Knowing how to track project progress is an all-important skill in project management. It ensures you don’t go off course or hit any delays or setbacks along the way.
As a project manager, one of the first things you’ll do at the start of any project is make a plan for it. You’ll aim to understand what needs to be done, when, and by whom.
However, having a project plan isn’t enough to ensure your project will be a success! A project's health is co-dependent on so many other factors. So what do you do to make sure your next project doesn't go south? The answer is simple: you'll have to constantly measure its progress.
According to the Project Management Institute, 14% of projects fail. Of those that succeed, nearly 50% aren’t completed on time, 43% go over budget, and 32% deliver a product that doesn’t meet expectations.
Tracking project progress allows project managers to stay informed and up to date, and react when things don’t go according to plan.
Project tracking is the act of monitoring the actual progress of a project. It involves assessing the rate of progress in terms of time and money, as well as the delivery of a successful result.
As part of the project control process, it also involves monitoring related resources that have been used at any point in time having visibility over the tasks and milestones that have been completed. At this point, project managers build project status reports or pull them from the project tracking systems they use.
Crucially, project tracking aims to help project managers adjust deliverables such as budgets and timelines based on what you learn throughout a project.
For example, if one stage of a project takes much longer than expected, a project manager can re-book resources for the following stage until when they’re going to be needed, and adjust the timeline for project delivery.
Project managers can face a range of different challenges as they get to track project progress and create reports:
If you’re involved in project management and delivery, you’ll know that your initial plan can only take you so far. If your team members don’t work the hours scheduled, it can hugely impact your project budget and deadlines.
With Runn, you’ll get important metrics to see how your projects are tracking and how your plans compare with reality.
Starting with a new project, you can:
Each project has its own dashboard, where you'll get valuable project insights. You can track both time based and financial metrics, and get a forecast of how your project will land.
If the graph tells you you’re going to go over budget, you’ll know to adjust your plans early.
If you use timesheets, you’ll also be able to compare project actuals with your plan. You can bring actuals into Runn through our native integrations, using our API to create your own integration, or by using Runn’s built-in timesheets and time tracker extension.
Looking at the Variance chart you’ll be able to see how much time was actually worked versus what was scheduled per day, week or month.
To make any changes to your plans, you can always head back to the Runn planner to add or delete assignments or to shift your project timeframes.
There are a few simple tips to monitor progress effectively and share it with a wider team managing projects from start to completion. It doesn't matter whether you view progress on Kanban boards or use Gantt charts to get a bird's eye view, communication is key to keep everyone on the same page. Exchanging the information throughout the project makes tracking easier - from assignment to project phase to budget to the entire schedule.
However, it's important to remember that moving forward with the right project management tool can help you measure progress more effectively. As teams collaborate, you don't want to collect data too often and nag them for no reason. With access to the project management tool, other members can view the project schedule and update their progress. Read more tips for successful project tracking and reporting on future projects below!
You can monitor progress using both quantitative and qualitative methods.
Quantitative project tracking methods look at numerical metrics such as cost, time, and milestones. Qualitative methods, on the other hand, use survey data and regular team meetings to track progress.
What’s notable here is that you need to keep track of your project progress both quantitatively and qualitatively. Where one method gives you solid data to share with stakeholders minus the human bias, the other one gives you subjective data that assists in identifying project bottlenecks.
Successful project completion is always a team sport! As much as it takes a full team effort to complete the project, the same can be said about tracking project progress. You’ll need to consult with your team members and different contributors and get regular updates to report to the higher ups, so it’s crucial you have the buy-in from everyone involved.
The best way to do that is to bring the entire team together at the beginning and get them involved in tracking. If they understand the significance of tracking projects, and feel responsibility for doing it correctly, then it becomes a measure of success for their role.
At the same time, when you get to the end of the project and it’s all gone well (hopefully), then you can celebrate that success together with your team members.
Project tracking software takes away a lot of the manual work of project tracking, and can be a real time saver when viewing project status. A project manager can generate reports quickly and get a deeper level of understanding as to how your project is tracking against your goals.
There are a whole lot of different options, and each has different strengths and suitabilities. Tools you've chosen for project management have to be equipped with real-time features that help you view actual progress.
Runn project management software is user-friendly and widely applicable for measuring key objectives. It has the right tools to manage projects, resources, and finances:
If you don’t have goals for a project, you can’t track how you’re performing. The key is to have goals that help your team members to deliver on your overall objective. That means they should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
Once you have those goals, share them with your team members and make sure you stick to them.
Every time you take on a project, break it down into phases marked by milestones. For example, you can generally divide projects into the following phases:
Divide each phase further into actionable tasks — assigned to different team members. Create a checklist for each of these tasks.
This way, you can track progress by looking at which phase a project is in and how much work is completed under each phase (based on the work completed in the checklist).
As you track project progress, it’s important to share your findings and project information with all relevant stakeholders. This has a range of benefits for both you as the project manager, and the project itself.
You can send project reports to stakeholders weekly, fortnightly, monthly or at any other cadence that suits both you and your project.
This goes hand in hand with making stakeholders aware of overall project progress. There’s no use updating stakeholders on the project status if they don’t understand your updates. At the same time, keeping track of projects is much harder if you’re not communicating well with your team.
A communication strategy works in a similar way to the project goals discussed above. By defining what effective communication is, and creating clear expectations around communication, you’ll go a long way to being able to easily track your project.
At the same time, it’s important for a project manager not to overwhelm people with communications either. Effective communication is about giving and receiving information as efficiently as possible, not just sharing your Gantt chart and expecting everyone will get the gist of it.
This is a purely qualitative way of measuring project progress.
Set a project update schedule and get responsible teams to report to their project manager(s) on the work completed. For instance, conduct weekly or monthly meetings. These shouldn’t be so often as to constantly interrupt work, but often enough so you always understand what stage things are at and how tasks are progressing.
The best part about hosting these update meetings? It gives you a chance to talk to your team, which is much better than just getting an email update at every deadline. It allows you to understand what’s contributing to the progress you’re making — whether it’s on target or not — and shows you’re interested and involved in the project.
You can also learn about any hurdles that your team may be struggling with and understand how well the project is staying within its set scope and budget.
Many projects are large pieces of work that take months, or even years, to complete. Without a project timeline and clear deadlines within that time period, it can be hard to know if you’re on track or not.
However, if you can split up your project into phases or create milestones, or have a final deadline for key pieces of work within that project, then you’ll find it much easier to track progress.
Deadlines are really motivating for both you and your team. If you’re working on a project that is due to be completed in three months' time, you may lose your sense of urgency. However, if you have a task within that project that you know needs to be completed within a week, that provides added impetus to get it done.
As with goals, your deadlines should be realistic, clear and measurable, and shared with your project team.
Where many people look to track progress using numbers-based metrics such as cost and time invested, it's important not to forget that client satisfaction is also an effective measure.
This is particularly helpful for projects expanding over a long duration. The plan? Directly ask your client how satisfied they are with the work completed so far.
To this end, you can choose from either of the two methods or combine them both:
Project progress reports are an excellent way to stay updated on the status of your project. Many projects require weekly reporting while others require less frequent updates. Start by figuring out what information would be useful for your own purposes in measuring your progress, and consider how likely it is to be useful for someone else.
The goal of the status report is to give an overview of what's happening on the project and why. The report should be easily understandable by almost anyone, especially those on the team who will be making decisions on how to proceed on the project and those who need to understand how the project is progressing.
A common challenge that project managers may experience when they get to track and report on project progress is missing the forest for the trees. It's vital to be able to go into details and communicate how the team members complete tasks on projects, but usually there can be more important data to focus on.
Examples of important projects data to track include time to completion, budget, scope creep, and risk assessment. In addition, every project manager needs to keep tabs on resources and their workloads (speaking of agencies!).
One of the most effective ways to track and document your project progress is by creating a project status report.
Such a progress report helps project managers in various ways including:
A project status report’s usefulness, however, depends on how clearly and succinctly it showcases progress. Pour in too many details, for example, and you’ll make the report hard to read. The result? It ends up gathering dust (think of it really: who has the time to read text-heavy reports!)
To write a clear and easy-to-digest project progress report, make sure you include these seven details that signify a project’s health:
All this information shows the work completed and remaining, and the percentage of the budget spent and remaining.
In turn, by reviewing these project health metrics, you can review how on- or off-track a project is and if you need to take corrective measures in case the project is at risk.
With the basics out of the way, let’s look at how you can speed-create these reports so you aren’t spending hours digging out project health metrics to create a simple report.
Two things will help you here:
There’s also a third, far more efficient way to draft these reports within minutes: create them using your project management software.
For example, if you plan your projects in Runn, you can quickly generate detailed and easily readable progress reports that:
Here’s how they look:
When you’re working on a project, it’s not enough to simply deliver a good end result. Among other things, it needs to be on time and on budget, and you’re much more able to deliver on those goals when you’ve been actively tracking project progress all the way along.
Runn project tracking software allows you to set your goals and expectations at the beginning of a project and monitor your progress throughout. You’ll get real time visibility over your project so you can make informed decisions and maximize your chances of delivering an outstanding end result that satisfies all requirements.
Creating project milestones helps you establish a clear pathway to project fulfillment and success. Let's take a look at how to create milestones for your projects.
Find out about project change and how to stay on top of it in this second part of our blog post series on project control.