How should I track project progress?


What are the pros and cons of hour and task tracking?

When should I use hour tracking?

Hour tracking makes it easy to see project status. It is relatively lightweight: you just need your team to record their time, which you will need anyhow if you are billing by time. To produce reports, compare the hour data against estimated hours or costs.

It is less easy to calculate how much work is left. For example, if you are working on a fixed price project, you will probably see if you are likely to run over budget, but it may be difficult to work out how much more time is needed, and you may only notice the over-run at short notice, when it becomes imminent.

Hour tracking works well if you are planning to pass on the time directly to the customer.

When should I use task tracking?

Task tracking makes it easier to notice that a project is likely to run over time relatively early in the project. If you have used 20% of the time available and completed 2% of tasks, it is easy to identify the problem well before the end deadline.

Task tracking takes more work, your team need to put more thought into recording their tasks, and the task definitions need to be well defined. Tracking predictions will be more likely to give a clear warning when the task list is complete (or very nearly) and tasks are relatively evenly sized.

Task tracking works well when you have a known set of clearly defined tasks, for example if you perform relatively similar, evenly sized tasks for most customers. When tasks are well defined, tracking helps to predict progress from the early stages of a project or sprint.

Can I use task tracking with agile processes?

Task tracking requires you to size each task before working on it: doing this for a whole project does not fit well with agile processes.

You can use task tracking effectively in an agile context if you assign tasks for only one sprint at a time. Remember that you can always go back and revise the estimates if you find you have consistently over or under-estimated: and you can take estimating experience from one sprint into the next.

Should the tracking model change based on the billing model?

Many consultancies start out with the style of tracking that fits their billing model: hourly tracking for an hourly or day rate billing model, and task tracking for a fixed price billing model. Internally, it can be useful to have both metrics, even if you only use one set of data for invoicing.

With a long-running agile project, you won't normally model either requirements or tasks from the beginning through the full project, but you can still build useful metrics if you track tasks within a sprint. Keep reviewing how you track and report, and you should be able to find the approach that works best for you and your team.

Find more about time and task reports features in fflow.