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Last updated on 1/27/23

Monitor Project Progress

As mentioned, monitoring is not a phase within the project management lifecycle. Nevertheless, monitoring activities are crucial, especially from the execution phase to project closure. These activities assure effective communication with stakeholders and the team and monitor the progress and quality of the product or service you are working on.

Monitoring, top right, is highlighted in the project management lifecycle.

Once the project plan is finalized and approved, the project manager monitors the progress, ensuring the tasks are completed accordingly.

There are four main types of monitoring that the project manager should focus on:

  1. Schedule

  2. Change

  3. Quality

  4. Cost

Schedule Monitoring

The project manager has a plan of tasks and an estimated duration period for each. Therefore, at the end of each day, week, or month, they should be able to report on whether the project is on track or not.

To report in this way, the project manager needs to know from each team member:

  • Which task they are currently working on.

  • How many hours they have spent on this task.

  • How many hours are left to complete this task.

With this information, the project manager can compare actual and expected completion to determine if expectations meet reality.

Some tasks take less time than expected, and some take longer. For example, a developer might tell the project manager that creating a web page took three hours even though it was estimated to take ten. Similarly, a task estimated at five hours may take eight. Because of this, daily tracking is useful but must be viewed in the context of overall project progress.

While the project manager compares weekly completed tasks to the schedule, stakeholders will focus on the overall project schedule and delivered milestones. This is where a Gantt chart can be beneficial - as it gives a visible view of where milestones lie within the project timeline calendar.

A milestone is denoted as a black diamond on the third line.
Milestones in the Gantt chart 

Many available project management software tools show the percentage of task completion using a horizontal bar. This helps to view progress and shows how likely you are to complete enough tasks within schedule to achieve your major milestones.

Change Monitoring

The section above illustrated how to monitor actual versus expected task completion.

But what if the tasks change? What if the client changes their mind and wants something completely different? What if you discover halfway through the project that a law has changed and there are now new requirements that will require extra work?

To avoid scope creep and impact on time and budget, the project manager should challenge a client’s request to change the scope.

Questions you should ask to help manage these requests include:

  • Is it a must-have (i.e., does the requirement have to function this way), or is it more a nice-to-have, which could go into a later change project?

  • Does it impact the project’s critical path? If yes, this is a significant project change.

  • Do you have the available project team resources regarding availability and skill set? If not, this can also be a major change to the project.

Changing the list of outcomes, deliverables, and mid-project tasks would require revising the project plan and acquiring new sign-offs from the decision-makers. Changes are not immediately submitted for new sign-offs. Usually, a change board (made of representatives of the different relevant functional areas within the project) considers and discusses any proposed changes before action. Therefore, you should deal with a change of scope and project tasks as an exception rather than the norm.

The project manager will measure the number of change requests and additional project tasks. Some issues will surface as team members discover unforeseen problems while completing tasks and building solutions. The project manager will track these as well.

Whether coming from a client’s change request or an unforeseen issue, the project manager will investigate the impact of additional tasks on the budget and time while attempting to keep milestone commitments. If it impacts the project plan, the project manager should also get the changed project planning checked and authorized by the decision-makers.

Quality Monitoring

Each deliverable must meet the client's expectations. For example, in the case of digital products, they must be bug-free at a minimum. You must also make sure that the product performs as expected (for example, it would not be acceptable for a web page to take five seconds to load).

TA team member often tests deliverables to ensure they function as expected. This person is usually a member of the quality assurance (QA) or test team, although sometimes it can be the developers or the project manager who do much of the testing.

In addition, you may want the clients to test if the product, feature, or service meets their needs. This is called user acceptance testing (UAT).

Testing should not be done only at the end of the project. It is important that quality checks are done consistently during the executing phase.

Cost Monitoring

The project manager must also monitor the costs of the project. If there are additional costs, a project might become unprofitable for the company. In case of a major negative impact on costs, the project manager should update the initial business case to check if it is qualitatively still valid and justifies continuing the project. Whether the business case is still valid is up to the project sponsor and decision-makers.

Team members taking longer to complete tasks is one source of increased cost, but there are plenty other ways project costs can exceed budget:

  • Additional materials (e.g., hardware, servers, etc.).

  • Increased use of suppliers.

  • Large numbers of defects that have to be fixed at your expense.

Part of the reporting at each milestone should indicate whether or not the project is still within the assigned budget.

Let’s Recap!

  • Once tasks start being worked on, the project manager needs to monitor progress.

  • There are four main types of monitoring: 

  1. Schedule

  2. Change

  3. Quality

  4. Cost 

Now we are onto the final phase of the project lifecycle: ensuring the project is successfully and officially closed.

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