“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it and you can’t fix it” – Mike Bloomberg
The statement perfectly summarizes the role of project tracking in any organization. Most project managers spend a significant portion of their time on progress tracking because of how important it is. It helps managers ensure cohesiveness in their teams and allows them to prevent problems like scope creep and cost/time overruns.
Despite its importance, spending too much time on progress tracking comes with some drawbacks. In the following sections, we’ll take a look at some established best practices of project tracking and see how to make it as efficient as possible.
Are you spending too much time on progress tracking?
Progress tracking is among the core responsibilities of a project manager. However, it’s not the only thing on their plate. Project managers are supposed to negotiate with stakeholders, prepare plans, and perform various other tasks with utmost perfection to achieve success.
If you are spending too much time on progress tracking, you’ll naturally be compromising on other aspects of project management. First of all, your performance will be affected and your team’s efficiency will decline. You’ll have a hard time collaborating with stakeholders and bringing everyone on the same page. Furthermore, spending too much time dealing with an inefficient reporting system can demotivate everyone involved in the process.
Best practices for seamless project tracking
Tracking projects is not easy. You must know exactly what to look for at a specific phase to know where you stand. All performance indicators generally focus on the three major project constraints, namely time, budget, and product. Effective management requires you to make sure you and your team members understand the final goal and all the parameters of success. By establishing a schedule, ensuring clarity, and visualizing a project in the early stages, you can make progress tracking effective and intuitive for everyone involved.
Here are some of the established best practices for tracking your projects effectively:
Spend time on your project outline
The best time to ensure an effective reporting system is during the initial stages of a project. Having a detailed project outline is paramount. There are several benefits of having an effective project outline and they are not only limited to project tracking. A comprehensive project outline will also help you in establishing goals and milestones, which is our next step.
Identify key milestones and establish goals accordingly
Milestones and goals are a tried and tested method of keeping your eyes on the goal. You can immediately tell where you stand by looking at the remaining milestones. Apart from being an excellent tracking tool, successfully completing milestones can motivate everyone to perform consistently throughout the project lifecycle. Milestones ensure you are on the right track and give you the flexibility to change direction before it’s too late.
Visualize your project
Visualizing your flow of work makes project tracking easy and efficient since we perceive visual information faster than other mediums. Using charts and other graphs allows you to absorb more information and understand progress at a glance. You can quickly identify areas with low output and focus on them. It saves your time and is preferable over going through countless reports and coming to the same conclusion.
Focus on clarity and transparency
Transparency and progress have a direct relationship. If your team has a culture with a lot of red tape around essential information, you are bound to miss several important updates. A significant majority of tasks in any project has dependencies and even small delays on one end can have several ramifications down the line.
Without a transparent environment within a team/organization, members hesitate to share issues proactively, which gives you less time to control the damage and come up with a solution. Transparency can help both team members and managers with their job. It’s easier for managers to track progress and team members can also jump in to help their fellows when it’s needed.
Try to make a realistic schedule
Successful project managers use their team’s past performance to create realistic schedules and measure their performance with it. These tailored schedules give managers a yardstick to measure their team’s growth and allows them to plan ahead. Moreover, putting a deadline on each milestone can also help team members stay on track.
Simplify progress tracking with project management software
Effective project management now requires you to use all the tools at your disposal to get the best results. A project management tool turns a time-consuming task like progress tracking into something that automatically happens. Most cloud-based project management tools come with the capability of automatically making all the relevant reports and illustrating them graphically. You can also ensure transparency and share progress with everyone on the team. With modern project management tools, reports, and graphs, that used to take hours and sometimes days to prepare, are only a click away.
In the beginning, entering all the data and identifying milestones on your project management software may sound like yet another task. However, the time you ultimately save throughout the project lifecycle is worth the effort.
For effective management, it’s crucial to make progress tracking as seamless and intuitive as possible. With an efficient tracking system that uses modern technology and recognized best practices, managers can focus on the actual tasks needing their attention.