It’s easy to see if your project is on track—if you are using the right metrics to monitor performance. I’ll share 4 simple steps in this article that will soon have you tracking progress like a pro!
1. Defining Success
- A project that delivers on time?
- Happy customers?
- Meeting your quality targets?
- Finishing under budget (or at least on budget)?
- Something else?
In reality, it’s likely to be a combination of all those things but something will jump out as the most important. Pick the top two or three things that are your “must haves.” Discuss them with your team so that you agree how you are going to define success on this project.
Then write them up somewhere so that you can look at them again and again. I find that it helps to include them in the Project Charter or Project Initiation Document so everyone knows where to find them.
You’ll want to look at them at the end of the project, too, as your success criteria will help inform whether or not your project has been a success in the eyes of the stakeholders.
2. Choose Your Metrics
Now that you know what is important to you and what the important success criteria are for this project, you need to come up with some metrics that help you measure those. This is what will let you track your projects.
Here are some examples:
Schedule Variance Metric
For example, if it’s critical that you hit your deadline because the product must be launched before a certain date, then you’ll definitely want to measure how you are doing against your project plan and whether you are making progress as you expected. This is done with a schedule variance calculation.
Cost Variance Metric
If staying on budget is more important, then you’ll choose metrics that show you how much you have spent and whether that lines up with what you thought you’d be spending at this point.
Stakeholder Satisfaction Metric
When keeping your stakeholders happy is the most essential thing for the team, then you’ll have to find a way to measure customer satisfaction on an ongoing basis. That’s easier to do than it sounds: you can get quite scientific about it with a simple survey (and for more in-depth ways of measuring stakeholder satisfaction on projects, my book will walk you through the whole proven process).
Identify the metrics that go hand in hand with the success criteria that you want to track. On small projects you might just have one main measure. On larger projects you’ll have a selection of metrics that give you a bigger picture view. Whatever you decide is fine because you’ve already aligned your metrics to what is important.
3. Measure Your Progress
As the project moves forward you can track your performance. Use the metrics that you have chosen. These link directly to how you are measuring success, so you’ll be able to see how you are doing at a glance and whether you are on track to hit your targets.
The easiest way to do this is to use a dashboard that pulls real-time information from the data in your project management system. You’ll only have one screen to look at. Set it up once and then leave it to run so it always shows you the most up-to-date picture of what is going on. You’ll be able to drill down into the detail if you see something that looks a bit strange.
You’ll want to look at (and act on) the data that the metrics give you at least once a month. On smaller, agile projects, you should be reviewing status a lot more frequently than that: at least once a week but go more frequent even than that if it makes sense.
4. Refine and Improve
As with all things on projects (and in life) we never rest when we could improve. There are two sets of improvements to consider as you go forward.
First, are your metrics the right ones? Once you’ve been tracking them for a while, you’ll know whether they are telling you the data that you need to make decisions. If they aren’t, it’s time to look at what else you could track instead that would give you better information about how the project is doing.
Second, how easy is it to get to the data? If it takes you a long time to calculate the results and present them to share with the team, then your project tracking is slowing you down. Go back to your data capture and reports or dashboards and tweak them so it’s more efficient to get and analyze the data.
These four steps are all you need to set up good quality project monitoring on your projects and track them like a pro. Soon you’ll be able to see how your project is performing at a glance, and step in to correct the course when you have to.
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