The project evaluation process uses systemic analysis to gather data and reveal the effectiveness and efficiency of your management. This crucial exercise keeps projects on track and informs stakeholders of progress.
Every aspect of the project is measured to determine if it’s proceeding as planned, and if not, inform how project parts be improved. Basically, you’re asking the project a series of questions designed to discover what is working, what can be improved and whether the project is in fact useful. Tools like project dashboards and trackers help in the evaluation process by making key data readily available.
The project evaluation process has been around as long as there have been projects to evaluate. But when it comes to the science of project management, project evaluation can be broken down into three main types: pre-project evaluation, ongoing evaluation and post-project evaluation. So, let’s look at the project evaluation process, what it entails and how you can improve your technique.
Three Types of Project Evaluation
There are three points in a project where evaluation is most needed. While you can evaluate your project at any time, these are points where you should have the process officially scheduled.
In a sense, you’re pre-evaluating your project when you write your project charter to pitch to the stakeholders. You cannot effectively plan, staff and control a new project if you’ve first not evaluated it. Pre-project evaluation is the only sure way you can determine the effectiveness of the project before executing it.
Need help making a project charter? Download our free project charter template.
To make sure your project is proceeding as planned and hitting all the scheduling and budget milestones you set, it’s crucial that you are constantly monitoring and reporting on your work in real-time. Only by using metrics can you measure the success of your project and whether or not you’re meeting the project’s goals and objectives.
Think of this as a postmortem. The post-project evaluation is when you go through the project’s paperwork, interview the project team and principles, and analyze all relevant data so you can understand what worked and what went wrong. Only by developing this clear picture can you resolve issues in upcoming projects.
What’s a Project Evaluation Process Look Like?
Regardless of when you choose to run a project evaluation, the process always has four phases: planning, implementation, completion and dissemination of reports.
When planning for a project evaluation, it’s important to identify the stakeholders and what their short- and long-term goals are. You must make sure your goals and objectives for the project are clear. It’s critical to have settled on a criterion that will tell you whether these goals and objects are being met.
So, you’ll want to write a series of questions to pose to the stakeholders. These queries should include subjects such as the project framework, best practices and metrics that determine success.
By including the stakeholders in your evaluation plan, you’ll receive direction during the course of the project while simultaneously developing a relationship with the stakeholders. They will get progress reports from you throughout the project’s phases, and by building this initial relationship, you’ll likely earn their belief that you can manage the project to their satisfaction.
While the project is running, you must monitor all aspects to make sure you’re meeting the schedule and budget. Some of the things you should monitor during the project is the percentage completed. This is something you should do when creating status reports and when meeting with your team. To make sure you’re on track, make the team accountable for delivering on their tasks. Also, maintain baseline dates to know when tasks are due.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on quality. It doesn’t matter if you deliver within the allotted time frame if the product is poor. Maintain quality reviews, and don’t delegate that responsibility. Take it on yourself.
Maintaining a close relationship with the project budget is just as important as tracking the schedule and quality. Keep an eye on costs. They will fluctuate throughout the project, so don’t panic. However, be transparent if you notice a need growing for more funds. Let your steering committee know as soon as possible, so there are no surprises.
When you’re done with your project, you still have some work to do. You want to take the data you gathered in the evaluation and learn from it, so you can fix problems that you discovered in the process. Figure out what the short- and long-term impacts are of what you learned in the evaluation.
Reporting and Disseminating
Once the evaluation is complete, you need to record the results. This creates a historic record that will provide lessons for the future. Deliver your report to your stakeholders to keep them updated on the progress of the project.
How are you going to disseminate the report? There might be a protocol for this already established in your organization. Perhaps the stakeholders prefer a meeting to get the results face-to-face. Or, they might like to get PDFs with easy-to-read charts and graphs. You must know your audience and target your report to them, as well as their preferred format.
How Dashboards Can Improve the Project Evaluation Process
To take your project evaluation to the next level, you’ll want an online project management tool with live dashboards that deliver real-time data, so you can monitor what’s happening now as opposed to what happened yesterday.
The importance of real-time data for an effective project evaluation process cannot be understated. Old data might not help you in time to address issues, and your evaluation will be stale before the ink dries on the report (unless you share it digitally, but you get the picture). Dashboard widgets provide business intelligence in a timely manner, offering metrics to monitor your tasks, teams, cost, health and more.
The dashboard, like the one in your car, collects all the valuable information you need to drive a project forward successfully in one place. That means you can see at a glance how your project is progressing. There is no better tool to give you the data you need, when you need it.
You can track workload and tasks, because your team is updating their status in real-time, wherever they are and at whatever time they complete their work. You’re getting the most accurate picture of the project possible.
Dashboards are easy to set up in a project management software because all the planning data, Gantt charts and task lists are fed into the dashboard. The dashboard crunches the numbers for you, and then creates colorful graphs and charts that make those figures simple to understand. Even better, those graphs and charts can be filtered to reflect only the data you want and then shared in whatever format you prefer, with only a keystroke.
Project evaluation with dashboard software makes it simple to go through the evaluation process during the execution of the project, but it can also provide valuable data afterwards. I think you’ll find that the project evaluation process can even be fun, given the right tools.
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