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Last updated on 5/18/20

Monitor Project Progress

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The project management lifecycle has five phases: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, and closing.

  • During the initiating & planning phase, the project receives the necessary approvals, a plan has been created, and the work actually begins on the tasks.

  • The executing phase and the monitoring phase happen concurrently. This means that you are monitoring your progress while you are completing tasks.  

Executing and monitoring happen concurrently
Executing and monitoring happen concurrently.

Monitoring

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

There are 4 main types of monitoring that the project manager should focus on:

  1. Schedule monitoring

  2. Change monitoring

  3. Quality monitoring

  4. Cost monitoring

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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 the project manager should be able to report on whether the project is on track or not.

In order 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 completion to expected completion to determine if expectations meet reality.

It is to be expected that some tasks take less time than expected and some tasks take a little longer. 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 may be estimated at five hours but take eight. Because of this, tracking on a daily basis is useful but must be viewed in the context of overall project progress.

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

A Gantt chart showing milestones
A Gantt chart showing milestones.

There are many project management software tools available that 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.

Task completion and partial task completion shown in a Gantt chart
Task completion and partial task completion shown in a Gantt chart.
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The section above illustrated how you can monitor actual task completion versus expected task completion.

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

The project manager typically pushes back against a change of scope. 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. Therefore, change of scope and adding tasks to the project is the exception rather than the norm.

The project manager will measure the number of change requests and additional tasks that are added to any project. Some issues will also surface as team members discover unforeseen problems while completing their tasks and building the solution. The project manager will track these as well.  If they require additional tasks, the project manager will investigate how they can be done while keeping milestone commitments.

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It is imperative that each deliverable meets the client's expectations. At minimum digital products must be bug free. 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).

There is often a member of team who tests deliverables to make sure they function as expected. This person is usually a member of the Quality Assurance (QA) team, although sometimes it can be the developers or the project manager who do a lot of the testing.

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

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The project manager also needs to monitor the costs of the project. If the project incurs additional costs, then it might not be profitable for your company.

Although team members taking longer to complete tasks is one source of increased cost, there are other ways that project cost 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 that is done at each milestone should indicate whether or not the project is still within the assigned budget.

Summary

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

  • There are four main types of monitoring: 

    1. Schedule monitoring

    2. Change monitoring

    3. Quality monitoring

    4. Cost monitoring

Additional Resources

Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement