Project management goal: Track progress

icon: Track progress

Though Microsoft Project makes monitoring and tracking the progress of your schedule easy, there are several steps to take before you can begin monitoring project progress.

Monitoring your project can generally be broken down into reviewing and tracking project progress. Variances from the original plan (or baseline) are identified and managed to keep the project within scope, on time, and within budget.

This article is one of many project management goals on the Project Road Map.

Examples from project management . . .

Example One: The accidental project manager   : You’ve created your schedule, everybody is busy working on the tasks that you’ve assigned them to, and you assume everything is going as planned.

That’s your first mistake. No project goes as planned. There are problems, and you should start looking for them now rather than later. The longer you wait to find problems, the worse the problems get.

Keep the following in mind as you monitor the progress of your schedule.

  • Create a baseline for you project    After you’ve created your schedule, consider creating a baseline for it. A baseline is similar to a version of your project that can be used to compare against the progress of your tasks. The baseline allows you to make a comparison between the original schedule and a later version.

  • Collecting data manually    Although the fastest and easiest way to collect project status information is to by using Project Server, you might want to collect this information manually.
    For example, you might not have Project Server installed, or your project might be so small that it takes you little time to collect the data yourself.
    When you decide to collect project status data manually, remember that you also have to enter the data into your project plan manually.

  • Expect resistance Resistance to formal tracking of project management data is normal. Fortunately, there are a few methods you can use to minimize this type of resistance.

Here are three simple steps to help you start monitoring your schedule.

  1. Create a baseline for your project. Click the Project tab, and then click Set Baseline.

  2. Communicate, communicate, communicate. It is not easy for people to send you work status. Simple ways to get status would be during weekly team meetings or other stand-up meetings. Collecting status on a weekly basis is ideal for most projects. Collecting status more frequently than weekly, however, can be counterproductive. You can also set weekly reminders in Outlook 2010 to receive basic status information from people.”

  3. Use Team Planner. The Team Planner view in Project is designed to resolve many of the issues relating to who is doing what on your team. Bringing this view up in a team meeting can help expedite the process of gathering status information.

Example Two: You’re a seasoned project manager   : You’ve been a project manager for a long time, and you’ve used complicated project manager software in the past. Now you’re faced with a project that you’re sponsor says needs very close monitoring to keep it within budget. Monitoring people is one thing, but monitoring tasks progress and costs is another.

Plus, you’re sponsor says that she wants executive reports on a monthly basis. Now you’re really worried.

Here is a list of common obstacles to monitoring and tracking and what you can do about them.


Possible solution

Expect resistance

Resistance to formal tracking of project management data is normal. Fortunately, there are a few methods you can use to minimize this type of resistance.

Missing email

Getting status information using email is one of the simpler ways of monitoring your project. However, emails can get lost. You can set weekly reminders in Outlook to remind team members to send you their task status on a regular basis.

Project Server

If you’re using Project Server to tract status on work, think about hiring a consultant to help team members through the obstacles of reporting actual work. A consultant can also help you through the often complex phases of monitor a project, especially large projects. A Project MVP (Most Valued Professional) might be able to help.


Make sure that if you’re using contracted vendors to work on task in your project that they are reporting work on a weekly basis. One way to do this is to require this step in the statement of work (or other contract documents) before bringing the vendor on-board.

Budgeting scares you

Budgeting scares everybody. Learn the value of earned-value analysis. If you’ve set a project baseline (which you should have if you’re a seasoned professional) and you’ve entering costs in your schedule, then earned value is what you need to monitor your schedule.

Scope creep

Scope creep is often difficult to monitor. It happens when the requirements of a project deliverable are not fully understood by all team members. For example, an engineering team may decide that enhanced functionality would be better for a product without checking with the project manager to determine if the cost of the enhancements is warranted given the larger objectives of market conditions.

Review task progress prior to tracking

Create or update a baseline or an interim plan

Create or update a baseline or interim plan so that later you can compare this information to your up-to-date schedule or baseline later in the project. Saving a baseline plan enables you to identify and solve discrepancies and plan more accurately for similar future projects.

Review the progress of your schedule

As you track progress through your project, you can review the differences between planned, scheduled, and actual work. This helps you assess whether work on your project is progressing as expected.

See what's driving the project finish date (critical path)


One of the first steps in monitoring projects is discovering how the end date of the project changes as tasks and resource requirements change.

Compare two versions of a project (link to come)

You might need to create or save original project estimates and actual project data, which you compare to determine progress.

Monitor workloads with Team Planner


Project managers struggle with seeing clearly and quickly what their team is doing at any given point in the project schedule. Use Team Planner to respond quickly to individual workloads.

View and track scheduling factors

Use the Task Inspector to see how changes to one task affect other tasks. When you update task progress, be aware of these kinds of changes.

How scheduling works in Project

Understand the new scheduling functionality in Project 2010. This will help you respond to the changes as you monitor your Project.

Overcome resistance to tracking

Organizational resistance to tracking project management data is normal. Learn a few methods for dealing with it.

Top of Page

Monitor the progress of your schedule

Update work on a project

As work on your project progresses, you can update the plan with the actual start and finish dates, actual work, actual and remaining duration, and the current percent complete and percent work complete

Update completed tasks quickly

Learn how to quickly update tasks using controls on the ribbon.

Analyze project performance with earned value analysis

An earned value analysis indicates how much of the budget should have been spent, in view of the amount of work done so far and the baseline cost for the task, assignment, or resources.

Save a project to Project Server

When you’re done monitoring your Project, you can save a version to Project Server, or share it with team members and other stakeholders.

Create reports of project progress


Visual reports allow you to view Project information graphically using enhanced PivotTables in Excel 2010 or Pivot Diagrams in Visio 2010.

Up to speed with Project Web App

For the ultimate tool in tracking work across your organization, look into Project Server 2010 and its companion, Project Web App.

Return to the Project Road Map

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