If you aren’t tracking project tasks already, you should really start. Project task tracking reveals a whole host of insights which help you improve project management, budget estimation and timeline scoping. On a more basic level, it's essential for simply knowing what teams spend time on—something of which the average manager only knows 40%. Thankfully, project task tracking doesn’t need to require any extra administrative effort. Here's how it works, how to go about it, and what you can expect in return.
Benefits of project task tracking
Understanding what people are working on helps you work out where your project’s budget is going. Perhaps you’re spending too long on simple tasks or unbillable work. Perhaps you have employees with high hourly rates working on low-value tasks, or the overall cost of the employees on the project outweighs the allotted budget. Understanding where your budgeted time is going makes you better placed to direct it to where it’s needed most.
Focus on priorities
Breaking down all project tasks also lets you know if you’re actually working to your priorities. Are you taking longer than normal on standard tasks? Is your project suffering from “scope creep”, with people working on new tasks not included during planning? Is the majority of your effort targeted to the most complex, high-priority tasks for the project? Crucially, are all project tasks getting the attention they need? Only project task tracking can tell you!
Use resources wisely
Understanding the individual effort that goes into project tasks also helps your project team work more effectively. You can see who has too much on their plate, who needs a bit more support and who has capacity to help out. It lets you allocate resources intelligently, getting the most out of every team member and creating balanced, happy teams.
Improve estimates, rates and efficiency
Project task tracking is essential for making project estimations as accurate as possible. It also sets benchmarks for each task that can help guide your team’s efforts, helping them manage their own time more effectively. By identifying the most expensive drains on your project budget, you are best placed to address them—from making sure they are covered in your project rates and creating more realistic estimates for future work, to addressing the processes slowing down delivery. It all makes for a more robust project plan that delivers on its promises.
How to track project tasks
There are a ton of task management tools out there to help you stay on top of project work. However, the majority unnaturally separate task creation from project time reporting. Increasingly, companies are choosing automatic task tracking tools that can perform both functions accurately without duplicating effort. Using Timely as an example, here's how automatic task tracking works:
1. Define your project tasks
Start with the building blocks—adding all the different deliverables your team needs to complete for a specific project. Give these a deadline, estimate the amount of time you think you'll need to complete them, and assign them to a team member—this will effectively build a project to-do list for everyone on your project team.
2. Schedule resources for project tasks
Your team can then schedule these tasks into their calendars, updating their capacity so you can gauge their workloads while showing you exactly when project tasks are due to start. With Timely, scheduling project tasks is as simple as dragging and dropping tasks from your prioritized to-do list to your schedule.
3. Log time to project tasks using automation
This is where the automation kicks in—Timely will automatically capture all the time each team member spends on project activities while they work. It's all recorded to a private activity timeline only they can access. They just have to drag and drop these activities to their timesheet to log them to a specific project task. This automatic workflow cuts time reporting admin by 75% compared to manual methods and ensures all project activity is accurately reported.
4. Follow the status of project tasks in real-time
Every time your team logs or plans time to a project task, the task's progress bar will update. This allows project managers to check the status of specific tasks without interrupting people. Timely also automatically highlights tasks that are in danger of running behind schedule, so teams can reallocate work and resources as needed to keep projects on track.
5. Review and report on task performance
Whether you need to report on project progress or pull a report as part of a retrospective, Timely lets you dive into the detail of task activity. Powerful reporting lets you review how much effort you've poured into different parts of your project, as well as compare the time you planned against certain types of work vs the time you actually ended up spending on them. It's invaluable for reviewing project estimates and plans, and ensuring project rates capture all costs and internal time.