Once a project plan is in place, and the project starts, project-tracking software keeps an eye on the project’s progress. As against manual tracking methods involving a lot of work with too little to show for it, project-tracking software can produce graphics and reports that show not only the physical progress but also up-to-date cost trends as soon as the latest data is entered. Actually, project tracking software can help project planning also, by analyzing past project performance data. Thus, it can compute standards from the historical data for:
- Times taken to complete different tasks, such as excavating 100 cubic meter of earth or tiling 1000 square meters of flooring
- Rates for consumption of materials, including wastage, such as cement and steel used in constructing 100 square meters of reinforced concrete wall of a certain thickness
- Trends in market prices of materials, labor, subcontracts and transportation
The value of such historical analyses consists not only in the more realistic forecasts they make possible but also in the insights they provide into such factors as labor productivity, material wastage and time delays. Such insights can create the confidence needed to submit competitive quotes for future projects.
What Does Project Tracking Software Track?
The tracking software tracks the progress of work. Which of the scheduled activities have been completed? What percentage of the work-in-progress activities is complete? It is this kind of tracking that alerts managers to delays in specific activities. They can then check its impact on overall project completion date, and if necessary, allocate additional resources to slow-moving activities. Project tracking software also tracks the times taken to complete each activity. This reveals whether productivity standards are being met. This kind of measurement can also establish standards if there are no current standards. It might also be possible to monitor the productivity of each employee or team of employees. This information can help decide on the remedial action needed. Incidentally, productivity measurements also highlight top performers – employees or teams. High performers can be rewarded to motivate these and other teams. The software tracks costs. In addition to tracking whether costs are in line or not, it would also typically be possible to identify the underlying factors that led to the cost performance. For example, material costs can go up owing to either increase in the market price of the material, or substandard productivity of the material. The latter, in turn, might be the result of poor material quality or wasteful usage of the material. It is this kind of analysis that can point to the right remedial measures. In addition to expenses, project-tracking software can also track revenues.
The practice under long-term projects is to bill in a progressive fashion, i.e., work completed is measured and billed as agreed in the contract. In such a context, it becomes necessary to track billable work and either prepare the bills or alert those responsible to do so. Project tracking software can be configured to do these tasks.
Other Features of Project Tracking Software
In addition to keeping track of times, costs and billable work, project-tracking software typically helps in such things as:
- Enabling management of a portfolio of projects. For example, a specialist can see which issues under which activities under which project are pending his attention and action.
- Customizing reports to specific information needs and certain facilities to the user’s preferred working style
- Enabling working with data produced by other popular project management software so that these data need not be re-entered