WordPress for Project Tracking

It's all about the content

WordPress project tracking systemCredit: javrsmith

While many organizations use MS Project, or similar applications, for tracking projects, the content management system WordPress is worth considering for your next project. It is specifically designed to store various types of content within its database. With just a little customization, WordPress will be able to handle quite a few task tracking requirements. Surprisingly, it will do it cheaply, quickly and with a substantial increase in productivity.

Those organizations using MS Project, OpenProj or other large project applications often fail to adequately document their projects during implementation. Standard project tracking most often highlights the work breakdown structure, tasks, critical path analysis and possibly even budgets. While these are very important metrics to track, there are many other aspects to proper project management that are not handled well by MS Project and others. Documentation is usually a key omission.

WordPress is designed to organize and store content. Project documentation could easily be stored within the WordPress database. The actual application is free to use as it is available under the General Public License. Whether private, personal or commercial uses are intended, WordPress is suitable. Because the system is free, there may be value in setting up distinct instances for each project. This allows easy archiving of documentation after the project is completed. WordPress could also be set up as a project management office with projects existing as subordinate areas of the main installation. Still another approach could be to have a mix of several small projects stored in one WordPress system with larger projects having a dedicated area.

Whatever the strategy used, WordPress is capable of storing a lot of project information. The system is designed to work with pages and posts. Pages might hold basic data for a project such as the team members, purpose, plan overview. Posts might hold the details for tasks. The system is completely adaptable. If a project manager wants to store some data on pages and include certain tasks as pages as well, that is easily done. This may make a lot of sense for projects that have a large risk planning component.

WordPress is a cloud application meaning that it is hosted on a server and accessed remotely via web browsers. As such, the project content is available to all members of the organization at all times. Network managers can choose whether the system is publicly accessible or served on an intranet. Many organizations find that having WordPress hosted on a subscribed server is very cost effective. Such arrangements often have no data limits and costs are very reasonable.

Any team member can add or update content on WordPress sites with about the same amount of effort as office applications such as MS Word. For example, if a status report was due from a team member, they could navigate to the WordPress site, login and begin recording their report in seconds. They might simply add a post, apply some category tags, such as "status report", and record their new content. An editor accepts the post details. Additional features allow posts to contain images and other uploaded files. The team member simply clicks a publish button when their status report is finished. If future editing is required, the post may be opened for modification by the team member or by the administrator. Depending on the privacy settings of the site, the status report would be visible to the public, the organization staff or the project team as required.

Unfortunately, standard WordPress installations do not offer a lot of form control to the project tracking site. This can limit the use of the system to team members or others who can create useful content when presented with a blank page or post builder. For junior staff members, or members of the public, a robust form generation tool would be more suitable. This is because the blank editor option of WordPress allows for great variation in the type of content added by users. For example, without an agreed standard, each team member could easily create their own status report, each one looking completely different. This may be correct but it would make the task of summarizing the reports difficult.

Formidable Pro(116771)Credit: Javrsmith

Formidable Pro is a WordPress plugin that brings an extensive set of form building tools to the content management system. Formidable Pro also extends the reporting ability and includes a number of add ons that may be very helpful for some project managers. While the basic version of Formidable Pro is available at no cost, most organizations will prefer to purchase the site license version. This boosts the number of form input types from 6 to 24. Such basic inputs as text, radio buttons and checkboxes are included with the free version. The premium site license version adds data validation for numbers, dates, email addresses and more. It also includes multiple page forms, and data that can be selected from reference tables. This is particularly useful for requesting the state of residence.

A project using WordPress for tracking purposes could establish a distinct project site. Team members could deliver their status reports via a custom form created with Formidable Pro. The data input items would be standardized. Summarizing of the status reports from all team members would be an easy exercise for the project manager. Best of all, all information received in the WordPress form would be stored in the database, available for management reporting - all without any custom programming required at all.

Project managers should immediately understand how a WordPress project tracking system can improve a project. While many existing efforts establish a documentation folder, it can be difficult to have team members properly file their work in it. There is also the problem of standardization. Time sheets, status reports and task findings, might be recorded differently by each individual team member. With a WordPress project tracking system, all documentation is automatically stored on the Internet. Standard formats can be established for regular documents such as status reports, time sheets, etc. Each of the stored files can be immediately found by the project manager when a report to management is necessary. If the power of Formidable Pro is used, an extensive library of custom forms can be created for the project. These would store team information, such as status reports, in the WordPress database.

Project managers should always strive to use the best available tools for proper documentation of their projects. The WordPress content management system represents one of the best ways to organize project data quickly and easily. With the addition of the powerful Formidable Pro form building plugin, project managers will find that they have a very capable system for all of their project tracking needs.