Have you ever worked on a project that seemed to go off track? Did it leave you scrambling to meet deadlines or struggling to align your team?
It's a common problem in project management that can lead to missed goals, cost overruns, and (potentially many) unhappy people and clients.
That's where progress tracking comes in.
A progress tracker is a powerful tool that helps teams monitor project progress and stay on track.
In this guide, we'll explore what a progress tracker is, why it's important in project management, and how to use it to achieve project success.
So let's see how a progress tracker can transform the way you work.
What is a progress tracker?
A progress tracker is a tool that helps teams track project progress and stay on top of deadlines. It enables team members to identify potential bottlenecks before they happen and take corrective action to stay on track.
By tracking progress, team members can gain valuable insights into the project's status and performance. Progress indicators include factors like:
- The completion of tasks
- Resources used
- Overall project milestones
Progress tracking is essential because it helps teams stay on schedule, avoid delays, and meet project goals. Without a progress tracker, teams may struggle to keep track of multiple moving parts and may miss essential deadlines or milestones.
A progress tracker also provides a centralized place for team members to track progress, communicate updates, and make informed decisions.
What is a progress tracker in project management?
In project management, a progress tracker is a tool used to monitor project performance against project schedules and budgets.
Progress tracking is an essential aspect of project management as it fits into the larger framework of:
- Project planning
- Monitoring & controlling
It helps project managers to stay on top of the project's progress and identify any deviations from the project schedule or budget. Analyzing those deviations helps project teams take corrective action to ensure the project stays on track.
Using a progress tracker in project management offers several benefits. It improves project status visibility, enabling project managers to make informed decisions and take timely actions. It also promotes increased accountability among team members, encouraging them to take ownership of their tasks.
Additionally, progress tracking promotes better communication and collaboration among team members. This enables them to work together more efficiently toward achieving project goals.
Why a progress tracker is essential for project success
By monitoring the project's progress towards goals, the progress tracker gives project managers and team members real-time visibility into its status. This visibility allows them to make informed decisions and take timely action to keep the project on track.
Furthermore, a progress tracker encourages increased accountability among team members. Increased accountability can help reduce the risk of missed deadlines or poor-quality work. It can also improve productivity and performance overall. When team members are aware that their progress is being tracked, they're more likely to take ownership of their tasks. This helps ensure that they are completed on time and to the required quality standard.
How to use a progress tracker for project success
A progress tracker, used well, lets you know how far you’ve come, and how far you have to go.
Start by setting clear project goals
It is essential to start by setting clear project goals. What is the project supposed to achieve? These goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).
“What comes first, the compass or the clock? Before one can truly manage time (the clock), it is important to know where you are going, what your priorities and goals are, in which direction you are headed (the compass).” – Unknown
The project goals tell you where you are going, the direction you will take. Sometimes the goals are obvious, and sometimes they’ll take more planning. Once the project goals are defined, you can identify how you will measure your progress. So, what will you measure?
Identify and assign the tasks to get the work done
Once the goals are clear, you can define what is to be delivered. When you know what has to be delivered, you and your team can identify the tasks that will get the work done.
Once the tasks have been identified, and dependencies and work effort needed, you can assign people to perform the tasks and set target dates for completion. If there are many tasks, or complex items to deliver, you might also set milestones to recognize major pieces of work achieved.
Determine the metrics to track
So now that the goals and tasks are defined, what do you need to measure to make sure you know how much progress you’re making? What will you measure? To answer that, you identify the key performance indicators (KPIs) that are most important to the project's success.
Common KPIs for project management include factors like:
- Cost performance – how much did I plan to spend vs. how much have I actually spent at any given point in time
- Schedule performance – how much work did I plan to deliver or complete vs. how much did I actually deliver or complete at any given point in time
- Milestone attainment – where is your progress against each milestone and how does it compare to where you thought you’d be
- Resource allocation and management – do you have sufficient resources to accomplish the tasks as assigned, are they over- or under-utilized, and how does that affect your progress
Use the metrics to track your progress
By tracking these metrics, you can gain insight into how the project is progressing and identify potential issues or bottlenecks before they become major problems.
For example, tracking costs can help you stay within budget. Tracking what’s achieved in a period of time vs. what you had planned to achieve in that period of time (schedule performance) can help you stay on schedule or make adjustments to get back on schedule.
Or the data might tell you you’re on budget but you’re likely to miss a big delivery to a client unless you change priorities. So being able to set task priorities is important for tracking progress.
Use the insights gained from the tracker to identify potential issues and make data-driven decisions to stay on track.
Sometimes the issue might simply be the sheer number of tasks or small projects you have. A progress tracker tool that automatically tracks progress can tell you at a glance where you are on one or all of your tasks.
The quantitative tracking provided by the progress tracker gives you the data to ask questions, make decisions, and take action. This helps to address any issues with project progress as and before they happen, ultimately leading to a successful outcome.
Choose the right progress tracker tool
When selecting a progress tracker tool, it's important to consider the unique needs of your team and project.
Factors to consider are:
- Ease of use, as the tool should be accessible to all team members regardless of their technical expertise.
- Real-time data is another key feature, as it allows team members to stay up-to-date on project progress and identify any potential issues as they arise.
- Customization options are also important, as these allow teams to tailor the tool to their specific projects and goals.
- Prioritization for tasks and activities is an important feature, to help you make decisions about the most important work to be done
Excel is a popular option for progress tracking due to its versatility and ubiquity. But, using it for tracking progress is only as good as its operator, since it only does whatever you tell it to calculate.
Simple spreadsheets and common calendar schedulers may not be the best option for teams who need more robust features or who want to collaborate seamlessly. Project teams will likely require a more powerful software solution like Motion.
Set up the progress tracker
To set up the progress tracker, start by creating a list of tasks and subtasks. Then assign responsibilities to team members, and set deadlines for each. This information should be input into the tool and organized in a logical manner.
You may also want to consider creating milestones to track progress at significant points in the project timeline.
Additionally, it's important to determine how often progress updates will be made and who'll be responsible for providing them.
By setting up the progress tracker properly, you'll have a clear overview of the project's status and be able to identify any potential issues before they become major problems.
Monitor progress regularly
It's essential to establish a regular cadence for tracking progress, such as weekly or bi-weekly. This allows for timely adjustments to be made and ensures that the project stays on track.
Encourage team members to update the progress tracker regularly with accurate information. This is to ensure that the data reflects the current status of the project.
Monitoring progress regularly helps keep the project on schedule and provides valuable insights into team performance, which can be used to improve future project planning and execution.
Use progress tracker data to inform decisions
Data provided by the progress tracker is a valuable resource that can help you make informed decisions about your project.
For example, if you notice that the project or even any task is behind schedule, you may need to adjust timelines or allocate more resources to certain tasks. This helps to get the project back on track.
Similarly, if the project is over budget, you may need to reevaluate costs and adjust the budget accordingly. Using progress tracker data to inform decisions, you can keep your project on track and ensure its success.
Communicate progress regularly
Regular communication is a crucial part of using a progress tracker effectively. Regularly sharing progress updates with stakeholders, team members, and clients can help build trust and ensure accountability. It also informs everyone about the project's status and any changes made.
When communicating progress, be sure to provide clear and concise updates on project goals, timelines, and KPIs. Use visual aids such as graphs or charts to help illustrate progress and make it easier to understand. Additionally, be open and transparent about any issues or challenges that have arisen and how they are being addressed.
Regular communication can also help ensure everyone is on the same page and aligned with project goals and objectives. It promotes collaboration and can lead to a more successful project outcome.
How Motion can help you track progress
Motion provides powerful project management software that can help teams track progress and achieve project success. With Motion, you can easily create and manage tasks, set project timelines, and monitor progress against key performance indicators (KPIs).
Motion’s AI task manager automates your planning and tracking, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting anything. It automatically schedules tasks and milestones based on priority and dependencies, ensuring nothing falls through the cracks. This saves time and effort that can be redirected toward other important aspects of the project.
In addition, Motion’s AI task manager optimizes each team member's calendar with tasks across the project and other projects. It ensures that they are working on all tasks at the right time, which leads to better productivity, job satisfaction, and less burnout.
It can also schedule and plan all relevant meetings and retrospectives for you and automatically chooses times that work for all attendees based on their schedules, so you don’t have to.
Motion makes it easy to see projects at a glance, providing customizable reports for each project. You can easily view the estimated time remaining, the status of each task, and how each task contributes to the project's overall progress.
Finally, its integrated communication tools are ideal for focused discussions, progress tracking, and keeping people accountable. The online platform provides real-time data, making tracking progress against project goals and KPIs easy. This feature guarantees that stakeholders, team members, and clients are always informed about the project's status.
Try Motion's comprehensive project management tool with a powerful progress tracker with a 7-day free trial today.