How to Use a Project Tracker to Keep Projects Profitable

project tracker

🟢✅ Bonus material: Project Management Template + Checklist to keep on top of your projects

I’ve got bad news.

Statistics show that no matter how hard you try, your project is probably going to fail.

To be a little more specific, only 2.5% of companies complete their projects 100% successfully.

Failure is an unavoidable part of any project process” – ProjectManager, 5 Notorious Failed Projects & What We Can Learn from Them

Yet the cost of project failures is staggering. Failed IT projects alone cost the United States around $150 billion in lost revenue and productivity. And it’s frightening! Failure scares us all.

But, the good news is, failure, and how it affects you and your project’s overall success and profitability is controllable. If you can catch, or even predict, failures early enough, you can execute damage control measures and prevent them from completely derailing your project and its profitability. You can even use them to improve your project.

How can you catch or predict failures early?

By using a project tracker.

A project tracker is a snapshot of your entire project. It gives you and the project team a clear picture of how the project is performing, where the weak spots are, and which areas need the most attention.

Let me explain this concept further by taking you through the following topics in this Process Street article:

Let’s get going!

What is a project tracker and what does it do?

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In simple terms, a project tracker helps businesses and project managers identify the tasks that are required to complete a project, and enables them to track the performance of those tasks to make sure the project is completed on time and within budget.

A good project tracker will measure progress, help the team stay focused, update key stakeholders, allow project leaders to keep on top of what’s happening, and make even the most complex projects more manageable.

But, before we go any further, to help you truly understand what a project tracker is and what it does, let me explain why projects usually fail.

The top 4 reasons why projects fail

Below, are four of the most common reasons why projects usually fail.

Project failure reason #1: Lack of transparency
Everyone involved in the project, from the stakeholders and executives right down to the project managers and team members need to know what’s going on in the project. If people can’t see what’s going on, or aren’t kept up-to-date with progress, they lose interest, lose faith, and lose control of the project.

Project failure reason #2: Failure to spot warning signs
Projects don’t fail without warning. Missed deadlines, scope changes, lack of engagement from the team, and rising costs are common red flags that are usually raised when something’s not right. If you can’t identify these red flags, you can’t do anything about them – until it’s too late and the project has failed.

Project failure reason #3: Inadequate resource allocation
Improper resource allocation is the reason why 10% of projects fail. If you can’t see what your team is working on or how they’re performing against the project goals, you can’t possibly know how or where to allocate resources to ensure deadlines and expectations are met.

Project failure reason #4: Lack of structure
Your project is like a journey. The structure of your project is therefore like a map that provides direction and keeps you on the right track. You may encounter some unforeseen stops or diversions, but a good structure will get you to your end destination. Without it, you’ll get lost in project failure.

Ok, so that explains why projects usually fail, but what does that have to do with a project tracker?

How a project tracker can prevent project failure

Enterprises agonize over the causes of project failure, call in expensive consultants to assess and recover failing projects” – Project Management Institute, Seven Causes of Project Failure

But there’s no need.

Failure can be overcome by following a project management process, like the one below, and using a project tracker.

Click here to access the Project Management Process!

A project management process like this will give you and your project a solid structure to work from. It’s your map. It will help you plan, set-up, and work through your essential project management tasks and ensure you don’t miss any vital steps during the execution of your project.

Grab this checklist by logging in and adding it to your account. If you’re not yet a Process Street user, sign up for a free trial.

A project tracker, on the other hand, will allow you to keep an eye on the progress of the project as a whole, in a way that’s accurate, predictable, and profitable.

A good project tracker gives you a top-level insight into every aspect of the project.

It provides a level of transparency that allows you to analyze and measure performance, monitor time spent on tasks, spot potential problems, and track progress towards end-goals.

With one quick glance, a project tracker will enable you to:

  • Immediately establish the status of the tasks within your project; what’s behind, what’s on track, and what’s teetering on the edge of failure
  • Instantly spot budding issues and fix them
  • Effortlessly update team members and stakeholders with deadlines and goals

It doesn’t matter whether your team is experienced or you’ve just finished onboarding them. Problems and issues have nowhere to hide with a project tracker.

Tracking projects from the beginning, dealing with problems quickly and proactively making decisions is what successful project managers do” – ProjectCentral, The Ultimate Guide to Project Tracking

However! Despite all this, when you consider that only 28% of companies use project performance tracking techniques (like a project tracker) to manage their projects, it does begin to beg the question…

Are project trackers really necessary?

Some may ask why tracking project progress is even necessary. After all, it can seem like an administrative overhead” – The Blueprint, How Project Tracking Software Leads to Successful Outcomes

This is very true.

But also completely wrong.

While I can’t deny that keeping track of projects can be seen as nothing more than an ‘administrative overhead’ by some, I’m a firm believer that a project tracker is an essential tool to have if you want your project to be a success.

Organizations using any type of project management methodology are better at meeting budgets, staying on schedule and meeting scope…and have higher quality standards” – Learning Hub, 27+ Impressive Project Management Statistics in 2019

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Let’s look at it in another way. Check out the below, eyewatering, statistics:

How do you think organizations could improve each one of these statistics?

You guessed it – by using a project tracker.

Investing in proven project management methodologies (like a project tracker) pays off… organizations waste 28x less money than their more haphazard counterparts” – Workamajig, Project Management Statistics: 45 Stats You Can’t Ignore

If you’re still not convinced, I guarantee by the end of the next section, you will be.

What happens if you don’t track projects properly (with a real-life example)

Most organizations have experienced projects that did not end on time, were over budget, or changed in scope over time” – Project Insight, Four Common Reasons Why Projects Fail

But, as we’ve established, if you have a clear project tracker:

  • You, and everyone else involved in the project, will be able to see where everything’s at
  • You’ll be able to see the status of every task and allocate resources accordingly
  • You’ll be able to spot issues early-on

Unfortunately, I don’t think NASA had access to a project tracker during the Space Shuttle Challenger launch project.

What happened when NASA failed to track a high-profile project properly

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It was a bitterly cold morning in January 1986, when seven astronauts lost their lives during the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger.

About 73 seconds into its flight, the Challenger exploded into millions of pieces over the Atlantic Ocean. A leak in the main liquid fuel tank, caused by a faulty seal, triggered the blast.

Was it a tragic accident? Was it an awful mistake? Or was it a terrible case of human error and a normalization of deviance around the decision making and testing process?

I think maybe a combination of all three.

According to most investigation reports, over the course of the project, the spacecraft engineers had seen issues and noted their concerns over the faulty seal, but their fears, tragically, went unnoticed (or perhaps their concerns were simply seen as an acceptable deviant from the norm) by NASA officials, who were keen to launch the highly anticipated and publicized shuttle.

NASA officials went ahead with the launch even though engineers were concerned about the safety of the project” – ProjectManager, 5 Notorious Failed Projects & What We Can Learn from Them

I, personally, think two things might’ve helped to prevent this terrible tragedy:

  1. If they’d had access to an aerospace quality control process, like AS9100. Read all about that here.
  2. If there had been more transparency between the project team and the key NASA stakeholders

While I don’t know what NASA’s project management processes were like back in 1986, I can’t help but wonder (as trivial as it might sound), if those NASA officials had had access to a project tracker and therefore been able to see exactly where every task in that project was at, would they have seen that the faulty seal was a concern, and would they have then chosen to delay the launch?

I guess we’ll never know.

Anyway, hopefully, we’re all now agreed; project trackers can not only keep projects on track, but they can also save lives.

But what’s the best way to track projects?

The most effective way to track projects

If you’ve read some of my previous posts on Visual Management or Writing Proposal Templates, you’ll know that I used to be a project manager.

Ahhhh the good old days….filled with scrums, stand-ups, kick-offs, and project trackers.

I remember creating and updating a project tracker for every digital project we started.

Each project tracker would consist of a table in Word, with three columns; task, status, issues.

I’d manually fill out each project tracker and run-through it with the project team and stakeholders on a weekly basis.

Everyone knew where the project was at. We could all see the status of each task. We were able to spot the issues before they became issues, and we knew which areas of the project were over-stretched and needed extra help.

They were a great way to keep track of where the projects were in terms of goals and budget, and also to make sure everyone was clear on progress and performance.

But my God, they were painfully long and laborious documents to fill out each week!

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While there’s nothing wrong with creating a Word or Google Doc and manually updating it to track the progress of your projects, it can be an inefficient use of time and it can lead to inaccuracies.

These days, there are so many intuitive pieces of software, platforms, and tools that you can use to easily and accurately track the progress of your projects.

The easiest way to go about project task tracking is to get an automatic tool to do it for you. It’s much more accurate than filling everything out manually and you don’t have to interrupt anyone to check their progress” – Timely, The Huge Benefits of Project Task Tracking

In fact, I know a way you can start tracking your projects right this second!

You can use the Process Street checklist dashboard.

Using the Process Street checklist dashboard to track projects

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What is the Process Street checklist dashboard?
The Process Street checklist dashboard allows you to see all the checklists that your team is using, in one place. You can set-up your Process Street checklist dashboard to help you track your team’s progress, make sure people are completing their work on time, and understand where the problems might lie.

Check this article out; it explains how to use the checklist dashboard and describes its key features.

What are the key benefits of the checklist dashboard?
With the checklist dashboard, whether you’re tracking a simple project that has one to-do checklist to manage, or you’re collaborating with lots of team members, in real-time, on multiple projects with tasks and subtasks – you can see the following, with one quick glance:

  • What tasks people are working on
  • When they last worked on a particular part of the project
  • How far through the list of tasks they are
  • If a particular task, part of the process, or the project as a whole is running behind

The key benefits of being able to do this include:

  • Getting an instant overview of a project’s health, including the progress of individual tasks, overall project progress, and the workload of individual team members
  • Being able to work collaboratively, as a project team, without getting caught up in a lot of confusing details
  • Allowing everyone involved to have clear visibility over every aspect of the project
  • Giving accountability to each project team member, as they have the ability to track their own progress whenever they need to

By consolidating all your active checklists in one place, the checklist dashboard acts as a single source of truth for your project team.

How much does the checklist dashboard cost and how do I access it?
The checklist dashboard is completely free.

If you already use Process Street to manage your workflows, tasks, and processes, you may have already seen the checklist dashboard? If not, log into your account and click “Checklists”.

If you’re not familiar with Process Street yet, sign up for a free trial and read the below.

What is Process Street and what does it do?

Process Street is super-powered checklists.

We’re a state-of-the-art business process management (BPM) platform, which specializes in making recurring work fun, fast, and faultless for teams across the world.

Watch this short introductory video to find out more, or read this article on Getting Started with Process Street:

You can create templates and run individual checklists. Check tasks off as you work through them, set deadlines, request approval, assign tasks, and track your team’s progress.

Not only that, but you can connect your checklists and templates to thousands of apps through Zapier, webhooks, or API integration to manage your processes and automate your workflows.

Talking of automation, watch this webinar, hosted by our very own Blake Bailey, for some fancy tips on how to automate your processes:

Aside from the checklist dashboard, there are other ways that you can use Process Street to help you track and manage your projects.

Templates to help you track and manage projects

Earlier, I gave you a great little checklist for creating a solid project structure. Below are three more top templates that you can use to keep your projects on track.

Sprint Planning Template

With this checklist, you can make sure your project sprint planning is efficient, prioritize project tasks, and distribute the workload fairly.

Click here to access the Sprint Planning Template!

Scrum Project Management Template

Run this checklist before each project sprint to ensure your development, user stories, sprint planning, and testing go smoothly.

Click here to access the Scrum Project Management Template!

Financial Management for New Projects Template

Use this checklist to create and manage your project budgets and track your spending throughout the entire project.

Click here to access the Financial Management for New Projects Template!

If these templates don’t quite fit your project or company, either create your own from scratch or customize them using these extra features:

If you’re interested, we also have a tonne of posts about all things related to project management and project trackers, check them out!

Related project management articles

Cast your eyes over the below articles if you get a chance.

And there we have it!

But before I go, let me leave you with a final thought:

Approximately 10% of every dollar spent by companies is wasted due to poor project performance. That’s $99 million for every $1 billion invested!

So, go get yourself a project tracker, and keep your projects profitable.

We’d love to hear about the different ways you use project trackers in the comments. Who knows? You may even get featured in an upcoming article!

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Amanda Greenwood

Amanda is a junior content writer at Process Street. She's based in North Yorkshire and has worked in content marketing for a number of years. Her biggest passions in life are writing, her dog Tank, and watching her favorite bands at the Glastonbury music festival.


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