The need for a robust tracking mechanism cannot be understated. For some reason Managers focus and spend a significant amount of energy in creating estimates and plans and then for some strange reason, do not use them to track progress effectively.
For me using an automated tool such as Project from Microsoft is a given and I cannot even try to visualize as to how people used to run large engagements without the help of an automated tool.
Having said, that, using a tool too is neither a panacea nor a cure all. Effort needs to be spent in tracking progress effectively, recurrently till the project is complete. Putting a plan against milestones is an easy task, however creating a detailed plan, with resources loaded for tracking consumes effort and not many people know how to do it the right way either.
The key concept is in understanding what tracking approach would one apply. One can use many approaches:
– Linear Progress: This is the default MS Project approach, if a task is base lined for 80 hours, then at the end of week one – assuming 40 hours are logged against the task – it is assumed to be 50% complete.
– Subjective: where the task owner decides how much %age of task is complete.
Clearly there is a problem with both the approaches, whereas one confuses and links effort to progress in the first case, the second case being totally subject to whims and fancies of the individual task owner.
Wherever possible, one should derive percentage completion rather than allowing owners to second guess this number.
Tracking exercise in reality is only a 2-step exercise:
Step 1: To Record historical data: All work completed is historical information. Again not to confuse 100% completion in linear progress with completion of the activity 😉
Step 2: To re-estimate the work in progress tasks and future tasks (effort, duration and cost).
Tracking would become much easier if this 2-step process is followed to rigorously from the time the project is base lined to the completion.