How to Effectively Measure the Progress of your Project
While a project plan can give project managers more profound insights into a project, measuring its progress keeps it going in the right direction.
Monitoring a project from a close distance can yield timely and high-quality results and keep Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), like team progress, budget overruns, and obstacles, in check. To understand the term better, let’s talk more about project progress.
What Is Project Progress Tracking?
Project progress tracking, also referred to as collecting actuals, is a project management method that’s used to follow the progress of tasks in a project.
It indicates the actions that project managers take regularly to observe the work going on in a project so that desired results are obtained. This action involves the following-
- Building project status reports from the project tracking systems in use
- Monitoring resources that were used at any point during the project
- Cross-checking the completion of tasks and their dependencies according to the project timeline
- Regular meetings with teams and stakeholders
- Tracking project time to keep track of time spent on the project
In the beginning, team members may not be comfortable with you asking them regularly about their actions. Yet, project managers must drive motivation while also being sensitive to team concerns to always receive accurate information.
Challenges in Measuring Project Progress
Team resistance may be one of the challenges that project managers will come across while tracking project progress. But there’s more to be prepared for. Below are some of the most common hurdles that are faced by project managers.
- Inadequate Risk Analysis
This is a vital segment of a project lifecycle as it can foretell potential factors that can jeopardize a project’s timeline. However, risk analysis comes with its vulnerabilities, which can result in flaws in the project plan. For instance, if the analysis is rushed at some point in the project, it could result in monetary issues or failure in the overall project plan.
Tip: Improve risk analysis strategies by researching potential issues that your team might encounter while also devising control measures to prevent them. Also, make sure you have access to real-time data.
- Communication Gaps
Are you effectively communicating with your team and stakeholders? If not, then it’s high time to start doing so. Without communication, getting an accurate portrayal of a project’s progress can be hard.
Communication skills, verbal or written, can assist project managers in instructing team members more effectively and relaying any gathered information to the stakeholders.
Tip: Having a robust project management tool can help you with proper reporting communication. Such tools can make sense of all the data and send scheduled reports to the required stakeholders in the format they need. Also, project managers must remember to adjust their communication methods to adjust different communication styles.
- Vague Goals or Criteria
Most projects fail because they never started with a clear purpose. If you want your projects to be successful then you should have clear and measurable goals to work towards. Imagine what an endless road trip you’d have if you did not know your destination. It’s the same for a project without a goal.
Tip: Define your project's KPIs as well as the timeline before the implementation phase to have clearer goals.
- The Danger of Scope Creep
When a project starts, changes might crop up in the deliverables or goals of a project, which may deviate its focus from the original plan. This can affect the project outcome. Some common instances of scope creep are as follows.:
- Changes in the number of deliverables
- Increase in the number of features required in a project
- Changes in client’s needs
- Instances where the client asks for incorrect deliverables
- A change of the project’s end goal by the stakeholder
The project manager will not always be the line manager for all resources and there might be some resistance from teams when tasks are tracked. To avoid this, it's important to prepare them for the idea of project progress measurements right from the start. This can be done by explaining how it can help them streamline their activities.
Once teams are aware that their progress will be measured from time to time to make things easier for them, you'll surely receive the most accurate estimates from them.
How to Measure Project Progress Effectively
Project managers must keep a few simple tips in mind to help them successfully observe a project’s progress. This must also be conveyed to the concerned team managing the projects from the start to the end making the information exchange easier throughout the project.
Having said that here are some tips that can aid in measuring a project's progress effectively for the successful completion of tasks:
- Choose the Right Methods for Project Tracking
Project progress tracking methods can either be quantitative or qualitative. While the former focuses on metrics like any turning point in a project, the costs, and the time, the latter concentrates on data and information from team meetings. Both methods are different but ensure great results.
The quantitative variables may include tracking of time, costs, etc. which gives objective data points to work with. The qualitative tracking could include regular check-ins with the team to analyze the ‘WHY’ behind the data to deal with any issues.
- Build Project Status Reports
It’s wise to begin projects by deducing information that would be useful for measuring a project’s progress and understanding its usefulness for someone else.
Status reports aim at providing an overview of all activities happening in a project as well as the reason for the activities. That is why status reports have to be easily understandable so that team members can make decisions on how to proceed with the project.
Tip: Making reports manually may seem like a standard but for accurate progress tracking, it’s always better to have data in real-time and avoid working in silos. Also, too much data never help so make sure you have a reporting system that’s comprehensive but can be easily customized as well.
- Recognize the Project Goals and Adhere to Them
Knowing your project goals is key to tracking your performance. Your team must also be informed of the same to be able to deliver the target objective. Have a SMART goal in place to deal with this. Such goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound, meaning that you can easily track the goals vs. progress of a project in tangible terms.
Once your goals meet the criteria mentioned above, you can get your team members in on the plan as well and ensure that they stick to them.
Tip: Ensure you have a system in place to have a complete view of estimates vs. actuals. This should include data on the management of all assets that are contributing to the project, especially human resources.
- Always Use Checklists
Having an inventory right in front of your eyes aids project managers in breaking down tasks into phases like
- client onboarding
- project ideation and planning
- final review & edits
Each of these phases can further be divided into actionable tasks that can be further allocated to different team members.
- Keep Stakeholders in the Loop
Always share your project progress with all relevant stakeholders. This makes you, the project manager, responsible, and stakeholders aware of issues that might arise during the project.
Stakeholders will know what to expect upon project completion, and project managers will have more options to assess the costs involved and project timelines in real time if required.
- Let Communication Always Be Constructive
If you aren't able to communicate effectively with your team then it may not be possible to provide stakeholders with correct information about the overall progress of the project.
Remember to always keep all communication channels transparent and clear, not overburdening your team members in the process. Constructive communication encourages efficient data exchange in a simpler form so that everyone gets at least a gist of the project's progress.
Guarantee Project Success With Progress Tracking
Tracking project progress might not seem important at first, but the truth is that it's critical in determining the success or failure of a project. For this, many project tracking software is available for project managers to leverage and efficiently manage projects on an intuitive and flexible platform.
Does it look like your project is not going as planned and diverting from the plan of action? If your answer is yes, then it’s time for you to start reaping the benefits of project progress tracking today.
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