Monitoring a research project
Your project may have been agreed on the basis of a clear timescale and deadlines, and it is not a good idea to let these drift. Often though, research does not proceed completely according to plan and you are responsible for managing the consequences. You may, for example, need to apply for extensions to the project timescale if there have been any delays. If you foresee any difficulties, you should speak to your research office and the funder - most problems can be resolved with early communication.
While the project is running you also need to monitor the finances. Your research office will probably provide you (or you can get from your finance system) monthly expenditure reports. You should always check these (as you would with your own monthly bank statements). Are there things missing that you expected to see? If so, follow them up. Clerical mistakes can be made in allocating expenditure to the right project or failing to make payments. Or there may have been a problem earlier in the process - for example an order for a piece of equipment may not have gone through; if left unchecked, this could adversely affect the delivery date and hence your project.
It is also possible that there may be items of expenditure that you do not recognise. For example it is quite possible that something may have been charged to your project account in error. It should be simple to sort this out, so don't delay - the longer you leave the more effort will be required to put things right.
On a day to day basis, some people find that their institutional system doesn't give them the information they need in an accessible way, so opt for developing their own ‘shadow' system. This doesn't have to be elaborate though - a simple spreadsheet that shows the budget line and columns for: originally planned expenditure, current commitments, planned spend, and balance uncommitted will meet most people's needs.
However, remember, what shows in the finance system is definitive so you will need to cross reference your data with the finance data periodically to make sure that things are at least approximately in line. You should also regularly review your expenditure against the project budget. Are you going to over spend or under spend? Neither is normally desirable.