Regardless of the type of project you’re beginning, one of the most important aspects of a good start is accurately forecasting when it will be completed.

How do you predict when a project will be completed? Do you have a formula? Or are you simply guessing?

Project management (PM) software can help you in the forecasting process. Whether you’re using a platform that works with a traditional/waterfall style of management or an agile/lean style, by leveraging built-in tools, you’ll have the ability to better predict when a project will be completed.

Here are several ways you can use PM tools in your forecasting.

Discussions or threaded conversations

Take advantage of a PM platform’s ability to record instant feedback from team members working on a project. If you’re working on an estimate for a client, send a message to team members using the discussion, chat, or threaded conversations tools and ask them for feedback on your timeline. Many project management platforms allow for instant notifications for such messages, meaning your request for feedback is less likely to land in the depths of a team member’s inbox. And by selecting the proper permissions within the conversation, internal requests like this will remain confidential and out of the client’s dashboard.

Scheduling

By creating a schedule within the PM platform, you’ll be able to eliminate any questions regarding the specifics of the timeline, both internally and externally. Timelines can be very helpful for more visually-oriented people. Platforms that use timeline tools including Kanban and Gantt charts visually display sprints and timelines for tasks, and can help identify any potential bottlenecks down the road.

Time tracking

Once a project is underway, most PM platforms offer a way for team members to track their time working on the project. As the project continues, by monitoring the actual work time and comparing it to the pre-project estimate, you’ll have a good idea as to whether or not you’re on schedule.

Alerts

Many PM platforms will allow you to schedule internal alerts when a project milestone is approaching. By setting these up prior to the project’s start date – and updating them appropriately throughout the process – you’ll be giving your team members an early heads-up on completing tasks. Or, if a task won’t be able to be completed by the pre-determined deadline, an alert will remind the team to update the status of a particular task.

Historical data

Once you’ve completed several projects within the PM platform, you’ll be able to take advantage of the data you’ve collected to better forecast completion dates. Compare a new project to a similar project that was completed several months ago. Or, see how long it took a team member to complete a similar task in a past project. This historical data can be extremely valuable to the estimating process.

These built-in PM platform features allow you to eliminate the guesswork and be much more strategic when it comes to project forecasting. They also give you the ability to adjust your timeline and schedule appropriately throughout the project’s duration based on real-time data, making the process extremely transparent to the entire team, including your client.

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