Project Progress: Tips for Successful Progress Tracking

A screenshot of a project progress software displaying a timeline view with tasks and resource assignments. Various team members have tasks scheduled across different weeks, with color-coded bars indicating task duration and progress. The interface includes options for filtering, grouping, and sorting tasks.

Keeping project progress on track is one of the project manager’s main duties, but also one of the most difficult things to do right.

Projects have many moving parts; ensuring that project teams, clients, tasks, finances, and timelines operate smoothly and in tandem is no small feat.

Scope creep, task delays, resource bottlenecks — all of this can impact your progress and delivery. Preparing a comprehensive strategy for your upcoming projects is your best chance at managing all of this.

This article will discuss the overall project tracking process, including how to handle your communications, track KPIs, manage responsibilities and goals, and other strategies for successful project delivery.

Key Takeaways

  • Project tracking is the process of managing a project’s resources, including time, budgets, and people, to ensure deliverables are finalized without cost overrun or significant delays.
  • The main challenges include risk identification and management, transparent stakeholder communication, getting relevant project metrics, and adapting to changes.
  • Some progress-tracking strategies are: setting up regular feedback loops, establishing clear goals and responsibilities, and setting up a system to manage KPIs and resource capacity.
  • Modern project management software can help keep your project plan within project costs and timelines and project progress reports.

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What Is Project Progress Tracking?

Project tracking is the process of managing progress during the various stages of the project lifecycle to ensure successful delivery. This includes all project phases, including initiation and closure, but mostly focuses on the longest part of the end-to-end project management lifecycle — the project execution phase.

This includes monitoring three essential resources: time, budget, and project teams. These components are all associated with different challenges and things to look out for.

Why is project tracking so important? Here are just a couple of reasons:

  • Ensures project managers remain flexible and proactive in the face of sudden changes
  • Supports visibility and transparency into project schedule and progress
  • Improves collaboration and communication between all project stakeholders
  • Increases accountability and reduces the chance of delays caused by miscommunication

Monitoring Actual Progress During Project Life Cycle Stages

We can separate a project into phases; here’s an overview of the most important things to track during each:

  • Initiation: The initiation phase is focused on defining the project’s purpose, goals, and scope. The most important things are establishing proper documentation, clear communication between all parties, and clear expectations.
  • Planning: The planning phase can be seen as an extension of the initiation phase — but now you’ll go more in-depth into documentation, including creating detailed schedules that outline tasks, timelines, milestones, and resources to be used.
  • Execution: Creating plans is usually fairly simple; the execution phase is where project tracking gets tricky. A project manager will be expected to coordinate the entire team and their workstreams, handle communications between key stakeholders, and track milestones, status updates, and performance metrics.
  • Closure: The main consideration of the closure or post-completion phase is ensuring that all deliverables are completed according to client needs and quality standards. After that, all that’s left is to wrap things up with post mortem meetings and project management reports.
A screenshot of a project progress software displaying a flowchart titled "Key Factors Across Project Phases." The chart includes four phases: Initiation (initial documentation, transparent communication, clear expectations), Planning (detailed schedules with timelines, budgets, and people involved), Execution (collaboration, status updates and performance metrics, potential risks and changes), and Closure (final project deliverables, post-completion insights and retrospectives).

Top Project Progress Tracking Challenges

Despite how well you’ve set up your project goals and plans, challenges are bound to occur, whether due to internal or external changes. In general, project managers and their teams often struggle with:

1. Risk Management

Early identification is very important for risk management, though this is difficult to do. Even when they’re recognized, risks are also often underestimated or not prioritized well. In general, risk management requires previous experience on similar projects, having a very firm grasp on your business capabilities, and setting clear and realistic expectations during project initiation.

2. Communication Issues

Even when risks are correctly identified, are they communicated to relevant shareholders, and how? According to a survey by Havas, only 56% of clients believe they have an honest and transparent relationship with their service providers. However, effective communication is crucial. It can even prevent issues before they occur—for example, showing clients how certain changes impact project objectives can help manage scope creep.

3. Reliable Reporting

Accurate reporting ties into the previous two issues. If you aren’t tracking your project budget or progress analytics in real-time, you won’t be able to make informed decisions or provide timely updates to stakeholders. Inconsistent reporting or lack of alignment over key metrics is another issue. Inaccurate or delayed reporting can lead to miscommunication, overlooked risks, and ineffective management of project timelines and resources.

4. Adapting to Changes

Finally, change management ties all of these challenges into one. It requires spotting roadblocks early on and communicating them to key parties to implement a solution in a timely manner. Accurate reporting is then needed to assess the impact of your solution on further project progress.

If we put numbers to the most common factors of project challenges, it looks something like this:

A screenshot of a project progress software displaying a chart titled "The Main Reasons for Project Challenges." The chart lists the following reasons with corresponding percentages: 24% Incomplete or changing requirements, 10% Unrealistic expectations and timeframes, 8% Lack of executive support, 6% Unclear objectives, and 5% Lack of resources. The source is noted as Standish Group Chaos Report.

Next, we’ll examine some specific strategies for resolving them.

Top 8 Strategies for Efficient Project Tracking

Here’s a list of the top strategies businesses can use to manage their project scope and lead more successful projects.

A screenshot of a project progress software showing an infographic titled "Steps to Successful Project Tracking." The infographic includes eight interconnected circles with the following steps: 1. Reliable time tracking, 2. Clear responsibilities and goals, 3. Resource management plan, 4. Regular feedback, 5. Quantitative & qualitative approach, 6. Real-time KPIs, 7. Proactive project reporting, and 8. Modern PM software. The design features vibrant colors and the "Productive" logo at the bottom.

1. Implementing Business-Wide Time Tracking

Implementing time tracking is a no-brainer — but another thing is ensuring that your employees are doing it right. Using an integrated timer to track time from minute to minute can be a good option, as it gives you a real overview of how employees spend their time.

But you’ll need to adjust your tracking according to your team’s preferences, working styles, and tasks. If your teams are working on multiple projects or smaller tasks per day, it might be distracting to manage all of this with a timer.

A screenshot of a project progress software showing time tracking for today. Two marketing tasks are listed under "Business: Content" - "Social media posts" with 4 hours tracked and "Customer success - interview questions" and "Creative brief" with 1 hour and 3 minutes tracked. The total time tracked is 5 hours and 3 minutes.


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Consider using a software solution that offers multiple options, such as manual entry or automatic tracking (for example, with Productive, you can schedule your resources and then have time entries created automatically according to this information).

In any case, time tracking is the basis for everything, including successful project delivery and better estimation for future projects.

2. Setting Clear Goals and Responsibilities

There are two useful strategies for defining your goals and dividing responsibilities across team members. One is the so-called SMART framework, which ensures that project goals are:

  • Specific: define what needs to be accomplished and who is responsible
  • Measurable: incorporate measurable benchmarks to determine how the project is progressing
  • Achievable: consider historical data to ensure that project objectives can be completed
  • Relevant: make sure your goals are in alignment with business strategy
  • Time-bound: set specific milestones to keep the project on track

For responsibilities, there’s the RACI matrix. For projects, you need to determine who is:

  • Responsible: who should complete a specific task or objective
  • Accountable: who signs off on a completed project task
  • Consulted: who needs to provide additional information
  • Informed: who needs to be updated but doesn’t contribute to task completion

There’s also RASCI, which adds “Supportive” into the mix, or employees who provide assistance to others in responsible roles.

3. Creating a Resource Management Plan

While you can handle your employees by scheduling them to tasks across projects (by using, for example, a Gantt chart), a resourcing plan is best for a comprehensive overview of availability and capacity.

A screenshot of a project progress software displaying a Gantt chart for June 2023. The chart shows tasks assigned to team members Lucy Wu and Luke Peters, including "Pink Flamingos Rebranding & Website," "ADB Bank website," and "BestTrips.com landing page." Each task is color-coded and includes duration and daily hour allocations. Additional entries for vacation and personal time are visible. The timeline highlights specific workdays and holiday markers.


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You can use it to view the load on each employee and their resource utilization rate across time. It also depicts holidays and time off to show you real insights into who is busy and who can be allocated to a project.

Your resourcing is also tied to project finances, so you can view how your scheduling impacts budgets, profit margins, and revenue.

4. Supporting Communication and Feedback

The frequency of your communication and the amount of engagement a client has in the project can vary from project to project. This is why it’s important to set these expectations from the start and stick to your agreement.

You can also set up a way for clients to get information without scheduling meetings, which might be preferable for businesses that want to keep in sync without closely managing the project. For example, some project management tools provide free client access and user permissions, including everything from opening and commenting to tasks to reviewing budgets.

Keeping all information in one place is also key to reducing miscommunication and project delays, for example, in the task comment section. It makes internal collaboration and communication more efficient:

Productive made collaboration a lot easier. There’s no need to ping people and ask for project updates, we can just check what the project status is in Productive and who’s currently working on which task. I don’t have to go around and micro-manage things, I know what’s due and when and I just have to see if it’s finished.

Alex Streltsov,
General Manager at Prolex Media

Learn how Productive supports efficient business operations.

5. Combining Quantitative and Qualitative Methods

Combining quantitative and qualitative methods provides a comprehensive view of your project’s progress. Quantitative methods involve tracking numbers, such as budget usage, time spent, and task completion rates. Qualitative methods include gathering insights through meetings, feedbacks, and 1-on-1s.

Together, these methods offer a balanced perspective on your actual progress.

6. Tracking Key Performance Metrics

You know you need to track KPIs, but which are the most important? Some include:

  • Project Completion Rate: Percentage of open vs closed tasks per project, which provides a clear identification of overall progress.
  • Budget Burn: Compares the amount of budget spent to the total allocated budget, which is crucial for monitoring financial health.
  • Forecasted Profitability and Revenue: Predicts future project profits and revenue based on current scheduling for assessing financial viability and long-term project success.
  • Estimated Time vs Actual Time: Compares estimated time to complete tasks with actual time taken to evaluate project planning accuracy and identify areas for improvement.
  • Resource Utilization: Examines billable hours vs total hours tracked on a project to show team productivity and efficiency.

Project management tools can automate KPI tracking and provide real-time insights with dashboards and reports.

A screenshot of a project progress software displaying a "Rebranding Campaign" overview. The image includes a bar chart showing budget and time metrics over four weeks (W23 to W27), with values for remaining time, budget totals, and invoicing amounts. The chart indicates the project's financial progress and time allocation, highlighting a steady increase in invoicing and budget use, reflecting the campaign's progression. The keyword "project progress" is central to the data presented.


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7. Proactivity With Project Status Reports

Instead of waiting for customers to request progress reports, set up a regular tempo for sharing and reviewing your project’s progress so everyone can stay up to date. Putting together an exhaustive project report can take a lot of time; in fact, around 30% of managers report spending one or more days manually creating reports (Wellingtone).

Instead, you can consider automating this process. Your reporting tool can gather and calculate this data in real time, and all you need to do is set up automatic sending via email or Slack or set up a custom dashboard.

8. Using Online Project Management Software

Online project management software can bring many benefits to your processes, including:

  • Improved timeline estimation (60%)
  • More effective use of project resources (55%)
  • Enhanced team communication (49%)
  • Improved budget estimation (48%)
  • More accurate metrics (38%)

Some specific features to keep an eye out for include task management and status updates, Gantt charts and other views for project visibility, client access portal and user permissions, resourcing and financial management.

Check out our article on agency management systems or click here to learn more.

Creating a Project Progress Report

A project status report is a document that contains essential information on project milestones, budget spent and remaining, costs, project timelines, and future outlook.

Here are three steps for creating progress reports people will actually read, according to PMI:

  • Keep it short and simple: Use simple, short, and clearly structured reports that cover the most important project updates. This prevents getting bogged down in unimportant details and helps project teams get the support they need for successful project completion.
  • Understand your audience: Make reports by focusing on one critical question: What do the project sponsors or stakeholders want to know? Consider separating your reports into two: one for more in-depth information needs and another that provides a broad overview.
  • Consider how you’ll deliver project reports: Consider setting up project dashboards with live reports instead of sharing them via email. Doing both can also be a good alternative if you’ve got a system to streamline the process.

A project management software tool can help you do all of this and more. For example, Productive offers a project progress template that gathers your crucial information, including scheduled time vs time worked, recognized revenue and profit, cost, and margin.


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Productive – The Best Project Management Software for Keeping Projects on Track

Productive is an all-in-one tool software for professional services, designed to support all project planning phases — from initiation to post-completion insights. Productive goes a step further by support agency growth with in-depth financial and resourcing insights.

We’ve always known, on a monthly basis, how we’re doing as a company. But knowing on a per project level, in real time—we never really had that visibility. You guys do a good job of providing that. If you look at it on a yearly basis, it does give us the ability to look, per client and per project where do we really stand.

Orion Jensen,
CEO at Clear Launch

With Productive, you can:

  • Handle your project management with various layouts, including Kanban and Gantt
  • Use the client portal and build custom permissions to control access to sensitive info
  • Tailor your tracking and workflows with custom task fields and no-code automations
  • Build a resourcing plan that takes into account employee availability
  • Get project budget management, invoicing, profitability and revenue forecasting
  • Create reports by using templates or building one from scratch (including a project progress report)
  • Create custom dashboards or set up automated sharing via email or Slack

Book a demo with Productive to learn more.

FAQs

1. How can I effectively track the progress of my project?

Effectively track project progress by setting clear goals and teams responsibilities, holding regular meetings and feedback sessions with key stakeholders, providing visibility into tasks and resources, and using a project management tool to speed up the entire process.

2. What are key metrics to track progress?

Some of the key metrics for project progress tracking include completion rates, budget variance, resource utilization, forecasted profitability and revenue, and estimated vs planned time of completion. These metrics provide insights into a mix of finances, costs, employees, and actual progress.

3. How can I identify and address roadblocks?

To identify and address roadblocks, make sure you’re maintaining regular and clear communication with your internal and external teams and monitoring project metrics. Even so, unexpected issues can occur. Resolve them by reallocating resources, adjusting schedules, and tracking the impact of changes on project scope.

4. What are the stages of a project lifecycle?

The stages of a project lifecycle include initiation, planning, execution, and closure. Each is associated with specific challenges and strategies to address them.

5. How can I communicate project progress to stakeholders?

Communicate project progress to stakeholders through regular project status reports, meetings, or online software solutions with capabilities such as customizable dashboards and automated reports.

6. What are common challenges of tracking project progress and how to overcome them?

Common challenges of tracking project progress include identifying and managing risks, tracking metrics, implementing change, and ensuring clear and transparent communication. Some specific factors that can contribute to delays include scope creep and resource bottlenecks.

7. What project management tools can help keep projects on track?

A popular project management tool for keeping projects on track is Productive. Productive includes collaboration, financial and resource management capabilities in a single platform. Some other solutions include Trello for simple task management, Jira for software development projects, and Asana for basic time tracking and project management.

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