance: project lead, project start, end date
  • Filter to quickly find the project you’re looking for
Jira RAG status portfolio roadmap in Suri
Roadmap timeline for RAG status in Jira

Automatically track your Jira project’s activities  👀

  • Get an overview of your scheduled projects in the roadmap timeline
  • Group projects by Project Category to create project portfolios/workstreams
  • Reschedule projects, edit RAG status and browse RAG status history
Jira RAG status change in Suri
Change RAG status in Jira

Access your Jira project’s RAG status reporting and history 🚦

  • Assign RAG status to your Jira projects
  • Leave your project’s status update in the RAG status description space
  • See the history of your Jira RAG status changes

Curious what Suri can do for your Jira RAG status?

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