Following a particular path in executing any team work is important to achieve the end result. Therefore there should be some mechanism to create and execute such a path. This is essential in every project too.
Timely identification of the issues is important to take proactive decisions on the issues by the project manager. This can help to find the root cause of an issue and take corrective action. So the project must be measured with a data-driven way to get to know the deviance or the variance and ensure the project is on track.
The process in which the project progression is tracked for any deviation from the start till the completion is called project tracking. This helps the project managers in making important decisions. If there are potential issues, it helps to solve them early before it deviates into a disaster.
How do we keep track of the projects?
There is only one method that is to check the facts and data very often. If the status report comes without the real data and facts, it is not going to help the project manager in finding the issues early. This can happen because of the following reasons,
- Not able to measure the progress
- Not able to know the accurate data points
- Team members appear to hide facts because of the apprehensions
- The status report is based on the teller story and not facts and data.
If you can correct these things early the Project tracking is sound and foolproof. Always keep measurable tasks and activities, keep track of data points in the tasks and activities, remove apprehensions from the mind of team members, and keep up the motivation and team spirit. The objectives of the project need to be measurable and must be based on informed data and facts.
Importance of Project tracking
1. Real-time Information - The Project tracking helps to get real-time information from the projects namely the status reports, progress reports, etc with measured and data-driven facts. This timely information helps the project manager and the project board to make an informed decision on the project. Real-time information obtained is crucial and critical for all projects.
2. Problem Identifiers - With the help of Project tracking there is no hidden or sudden information that can cause such a catastrophe. Project tracking helps in tracking the problem identifiers early on. Thus the immediate issues are cleared and can put the project back on the track.
3. Easy and Accurate Reporting - Project tracking keeps reporting easy, simple, and accurate. No need to search the facts. with measured and data-driven facts the reporting becomes the strength of project reporting
4. Team Motivation - As the team members are involved in complex activities and tasks there is a chance that they can miss some information and this can become critical. Team collaboration and team efforts are the keys for successful completion of the project. The Project tracking motivates everyone to get involved as a team and keeps everyone in one loop
Best practices for a fool-proof Project tracking system
There are few practices to be followed for keeping the projects on track
1. Project Management software - First is the use of project management software. You can design your project management tool in the excel sheet, however, the commercially available and the open source project management software can add a lot of value in the Project tracking and is simple and easy to use it. Remember the saying Garbage In, Garbage Out (GIGO), that means if you enter wrong data the software produces the wrong information as an output, so you need to use the project management software with correct data and facts to help you visualize the status of the project. Most of the project management softwares come with Project tracking functionality. You can go for both generic project management software and later customize your needs in the projects. You can also have multiple project management softwares. Example one for the project planning, one for the CPM and PERT, and another for the Gantt chart and one for the Project tracking.
2. Selecting the KPI - The KPIs are nothing but the data points for Project tracking and stands for the Key Performance Indicators. The KPI needs to be selected keeping in mind the current project plan, the historical data, the previous project management experience, and expert consultations. Do not keep more if they are not needed; keep the KPI limited but critical ones. The optimal KPI produces great results and can help a lot in Project tracking. The KPI must be quantifiable and measurable.
3. Determining baseline and target goals - As we have seen that the limited KPI is important, then how to select the right KPI? Go with the 3 first that are scope, cost, and schedule and be more specific.
- First the scope, scope determines the boundary on what the items in the project area are and what the items outside the project are. Detail the scope by talking to the various stakeholders.
- Second is the cost of the project, you will know the budget from the sponsor and as a project manager, you need to be below the budget and use the various cost of the project judiciously.
- The third is to manage the schedule, when making the schedule go for the expert’s guidance, the historical data, and your previous project experience must be kept in mind. Make some slack period in the project. So plan in such a way to keep the 80% utilization to achieve 100% of the project completion.
4. Act on the information - So after you have set the baselines, the KPI and have project management software, all these will provide you with useful information. However, you need to take action on the information whether the project is going away from the scope or crossing the budget, falling behind the schedule, etc. This is the key to successful Project tracking.
There are 3 approaches to do when there is a detection of trouble in the project.
- First is to encourage the early anomaly detection in the project then early identification and finally the escalation.
- Next is to do the solving of the troubled project systematically. Have a contingency plan and replan the project again with the contingency plan in execution.
- Third is to have power to terminate the project when it is completely going against the recovery. Do not drag the project if it cannot be recovered. It is better to terminate the project by taking a data-driven informed decision.
The below diagram shows the project management dashboard with Project tracking,
What are Project tracking tools?
The Project tracking tools are those tools with the help of data input you can track the project on the dashboard. The project tracker comes in 3 flavors they are commercial, open source, and freeware. You can go for a generic one as you can customize the project tracker later.
Some of the popular tools are as follows,
- Office Timeline
- Toggl Plan
- Zoho Projects
Now you know that the project tracker would be of great help to the project manager and the organization. To learn more about the Project tracking methods and project tracker tools we recommend you for the PMP certification. StarAgile offers PMP certifications at a very reasonable and competitive cost. To explore more and to register for the online interactive training course click on the link provided.