Tracking data is the most crucial skill a project manager can master. Data is useful before, during, and after a project. Every team will handle tracking in its own way, but there are several metrics that every project manager should track during the majority of their projects.
In this article...
Budgetary mismanagement is the bane of project completion. According to the Project Management Insitute’s Pulse of the Profession 2021, 35% of project failures were related to budget problems in 2021.
Tracking scope, risk, and project performance is core to effective project delivery. Project managers and their teams need to responsibly manage their budgets to avoid over-spend and production delays. Using project management software or meticulous bookkeeping will centralize information for project leaders—meaning that stakeholders and staff will be able to review how well they were able to utilize the budget allotted to their project.
Tracking and managing project budgets is primarily an exercise in expectation setting. During the planning phase, project managers should be laying out plans that will, ideally, undershoot their allotted budget. Tracking unexpected expenditures and setbacks will also give project managers early warning signs that a project is set to run over budget in the long run.
Tracking project milestones creates a simple path to project completion. Defining and tracking project milestones creates a work cadence that is actionable and easy to report on as projects progress. Project managers will also find project milestones useful in projects like construction that require a highly specific order to task completion.
For example, laying foundation and framing will establish a decent starting point for any construction project. If we understand each phase of building as a project milestone rather than an arbitrary task among a pool of tasks, then early time estimates can be adjusted and the project can take on a broader view that is easier to manage.
Project milestones can be identified by breaking a project up into several steps that must take place to eventually produce the deliverable. Using construction as an example once more, we can easily identify project milestones in constructing a house:
- Building the foundation
- Framing the house
- Wiring electrical
- Installing plumbing
- Adding insulation
- Hanging drywall
- Completing finishing work
By looking at milestones, a project can then be broken down into more granular tasks and managed with tighter control.
Tracking work hours is not simply a matter of tracking labor costs or ensuring contractors are paid on time. To more accurately define the scope of work, track time to completion on project tasks like product research or production and break down sprint workloads.
Many deliverables are constrained by time, so use past time metrics to better schedule tasks and deadlines. You can also use PM software to track how long each status takes in real time. For many project management tools, you can create two fields for start dates and end dates with a third to calculate the time between those dates. This will not only give you more accurate numbers to plan by but also help you see how a timeline is improving should you make process changes.
Why is tracking important in project management?
There are several reasons data tracking is important for project managers, but three stand out above the rest: data-informed decision-making, quality management, and process development.
The planning phase can’t account for every variable. Using data to inform decision-making will save project managers from wasting time and resources. For example, tracking time spent on each project task will give project managers a more accurate portrait of a team’s ability to hit deadlines on schedule and under budget.
It is impossible to track the quality of a product without monitoring data. Project managers have a unique position as the nerve center of every project, and tracking data across the lifetime of the project gives them an immense library of information to pull from—ensuring a product meets quality standards.
Project managers must always work to improve their processes to stay competitive. Reviewing project portfolios after a job has been completed or abandoned will give project managers the perspective that they would not have been able to. With proper KPI tracking and data management, any project can become an opportunity to improve workflow and knowledge.
Improve your project management with tracking tools
Tracking essential KPIs can ensure a high-quality final product and make it easy to spot small issues before they become big problems. You can also use those metrics to better plan future projects and propose process improvements.
The right tools for the job can make tracking KPIs a breeze. With so many options, there’s a digital solution for every job and work style, but sometimes it can be overwhelming to parse through them all without help. To help you narrow your choices, take a peek at what we consider the best project management software to see which will suit your needs.
Smartsheet is an online work execution platform empowering organizations of all sizes to plan, manage, automate, and report on work. Over 80,000 brands rely on Smartsheet for project and work management.
Tackle complex projects with Wrike’s award-winning project management software. Break projects into simple steps, assign tasks to team members, and visualize progress with Gantt charts, Kanban boards, and calendars. Manage resource allocation and forecasting with software that’s easy to launch. Automation and AI features strip away time-consuming admin tasks so you can do the best work of your life. Streamline your practices, align your team, and ensure you hit deadlines and stay on budget.
monday.com Work OS is the project management software that helps you and your team plan, execute, and track projects and workflows in one collaborative space. Manage everything from simple to complex projects more efficiently with the help of visual boards, 200+ ready-made templates, clever no-code automations, and easy integrations. In addition, custom dashboards simplify reporting, so you can evaluate your progress and make data-driven decisions.