As experienced project managers know and new project managers learn – sometimes rather painfully – developing the most comprehensive plans and robust schedules is obviously crucial, but it is certainly not the full story. Once a project is underway, it is vital to continuously assess project performance and health. That is where software for project tracking can make all the difference between a project that is memorable for all the right reasons or, alas, for all of the wrong ones.
What is Project Management Tracking Software?
Essentially, project management tracking software enables project managers (and any other relevant and authorized team member or entities, such as the PMO) to monitor progress related to budget utilization, actual vs. planned progress, milestones met/not met, resource utilization, and other key performance indicators. This actionable intelligence is then used to achieve four crucial objectives:
- Inform team members of their various task assignments.
- Optimize the project plan to keep it on course.
- Keep stakeholders updated and manage expectations.
- Create a rich project archive for future use.
Inform Team Members
The first objective of project tracking software is to keep team members informed, so they know what has been done, what is being done now, and what is scheduled to happen next — and more specifically, when (and sometimes where) they need to be to carry out their assigned tasks.
Optimize the Project Plan
The second objective of project tracking software is to provide project managers with data to compare estimates vs. actuals, and optimize the project plan accordingly.
Keep Stakeholders Updated
The Project Management Institute(PMI) notes that “satisfying stakeholder expectations” is one of the most important goals of any project. As such, the third objective of project tracking software is to keep stakeholders updated, which can help identify and address issues, misunderstandings and disagreements before they become difficult, costly and risky problems.
Create a Rich Project Archive
One of the most valuable outcomes of a project is a “lessons learned” document (which can go by different names in various organizations). This document is prepared at the end of a project, and captures what went right, and what went wrong. It is then shared with project managers across the organization. Project tracking software generates the core data that makes this analysis possible and worthwhile.
Choosing the Best Project Tracking Software
The best software for project tracking is one that checks all of the following boxes:
- Integrates all project data
- Comprehensive reporting
- Out-of-the-box report templates
- Customizable dashboards
- Multiple chart options
Integrates All Project Data
Choose a solution that integrates project time tracking software and project budget tracking software into a single, centralized platform. This ensures that all data is in sync and accurate.
Cloud-based (i.e. SaaS) software for project tracking enables team members to submit time tracking data and other relevant project information from any device or location. It also keeps external stakeholders in the loop which, as noted above, is a core requirement.
Robust reporting is at the heart of software for project tracking. Look for a solution that supports pivoting data in multiple ways, which makes it easy to generate real-time insights into performance and key performance indicators.
To get a head start on reporting, choose software for project tracking that offers multiple out-of-the-box reports. These reports should include (but not limited to):
- All Tasks Exceeding Budget
- Budget Utilization vs. Progress
- Projects with Cost Overruns
- Project Profitability
- Project Schedule Status
- Number of Projects per Project Manager
- All Tasks on Project
- All Tasks Starting in a Given Time Range
- Project Utilization
- Hours Worked for Each Resource
- All Projects at Risk
- All Work Items with a Specific Resource
- All Cases to be Resolved on a Project
- Resource Availability
- Resource Load
- Resource Overload
- Resource Underuse
Note that these are just some of the many reports that software for project tracking should support out-of-the-box.
Dashboards consolidate reports across objects, and display them in multiple formats on a single page. End users should be able to adjust their individual dashboard based on their specific information needs.
Multiple Chart Options
It has been said that “a picture is worth 1000 words.” Well, sometimes a good chart can save project managers hours of explaining and convincing. The best software for project tracking features multiple chart options, such as:
- Bar (stacked and cluster)
- Horizontal Bar (stacked and cluster)
- Starburst (a unique radial scatter chart)
What’s more, project managers and other internal/external stakeholders should be able to drill down into charts, in order to get a closer and clearer view of specific information.
Last – but certainly not least – the best project tracking software is intuitive and easy to use for both administrators and end users. This importance of this aspect cannot be underestimated. Frankly, it does not matter how feature-rich and comprehensive a solution might be if it is not adopted and utilized.
The Bottom Line on Software for Project Tracking
Project tracking software enables project managers to closely and accurately monitor project performance, so they can inform team members, optimize the project plan, keep stakeholders updated, and create a rich project archive. All of these are vital, as we mentioned at the beginning, can make all of the difference between a project that is memorable for all the right reasons — instead of the wrong ones!