Where would your organization be without oversight?
We all like to think our teams feel that burning desire to go above and beyond, raise their hand when they see problems, or volunteer to take on new projects without prodding.
While it sounds nice, it’s far from reality. Every team (no matter how engaged) needs a friendly nudge from time-to-time.
It’s also nice to have someone a bit more objective—someone who’s not so close to the project keeping an eye out for obstacles and inefficiencies.
Without oversight (provided by proper project tracking procedures and tools) your organization could suffer from a lack of organization, collaboration, or transparency.
Traditional oversight is the solution, but it requires a modern twist. It requires project tracking software.
This article will break down the intricacies of project tracking and show you how project management software can streamline even the most complex of projects.
What is project tracking?
Project tracking is a project management method for monitoring project status and project progress.
A project status update communicates stasis (what’s true at a certain period of time). A project progress report shows what has happened and may even preview what’s to come.
As a project manager, you want to keep your finger on the pulse of the project so you can easily communicate both to your stakeholder group and your team. The project tracking method you use also lets you intervene should issues arise.
Project tracking is both a high-level observation and, when necessary, a low-level intervention. If a project’s on track and making progress, then chances are the project manager can keep tabs from a 30,000-foot view. If the project’s losing steam or grinds to a halt, then it’s up to the project manager to leap into action and find solutions.
How does project tracking differ from project management?
Projects are temporary, meaning they have a beginning and an end. They’re also unique, because they’re not a routine operation.
Project management is an application of skills, knowledge, techniques, and tools to project tasks with the intent of meeting project requirements.
Project management encompasses the entire process from initiating and planning to executing, monitoring, and delivering projects.
Project tracking, on the other hand, is a part of the monitoring phase. Tracking helps project managers keep tabs on the project’s status and performance so they can make adjustments before things start to go off the rails.
Project tracking is vital because the variability of a project’s success varies widely, as shown in the figure below.
As you can see, roughly 70% percent of projects “meet the original goals and business intent.”
This means that 30% or so don’t get completed on time, within budget, or within scope. And a decent amount of them fail entirely.
With proper project tracking, you can track the right project phases, ensure your progress is easily traceable, and adjust accordingly for future projects.
Why project tracking is important
At its core, project tracking keeps you informed so you can make better decisions in a timely manner. Without it, your organization would feel partially blind and likely struggle to juggle multiple projects simultaneously.
Sure, it takes time, effort, and money to get project tracking fully set up and operational, but the pros far outweigh the cons. Here are a few benefits you can expect:
- Greater accountability and personal ownership since transparency is heightened and less intrusive oversight measures are necessary.
- Quicker task execution and greater autonomy since team collaboration is at an all-time high.
- Better project outcomes because there’s less admin work and more of your team doing what they do best.
Project tracking begins when a project takes shape and doesn’t end until its completion. It’s an essential force in project management because it helps you keep your pulse on the project so you can shape its trajectory and ultimately cultivate an outcome that aligns with your strategy.
Who’s responsible for project tracking?
It’s not uncommon for controllers, schedulers, and project planners to handle project tracking responsibilities at larger organizations. Many large companies even have a Project Management Office (PMO) that chooses and measures the right KPIs and oversees the daily project tracking and oversight.
For most companies, it’s a lone project manager who’s ultimately responsible for presiding over the project’s day-to-day management. Their efforts are often considered successful if they can:
- Prioritize and fund the appropriate projects and initiatives
- Formulate a strategy that’s appropriate for changing marketing conditions
- Feed lessons from both failed and successful strategy implementations into current and future strategies
- Successfully execute projects and initiatives so they can deliver strategic results
Project tracking isn’t just for project managers. Inviting the rest of the team promotes transparency, accountability, and cultivates an environment of personal ownership, which helps deliver a superior end product.
Project tracking essentials
Before jumping right into project tracking, it’s important to review some general guidelines to ensure you’re on a path toward success:
1. Make pre-planning a priority
It’s tempting to jump right in and figure things out as you go, but by failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail. Creating a high-level framework of objectives makes it easier to assign tasks, track progress, and detect potential issues before they happen.
2. Identify obstacles and create contingency plans
Your team’s ability to detect the warning signs for potential problems directly impacts your project’s success. Warning detection is essential, but it’s best paired with crystal clear contingency plans. Basically, an “if this happens, we do this” methodology to anticipate problems and immediately make adjustments to stay on track.
3. Carefully monitor work scheduling
Monitoring the work schedule is a must if you want to deliver on time. Everyone should know what their roles and responsibilities are each day. A strict work schedule tells people where to be and what’s due to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
4. After-action reviews are a must
Taking the time to reflect on both failures and successes enhances your future ability to drive successful outcomes for future projects.
What to look for in a project tracker
Not that long ago, every company had a “nice-to-have” list, and project management software was at the top of that list. Most organizations thought it was a luxury they couldn’t afford and that Excel would have to work for now.These days project tracking software is a necessity. Ask any organization what they’d do if you took theirs away, and they’d probably meet you with a blank stare. They’d tell you it’s just not feasible to get their work done without it.
You can recreate that magic by investing in project tracking software that has a few key things.:
1. A real-time monitoring dashboard
Ideally, you get one that’s feature-rich enough to meet your needs.
Real-time reporting is a “must-have” item if you want maximum oversight over your projects. A project tracker with easy-to-read charts and graphs (like monday.com) makes it easy to create a custom dashboard that shows you everything essential at a glance.
2. Multiple problem identifiers
A custom project dashboard is only as good as the information it provides.
As a project manager, you’re constantly seeking insights into how the project’s progressing or stalling so you can send reports or make necessary adjustments.
At a minimum, it should have Kanban, timeline, calendar, workload, and Gantt chart views (as monday.com does) so you can look at your data in whichever way works for you.
Each view serves a specific purpose, such as managing people and their workload, analytics, or task progress. Most people thrive on visual cues, so the ability to customize graphs, colors, and shapes can make a world of difference toward tailoring the dashboard to your individual needs.
Much like your projects, you’re at the mercy of certain constraints when picking project management software. Software can’t be all things to all people, but there’s a strong chance you can find one that fits the majority of your needs.
Especially if that project tracker has customizable columns so you can create the dashboards of your dreams. Ideally, they’d have basic column types like status, dates, and people so you can assign tasks. Some advanced column calculations and prioritization fields are a nice addition as well.
There’s a good chance you’re already using other software to meet your needs, so integrations are also an important deciding factor.
4. Collaboration tools
Task tracking is easier when your organization emphasizes transparency.
The ability to see what everyone is working on and for how long cannot be understated. From a project manager’s perspective, it’s the lifeblood of a successful project tracking solution.
Employees love having clear ownership, and built-in team collaboration makes it easy to keep everyone on the same page. Many have messaging apps, tagging, and even video conferencing integrations as well (as monday.com does).
5. Ease of use
That project plan you worked tirelessly on is going to change. I know that’s hard to hear because you spent days of your life on it, but it’s the truth. Thankfully, you planned for obstacles with your contingency plans.
The one thing you probably didn’t expect was how difficult your project tracker is to change. Well, if you pick the wrong one, that’s the case anyway. If your project tracker is difficult to adjust or hard for people to learn, it’s likely not worth the investment, and you should look at another project management software solution.
Let monday.com assist with all your project tracking needs
Do you want to know the best part?
Getting started is easy. Real easy.
monday.com’s project tracker template takes seconds to fire up and doesn’t require any time-consuming onboarding or training to understand.
What you see is what you get, and what you get is a clean user interface (UI) with plenty of opportunities to customize and tailor it to your unique needs.
monday.com has everything you’re looking for in a project tracking software. It’s flexible, facilitates team collaboration, helps you identify problems, and provides real-time insights that are invaluable to your project.
But don’t take our word for it.
The blueprint has monday.com in the Top Rated category because it’s “easy to learn, loaded with functionality, and looks fantastic to boot.” (Their words, not ours!)
That’s high praise from a company that rates hundreds of project management software providers each year.
While project tracking is a big selling point for our clients, there are also plenty more game-changing features to love, such as:
- Automating mindless tasks with custom workflows that performs specific tasks based on criteria you set, sends you notifications, and broadcasts emails and notification on your behalf.
- Integrating with your favorite tools, so you can keep all your data in sync and up-to-date at all times.
- 200+ templates for countless use cases that make any project easier to launch and track.
- 30+ customizable column types that take customizing your dashboard to new heights.
- 8 different data visualizations including Kanban, Gantt chart, workload, and timeline views.
monday.com also offers 24/7 customer support, so you get help when you need it most.
As you can see, project tracking is a staple of the modern-day project manager’s arsenal. With it, your project thrives like never before, and stakeholder satisfaction will be at an all-time high thanks to the ease at which you drive outcomes and provide detailed updates.
Still skeptical? Jump right into a project management template and give monday.com a try, for free!