It would be an understatement to say that project managers are busy.

Tracking timelines, monitoring risk, and managing approvals are only the tip of the iceberg regarding your day-to-day responsibilities. To organize your workload and remain productive, you need a reliable project tracking system. But choosing the best one for your team isn’t always straightforward.

Enter “project tracker” into Google or Microsoft Bing and you’ll find dozens of options — like Tempo, Wrike, and nTask. Learning the best way to track projects for you and your stakeholders will help you select a go-to software with indispensable features to accomplish more in less time.

What’s project tracking?

Tracking is a project management technique for monitoring a project’s status and progress. It allows managers to review remaining resources and which tasks are in process or complete.

Effective tracking typically involves:

  • Task management
  • Deliverable and time tracking
  • Budget and resource monitoring
  • Dependency identification

This information lets you measure project variance and track milestones to complete an accurate earned value analysis.

What’s a project tracker?

A project tracker is a management tool for evaluating progress as team members work. It provides visibility around deadlines and objectives to maintain schedules and budgets.

Your tracking method could be as simple as keeping a pen-and-paper checklist or creating a Gantt chart with a spreadsheet application. But a more robust option is using a digital project tracking system and incorporating a suite of plugins for monitoring all stages and components.

These applications centralize and integrate the elements of tracking a project’s progress to create an at-a-glance overview. And with automated status updates, team members can provide their managers with real-time reports on their workflows and task completion.

The importance of project tracking

Throughout a project’s lifecycle, transparency around activities and goals improves the development process for every stakeholder.

At the team level, having clearly defined project timelines, requirements, and responsibilities helps the group focus on delivering the highest-value tasks.

Project managers use tracking to maintain a complete understanding of the work’s current status so they can identify and avoid potential roadblocks. With full visibility, leaders can develop solutions before problems affect the team and project plan.

At the executive level, project management software equips upper management with real-time data to make informed choices, improving decision-making and project outcomes. And because meticulous tracking helps proactively identify and address potential threats, it saves organizations time, money, and resources.

Other benefits for all key players include:

  • Automatic reporting: Instead of chasing down project reports from team leaders, you can find all the information you need to generate a project update with a centralized management tool. Having a single point of contact simplifies communication, streamlines reporting, and saves time.
  • Team motivation: Seeing the number of completed tasks rise encourages your team to intensify their efforts, especially as the project’s final deadline nears.

How to track project progress effectively: 6 tips

Whether you’re managing one or multiple projects, incorporating these best practices into your workflow is essential to success.

1. Set realistic goals

You can’t track progress without a target, so set goals following the SMART model: make them specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. Clearly defining objectives guides focus so teams can deliver results within the established timeframe.

2. Plan your project

Create a project plan that breaks the work into stages:

Then subdivide these stages into individual tasks, applying each item’s key performance indicators (KPIs), milestones, and timelines. Establishing your project’s baseline measurables allows you to track progress through each phase.

3. Monitor timelines and quality

Team members should understand the outcome requirements to manage their workflows effectively. Explain expectations fully during project kickoff and check in as work progresses to ensure everyone meets their milestones and deadlines.

As you receive deliverables, consult with clients to determine whether the outcomes meet their quality criteria. Then report your findings to the team to guide any refinements or adjustments.

4. Be vigilant

Keep an eye on timelines and team performance to identify potential issues. If your management software flags a deadline as a possible miss or you see team productivity drop radically, approach team leaders and task owners to understand the block and help resolve it.

5. Communicate with stakeholders

Regularly update stakeholders through status reports and in-person meetings to keep everyone informed and foster collaboration among team members. As the project manager, it’s your responsibility to steer discussions around upcoming tasks and potential risks or challenges. If the project veers off-course, offer feedback and resources to set it back on track.

6. Meet regularly

Routinely gather to evaluate work quality and celebrate successes. Regular get-togethers are opportunities to assess team productivity and offer suggestions for improvement. Meetings also let you crowdsource solutions to roadblocks and challenges.

How to select project tracking and management tools

Various tracking software systems offer a wide range of features and functions. Here are some of the most practical elements to look for.

Software integration

No project tracking tool is a one-size-fits-all solution. Choose software that integrates with other applications to build a cohesive system that meets your team’s needs. You may want to incorporate:

  • A time tracker: Document billable hours or individual task completion times using a time tracking application like Toggl or Tempo’s Timesheets. Once you complete the project, summarize the data in a report for invoicing.
  • Portfolio management: Simplify multitasking by adding an application like Tempo’s Structure to your tracking platform so you can manage multiple project portfolios simultaneously.
  • Project visualization: Using a visualization application, you can provide transparency around project timelines and scope. Create integrated project roadmaps using Tempo’s Roadmunk or a Kanban board with Trello based on the information you input into your project tracking software.

Other applications to consider integrating include cloud storage capabilities, word processors, and team collaboration tools.

Workflow automation

Search for a tool that lets you leverage templates or create custom workflow automation to eliminate repetitive manual tasks.

For example, automated workflows can update Gantt charts, project roadmaps, and Kanban boards as soon as you close a task within the management or deliverable tracker. This notifies stakeholders of status changes in real time.

Multiple view screens

Toggling between different project data displays gives you a full picture of your progress. Find tracking software that allows you to switch between the:

  • Project dashboard: This screen includes graphs and other visual representations of your project’s day-to-day or long-term progress, helping you quickly locate data for reports and status updates.
  • List view: You can customize a spreadsheet-like list of all project tasks, statuses, and due dates to include additional fields like priority level and assignee. Using this screen provides clarity around task responsibility and accountability.
  • Timeline view: A Gantt-style view of a project’s timelines lets you coordinate due dates to manage dependencies, avoid roadblocks, and keep team members on schedule.

Mobile applications

You might only spend part of your day at your desk, but that doesn’t mean you have to be out of touch. Choosing a project tracking platform with a corresponding mobile app lets you stay updated on progress from anywhere.

The best tools for project tracking

A project roadmap is one of the best tracking tools available. It allows you to manage multiple projects simultaneously, whether you work in an IT department, product development, or project management. Using Roadmunk by Tempo will allow you to create audience-friendly roadmaps that help you build alignment, prioritize ideas, and track tasks with ease.