Operational Excellence

Unlocking the Power of Project Tracking: A Comprehensive Guide

Written By: Ray Waldron
March 25, 2024
14 min read

Project tracking is a compass that shows where the project is heading. Using this method, you can tally up the resources you’ve used and see how these efforts compare to your original plans. That includes keeping teams on track so resources are allocated correctly and tasks are completed on time.

Essentially, it's all about clear objectives, strategic planning, and roles. With project tracking, managers are much more prepared to steer teams back on track, update senior management, and preempt issues, saving time, money, and effort.

So, if you’ve been trying to cut through the jargon and tap into straightforward, actionable insights on project tracking, you’re in the right place. Let’s explore how to closely watch your project's trajectory so you can steer it toward success with clarity and precision.

Understanding Project Tracking

What is Project Tracking?

Monitoring how a project goes from beginning to end is called project tracking. It helps steer projects in the right direction and ensures everyone involved—from the team on the ground to stakeholders in the boardroom—knows how things are going.

It includes updates on tasks, time ticking away, where resources are flowing, and how the budget is holding up. Here's what project tracking brings to the table:

  • Timeline Oversight: You watch over your project's timeline like a hawk, spotting potential hold-ups or delays early so you can tackle them head-on.

  • Budget and Resource Monitoring: Keeping an eye on the budget and resources becomes easy, helping you avoid overspending or overworking your team.

  • Progress Measurement: It lets you measure how close you are to hitting your project targets and goals.

  • Resource Coordination: Ensures you've always got the right mix of people and materials ready to roll at just the right time.

  • Early Warning System: Detects hiccups early, helping you catch anything that might throw your project off track before it's too late.

The Pillars of Project Tracking

Before we go on, let’s look at the key components of effective project tracking. They guide the team toward a common goal and make sure every action matters. Let's explore them one by one:

1. Purpose

Think of it as your project's North Star. It clarifies why you're doing what you're doing and helps make every choice and step along the way feel right.

After all, the team stays on course when everyone's eyes are on the same prize. Tracking progress turns from just ticking boxes to really making sure you're going to hit that big goal.

2. People

It’s about everyone who has a stake in the game—your team, the people you're doing this for, and anyone else throwing their weight behind the project. They're the engine of this whole operation. Getting things done right hinges on how well everyone works together. It's about making sure everyone knows their part and brings their A-game.

3. Product

You're all working toward this, whether it's a shiny new gadget, a service that makes life easier, or an app that will change the game. Your product sets the bar for what's good enough.

4. Process

Basically, it's how you plan to make your vision a reality. Staying on top of the process means you can spot when things are getting bogged down or when there's a better way to do something. It keeps things moving smoothly and smartly.

5. Project

The big-picture view is your project's blueprint. It's about setting up what needs to happen, when, and with what resources. It helps you keep tabs on the moving parts, ensuring you hit milestones without blowing the budget or timeline.

6. Performance

Success is measured. Monitoring performance lets you tweak things in real-time so you stay on the road to victory. It's about ensuring you and your team hit the mark and adjust as you go.

Tracking Progress Using Goals and Objectives

Goals and objectives play a major role in the path to achievement. Here's why you should rely on them to meet your goals:

  • Measures Your Progress: Tracking your goals lets you see how far you've traveled. The view can be incredibly motivating, showing that every little effort adds up over time.

  • Identifies Roadblocks: Regular goal tracking is like a radar for spotting trouble ahead or around you. It can reveal patterns or obstacles you might not have noticed—from procrastination to a packed schedule—allowing you to tackle them head-on.

  • Enables Adjustments: The path to reaching your goals isn't always straight. You might realize the need for a course correction as you track your progress. Maybe the pace is off, or the approach needs tweaking. Being flexible and willing to adjust keeps you moving forward instead of getting stuck in a dead-end plan.

  • Fuels Motivation: Visualizing your progress can be a powerful motivator. It reminds you of your capability and how much closer you are to your goal than when you started.

Introduction to Project Reporting

Reporting is a big deal. It puts together reports—both the official kind and the more laid-back updates—to share how a project is doing.

Why Project Reporting Matters

  • Keeps Everyone on the Same Page: It makes sure everyone (managers, team and stakeholders) is heading in the same direction and understands where the project stands at any given moment.

  • Checks the Pulse: Reports give you a clear picture of the project's heartbeat, showing how much progress has been made and how it stacks up against what was planned.

  • Spots Speed Bumps Early: The sooner you spot a potential hiccup, the sooner you can deal with it. Regular updates help catch these issues before they turn into big problems.

  • Serves As A Budget Watchdog: Tracking expenses makes it easier to spend money wisely—and immediately notice when you’ve gone over budget.

  • Helps You Learn as You Go: Tracking is also about learning. By examining what's working and what's not, you can tweak your approach to improve the project.

  • Pays Attention to Detail: The need for detailed and accurate reporting means nothing gets overlooked. It ensures the project is thoroughly documented from start to finish.

Relationship Between Project Tracking and Reporting

Project tracking and reporting are like the dynamic duo of project management.

Tracking is the part where you gather all the important information about the project's progress. It collects info like your project timeline, budget, goals, milestones, planned progress vs actual progress, etc.

Once you have all that information, you use project reporting to share your findings with your team and stakeholders. This is done through detailed reports, informal check-ins, and regular project updates that keep everyone in the loop.

Tools and Techniques for Effective Project Tracking

Picking the right project management software could give your team back a ton of time to focus on making sure the actual work of your project is a success

This is big news considering that 99% of megaprojects fail due to overcomplexity and there’s a cost to not managing them properly.

Project management tools are meant to be your project's best friend, helping your team plan, keep track, automate, and get a handle on projects big and small. The right tool can help you reach your goals quicker and even keep your budget happy. However, finding the perfect fit for your project is the real challenge.

Choosing the Right Project Tracking Dashboard

Choosing the right dashboard is like picking out the best navigation app for a road trip. You need something that shows you exactly where you're going, how you're getting there, and any potential roadblocks.

A project tracking dashboard does just that for your projects, offering a visual feast of metrics like budget, scope, schedule, quality, and more. These metrics inform your project's status, performance, and overall health.

Let’s explore the 3 different dashboard types to consider:

Executive Dashboards

  • Audience: Senior management and sponsors.

  • Focus: Big-picture metrics such as ROI, customer satisfaction, and how projects align with strategic goals.

Operational Dashboards
  • Audience: Project teams and managers.

  • Focus: The nuts and bolts of day-to-day activities, including scope, schedule, budget, and resources.

Analytical Dashboards
  • Audience: You and your stakeholders.

  • Focus: Digging into data and trends, using metrics like variance, risk exposure, and earned value, to paint a picture of project performance.

When it's time to pick the dashboard that'll guide your project to success, consider these factors:

  1. Your Goals and Objectives: What are we trying to achieve? Your dashboard should be a compass pointing towards your project's North Star.

  2. Stakeholder Expectations: Who will use the dashboard? Each audience, from executives to team members, needs different information to support their decisions and actions.

  3. Data Availability and Accuracy: What information do you have, and how trustworthy is it? A dashboard built on shaky data is like a lighthouse with a flickering bulb—not very helpful.

  4. Tools and Integration: How well do your current tools play together, and can they adapt to your needs? The right dashboard should fit seamlessly into your existing toolkit, making life easier, not harder.

Integrating Traditional and Modern Tracking Methods

Blending traditional and modern methods in project tracking can create a powerhouse approach to managing your projects. Here's how you can make this integration work for you:

  • Mix and Match Tools: Use classic and digital tools to track your project's journey. The combination leverages the reliability of established methods with the agility and connectivity of today’s technology, offering a well-rounded view of progress.

  • Embrace Hybrid Methodologies: Combine the disciplined structure of conventional project management methods with the adaptability of modern agile practices. The approach gives your projects a solid foundation but keeps them nimble enough to navigate changes.

  • Define Yet Flexible Scope: Outline what your project aims to achieve initially, but don’t lock it down too tightly. Stay open to tweaking your plans based on new insights or shifts in the market, much like the responsive nature of digital methodologies.

  • Enhance Communication: Keep the classic hierarchy for key decisions but weave in direct, informal ways to share ideas. The dual approach to communication fosters better teamwork and faster solutions to challenges.

  • Smart Risk Management: Plan for potential pitfalls with the foresight of traditional methods, but keep your radar on for new risks, adjusting as you go. It’s about having a plan and being ready to pivot as situations evolve.

  • Step-by-Step Delivery: Stick to your grand plan but break the journey into manageable chunks, releasing parts of your project piece by piece. The strategy lets you continuously gather feedback and refine your approach, aligning with the best digital practices.

  • Build Versatile Teams: Encourage a culture where team members can wear different hats and contribute in varied ways. It’ll tap into the collaborative spirit of modern project management and enhance the team's skills.

Setting Up Your Project Tracking Dashboard

Every project tracking tool is different, so there isn’t a universal way of setting up a dashboard. Still, no matter the tool you're using, there's a comfortable process to get your dashboard feeling right.

Here's the lowdown on getting that dashboard from zero to hero:

  • Kick off with Your Goals: Think about what you're eager to keep an eye on. Is it how fast you're burning through tasks, or maybe how your budget's holding up? Pinning down what matters most to you sets the stage.

  • Pick Your Winning Metrics: Choose the metrics that vibe with your goals. These could be anything from how many tasks you've knocked out to how your budget's faring. It's all about tracking progress in a way that makes sense for your project.

  • Select Your Tool - Hello, Quickbase: Choose your dashboard's home. For instance, with QuickBase, you can mold your dashboard to fit exactly what you need without the clutter of features you'll never use.

  • Tailor Your Dashboard: Quickbase’s customization tools allow you to customize your view just how you like it. Whether you're into charts, lists, or graphs, you can set it up to reflect your project's pulse in real time.

  • Merge Your Data Streams: If your project data is scattered across different tools, Quickbase plays nice with others. You can pull in data from various sources to get a full picture of your project's health without flipping through a dozen apps.

  • Bring Your Team Into the Loop: Make sure your crew can peek into the dashboard, too. Quickbase lets you manage who gets to see what, keeping everyone in the know and moving in sync.

  • Keep It Fresh and Focused: As your project evolves, your dashboard should too. Tweak your metrics, add new data points, or switch up the layout as you find new ways to streamline your workflow.

Best Practices for Customization and Use

Creating a project management dashboard that hits the mark involves a few key steps and a bit of finesse. Here’s how you can craft one that’s effective and user-friendly:

  • Start with the Blueprint: Before designing your dashboard, sketch out what you aim to achieve and why. What story are you trying to tell with your data? Understanding your goal and scope from the get-go helps ensure your dashboard serves its intended purpose.

  • Pick Your Tools Wisely: Consider the metrics and visuals that bring your project’s data to life. Use consistent labels, colors, and formats to make your dashboard intuitive and easy to read.

  • Keep It Clean and Clear: An effective dashboard doesn’t overwhelm you—it communicates key information smoothly. Achieve this by keeping the layout organized and straightforward. Use white space and dividers to guide the eye without causing information overload.

  • Iterate and Improve: The first draft of your dashboard is not perfect, and that’s okay. The goal is to refine it over time. Use the feedback you gather and the insights you gain from using the dashboard to improve it. Think of it as a living document that evolves along with your project.

Examples of Effective Project Tracking Dashboards

Explore these examples of a project tracking dashboard to see how effective project management, organization, and meeting deadlines can be achieved through intuitive dashboard features:

  • Project Management
    • Organization: Consolidate spreadsheets​ and gain visibility into project statuses, including areas for potential delays​.

    • Communication: Break down siloed workflows with centralized views across your entire project portfolio​.

    • Deadlines: Manage delivery timelines for complex projects using the Gantt view.

  • Construction
    • Project management: Track milestones, budgets, and resources to manage complex buildout projects from concept to closeout.

    • Policy creation: Set up real-time incident reporting, track training completion, and centralize emergency response plans in one accessible location.

    • Facility Maintenance: Manage employee schedules, work orders, asset tracking, and issue resolution. Easily see open, closed, and resolved tickets.

  • Supply Chain
    • Organization: Proactively monitor shipments, address issues, manage returns, and guarantee timely & reliable delivery all in one place.

    • Financial compliance: Automate financial reporting, track tax compliance deadlines, and streamline auditing processes.

  • Shop Floor and People Management
    • Intake: Simplify the employee onboarding process from completing paperwork to training coordination and equipment provision.

    • Onboarding: Manage training & development materials, employee handbook, policies, or hiring and scheduling processes.

  • Customer Information
    • CRM: Manage customer interactions, leads, and sales pipelines in one place.

    • Organization: Use a project tracking dashboard to prioritize and resolve content requests from colleagues.

Track and Report Your Projects to Victory

By now, you’re more aware of the pivotal role that project management software and reporting play in project management. Together, they not only collect valuable information about a project, but share it across the team so everyone’s in the loop. Without both tracking and reporting, you’re blindly leading the blind.

The practices in this guide will ensure everyone involved has a clear roadmap to follow and can see progress unfold in real-time. So, we encourage you to incorporate these insights into your project management. Try out different dashboards, refine your communication tactics, and keep your goals in mind.

Let's talk as you tweak everything. Drop a comment with your experiences, challenges, or tips on project tracking. We can all learn from each other and continue to elevate our projects to new heights.

Picture of Associate Content Marketing Manager Ray Waldron set against a lochinvar background
Written By: Ray Waldron

Ray Waldron is an Associate Content Marketing Manager at Quickbase.

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