Project monitoring: what it is and how to do it well
Last updated on
October 14, 2020
Project management contains a whole world of responsibilities. From initiation to closeout, there are a ton of different components to balance and adjust. But with solid project monitoring, managing all of your project variables gets a lot easier. Here’s everything you need to know about project monitoring – from what it is, to how to do it well.
What is project monitoring?
Project monitoring is a crucial element of all project management plans. Without it, you can’t see where or why projects fail. It essentially comes down to keeping tabs on all project-related measurements, proactively recognizing possible problems and taking the necessary steps to guarantee the project is completed on budget, on time and in scope.
But it’s also crucial for maximizing project ROI. Since project monitoring involves supervising all tasks and activities, failing to do it properly can limit the impact of successful projects. All-too-often project monitoring is glossed over – maybe reviewed just enough to meet the obligations of a project management plan, or worse, discounted altogether. But project managers do so at their peril.
Project monitoring exists to make sure you’re implementing a project as competently as possible. It should always be a cohesive and constant part of project management, and vital decisions should never be made without it. With that in mind, here’s how to actually go about it.
Project monitoring 101
While an important part of project planning, project monitoring doesn’t really kick off until the implementation phase. This is the most exciting stage of the game, but also one of the most frustrating.
Your team needs to stay focused on your priorities, intelligently sharing the workload and spending the right amount of effort on different tasks. And you need to be able to identify drains on time and budget, recognize problems with quality, and manage your resources effectively.
You’ll want to pay special attention to these variables:
Team capacity (who has availability to help out)
Individual employee activity
Hours worked by each team member (including overtime)
Budget spent on each task
Budget spent by each team member
By staying on top of factors like these you’ll be able to identify issues as soon as they arise – whether that’s overworked employees, too much time spent on a small task, or a depleted budget. But what’s the best way to actually keep track of these things?
1. Real-time project time tracking
Project time tracking is the single best way of monitoring all project activity. By knowing exactly how you spend time across your project, you are able to:
See where project budget goes: Understand what your project costs you down to the type of activity and project phase. Great for getting a spread of your spending across your project to improve future estimates and reign in cavalier spending.
Keep everyone working to priorities: See what each individual employee is working on to ensure everyone is pulling in the right direction, working on their most important tasks.
Allocate project resources intelligently: See who has capacity, who is working serial overtime, and who is close to burnout. It’s key for maintaining a healthy team and moving resources to where they are needed most.
See how long each project task and phase takes: identify potential budget drains and apply your learnings to make future projects more effective and economic.
Quantify everything that goes into your project: essential for billing accurately for all your work if you work by the hour, but also invaluable for ensuring fixed fees actually cover all your costs before you take on new projects. You can’t assure profitability without it.
Effective communication is another essential tool for successful project monitoring. Every member of your team should have clearly outlined procedures and goals that determine when and what they’ll be working on – and be able to share their progress seamlessly.
Aim to have frequent check-ins with team members – at least once a week – and think carefully about what communication tools to use. Your tools should make it easier and quicker to stay updated and share information, without interrupting workflows. A communications framework can help protect against this.
Project monitoring doesn’t end once you’ve shipped your project. To mean anything at all, you need to actually reflect on what happened and what actions you took to keep your project on course.
Consider whether tasks were carried out as planned: what areas dominated your team’s focus? Which tasks didn’t require much attention? What went well? What ate up your budget? How did your changes affect your project’s course? How did this performance compare to that of similar previous projects?
It’s all about seeing what effective change actually looks like. With these learnings, you can hopefully build more robust project plans for similar work in future. You should never monitor projects in a vacuum – every project should be informed by past experience and fully dissected once finished to truly understand what "success" looks like.