Finding the Right Progress Reporting Tool

One of the most common problems you will face as a project manager is to collect information about task progress. Whether it is as simple as asking your team to report back the progress of each task, or if it involves multiple teams or organizations, the essential obstacle you face is the same; how to get an up-to-date view of the state of your project.

If we look at this same problem from the perspective of the team member, the issue becomes one of transparency. How can I as a team member know the status of the project I am working on? How do I know when related tasks are completed, or when materials or resources become available? Looking at the overall picture, this is a problem of information sharing. The project manager needs to share the details of the project, so the team member can act on relevant information and report back progress in a timely manner.

If you are like the millions of project managers out there using Microsoft Project, there are easy off-the-shelf affordable options available to solve this quandary:

  • Invest in project viewers for your team. They will be able to read your project file, and your organization saves the large overhead of investing in Microsoft Project licenses to everyone. The downside is that this becomes a one-way street where the project manager shares with the team, but not the other way around.
  • Invest in an online project management solution. There are numerous online project management tools that can enable you and your team to work together. The downside of this solution is that you will have to stop using Microsoft Project, as well as hosting your proprietary information on 3rd party sites.
  • Move on to a solution that allows you to work on your existing Microsoft Project files, but also allows your team to view them and report on them.

When you decide on a solution, you should roll it out slowly, starting by using it on a small well-defined project to see if it fits your needs. Later, if you are satisfied, you can consider deploying to your organization.

Here are some common pitfalls you need to be aware of when evaluating tools:

  • Is your project secure, or shared on 3rd party servers? If so, can you purchase an in-house server if needed?
  • Does the solution enable your team members to stay informed?
  • How much training does it take to get yourself and your team members running effectively?
  • Is the price attractive enough that you can get a buy-in from your finance department?