As a project manager, project tracking is one of the most critical duties under your charge. At any given time, you should be able to give an accurate project status report that includes how much actual progress has been made compared to planned progress. Additionally, you should know what major tasks and milestones have been achieved and whether the project is on pace to meet its scheduled completion date. Without a project tracking system in place, you may lose sight of looming deadlines that could impact project delivery and be left scrambling when a higher-up requests a project update

In this comprehensive guide to project tracking, you’ll discover why project tracking is so critical for PMs, what project tracking tools and best practices have proven useful for project managers, and how you can develop your own project tracker so you’re never in the dark about a project again. 

What is project tracking?

Project tracking is a method for following and monitoring the progress, or lack thereof, of the tasks and activities involved with a given project. Project tracking allows key personnel to know precisely where a project is in its life cycle and whether it’s on course for an on-time, on-budget delivery that will provide a valuable ROI

Project tracking also helps project managers and stakeholders stay informed of what tasks and milestones have been accomplished, what resources have been used, and what adjustments or accommodations need to be made to account for unforeseen roadblocks that crop up along the way.

Why is project tracking important?

Project tracking is essential for project managers, team members, and stakeholders to stay in touch with a project’s goals, deadlines, and current status. When managing large, complex projects with multiple phases and milestones, project tracking helps ensure that deliverables are submitted on time and tasks accomplished according to schedule. 

Project tracking also ensures that PMs are aware sooner rather than later if a project is veering off course, and clarifies why time tracking software is needed to manage any freelancers or contract staff. Additionally, a project tracker can help managers in pricing projects and identifying potential roadblocks before they become significant problems, potentially saving time, money, and resources spent on corrective actions. 

What are project tracking best practices?

There are a few things you can do to ensure you and your team get the most out of your project tracking system. Here’s a look at some project tracking best practices:

  • Plan
    You can’t know whether a project is progressing according to plan if there’s no plan to begin with. Without a clear project plan that includes objectives, task lists, team member assignments, target dates, milestones, deadlines, and KPIs, you simply won’t be able to track the project with any kind of accuracy. 
  • Be realistic
    Staying on-target with deliverables starts with setting realistic deadlines. Being overly ambitious with delivery schedules and budgets can cause unnecessary stress and lead to project failure. What’s more, project tracking becomes much more difficult when deadlines and milestones are constantly being pushed back.
  • Identify risks
    Identifying your project’s risks from the outset will go a long way in helping you track the project and keep it on pace. Project risks fall into one of three categories: known, unknown, and unknowable. Defining each type of risk during the project planning phase can help you prepare for and mitigate any possible impacts on the project’s outcomes. 
  • Be consistent
    Project tracking only works when you track the project regularly. Make a schedule to monitor project work — otherwise, you risk overlooking tasks and blowing deadlines. 
  • Be accurate
    Although it may be tempting to do if the project is progressing slowly, don’t mark tasks as complete until they are fully finished. This not only misrepresents progress to team members and stakeholders but can also lead to tasks being left incomplete at the end of the project.

What are the challenges of using project tracking?

If you’re new to project management tracking, you may run into a few challenges along the way. One challenge may be knowing what data and metrics to track in the first place and determining baselines and target goals for those metrics. While it can seem an overwhelming task, keep in mind that unless you’re a huge enterprise organization with endless resources, you simply won’t be able to track every single KPI

The key to overcoming this project tracking challenge is to choose the KPIs that you will monitor carefully. Start by meeting with key stakeholders to determine what business benefits they most want to see from the project. Armed with this information, you’ll have a good idea of which KPIs you should measure to track progress toward those specific goals. Additionally, focus on tracking KPIs that you can measure and quantify. 

Another challenge you may encounter in project tracking is finding a suitable system that can compile, organize, and offer easy access to all the data you’re monitoring. This is where project tracking software comes into play, and why you should weigh up your options between a free project tracking software or a paid approach. A project management tracking tool such as Wrike can make your life infinitely easier by providing a centralized hub for all your ongoing projects and a repository for organizing, storing, and sharing updates with team members, stakeholders, and other vested parties.

Are there project tracking tools available?

In the digital age, there are plenty of project tracking tools available, including project tracking software that makes monitoring projects of all sizes a snap. The benefits of project tracking software over a manual project tracker include:

  1. Real-time project status updates
    From team members to senior management, project tracking software allows everyone involved in a project instant access to up-to-date information.
  2. Staying one step ahead of problems and issues
    The faster you can spot potential project problems, the easier it is to nip them in the bud. Project tracking software helps managers assign resources and shift priorities at a moment’s notice before problems have a chance to derail project progress. 
  3. Keeping the team motivated
    When teams can see day-to-day progress and watch task lists dwindle as they near project completion, it helps keep motivation high. What’s more, project tracking software allows team members to visualize how their contributions fit into the bigger picture of the final product.
  4. Reporting with accuracy and ease
    Finally, project tracking software enables quick and easy reporting. Seasoned project managers know that different stakeholders often prefer specialized reports. With the right project tracking software, you can easily generate custom reports without spending hours compiling data from multiple sources. 

What project tracking software features should you look for?

With so many project tracking tools to choose from, how do you pick the right one for you and your organization? Here are some factors to keep in mind when selecting project tracking software:

  • User-friendliness
    The first factor to consider is whether the software will help facilitate easier project tracking. If the software is too complex and hard to use, it will only complicate matters further and make project tracking a bigger hassle than it already was. 
  • Communication
    Open communication is critical to project success. You’ll want to ensure that any project tracking software you employ can facilitate easy communication between all vested parties — from individual team members to project leads to senior management and stakeholders. 
  • Does it meet your organization’s unique needs?
    Finally, make sure the project tracker you’re considering meets your unique needs. Make a list of the essential features you need at the outset. That way, you’ll have a checklist of sorts to help you more easily determine which software will be right for you.

Why use Wrike as your online project management tracker?

With Wrike, you can accurately track and monitor all your organization’s projects in one centralized location. Whether your team is together under one roof or spread out across the globe, Wrike keeps you connected and up-to-date with your projects. Wrike is compatible with and supports multiple project management methodologies, including Agile, Scrum, and Kanban. A full suite of pre-built project templates helps ensure you complete every project successfully. 

Ready to discover all the reasons why Wrike should be your online project tracker? Get started with a free two-week trial right now and see for yourself!