This article is really about project monitoring. Unfortunately most would probably confuse the terms "tracking" and "monitoring". We often mean "monitoring" when we say "tracking". I know I do sometimes to sets people's expectations in a conversation or meeting. Monitoring sounds more passive and less important. It is neither.
What is project tracking?
Project tracking involves activities comparing the project plan, budget and resources vs actual metrics and reality. It is about defining specific metrics and verify how the actual project compares to expected performance metrics.
In my view it is more limited than project monitoring, although, technically, project tracking is part of project monitoring.
What is project monitoring?
Project monitoring and control is broader, and it is the official term covered in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBok). For example, it includes scope verification which is obviously not part of project tracking. In summary it covers the following activities:
Why is project (tracking) monitoring important?
Project monitoring has mission critical activities for a project's success.
Without proper management of change requests, many projects spin out of control, they have major delays and cost overruns. Without a focus on quality, and controlling it, projects risk producing on time, maybe, but with quality warranting reworks, penalties or worse.
Note: You should not confuse multi-project monitoring and project portfolio management. We view a portfolio as a group of projects related to each other in some way. Some businesses do have to manage many projects in parallel, and these projects are totally unrelated (e.g. they are orders from clients).
Best practices for project monitoring
It does not matter if you are running a waterfall project, agile one or an hybrid, you should follow these practices.
What tool can you use for project (tracking) monitoring?
There are many tools and apps you can use. The best tool depends on the monitoring style you want to follow, or more precisely, the focus you want to have while monitoring and tracking projects.
Some tools are better at resource tracking and monitoring, using calendars for example. Other tools are more focused on task management and operations, using Gantt, Scrum or Lean/Kanban.
Some tools like SAM9000 Agile focus on monitoring project priorities and RAID logs, as well as task assignment and approvals.