Managing a project with copious moving parts can be challenging to say the least, but project evaluation is designed to make the process that much easier. Every project starts with careful planning—this sets the stage for the execution phase of the project while estimations, plans and schedules guide the project team as they complete tasks and deliverables.
But even with the project evaluation process in place, managing a project successfully is not as simple as it sounds. Project managers need to keep track of costs, tasks and time during the entire project life cycle to make sure everything goes as planned. To do so, they utilize the project evaluation process and make use of project management software to help manage their team’s work in addition to planning and evaluating project performance.
What Is Project Evaluation?
Project evaluation is the process of measuring the success of a project, program or portfolio. This is done by gathering data about the project and using an evaluation method that allows evaluators to find performance improvement opportunities. Project evaluation is also critical to keep stakeholders updated on the project status and any changes that might be required to the budget or schedule.
Every aspect of the project such as costs, scope, risks or return on investment (ROI) is measured to determine if it’s proceeding as planned. If there are road bumps, this data can inform how projects can improve. 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 useful. Tools such as project dashboards and trackers help in the evaluation process by making key data readily available.
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The project evaluation process has been around as long as projects themselves. But when it comes to the science of project management, project evaluation can be broken down into three main types or methods: pre-project evaluation, ongoing evaluation and post-project evaluation. Let’s look at the project evaluation process, what it entails and how you can improve your technique.
Project Evaluation Criteria
The specific details of the project evaluation criteria vary from one project or one organization to another. In general terms, a project evaluation process goes over the project constraints including time, cost, scope, resources, risk and quality. In addition, organizations may add their own business goals, strategic objectives and other project metrics.
Project Evaluation Methods
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.
1. Pre-Project Evaluation
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.
2. Ongoing Project Evaluation
To make sure your project is proceeding as planned and hitting all of the scheduling and budget milestones you’ve set, it’s crucial that you constantly monitor and report on your work in real-time. Only by using project metrics can you measure the success of your project and whether or not you’re meeting the project’s goals and objectives. It’s strongly recommended that you use project management dashboards and tracking tools for ongoing evaluation.
3. Post-Project Evaluation
Think of this as a postmortem. 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.
Project Evaluation Steps
Regardless of when you choose to run a project evaluation, the process always has four phases: planning, implementation, completion and dissemination of reports.
The ultimate goal of this step is to create a project evaluation plan, a document that explains all details of your organization’s project evaluation process. 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 that your goals and objectives for the project are clear, and it’s critical to have settled on criteria 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 project 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 life cycle, 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. One of the things you should monitor during the project is the percentage completed. This is something you should do when creating status reports and meeting with your team. To make sure you’re on track, hold the team accountable for delivering timely tasks and 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 the project within the allotted time frame if the product is poor. Maintain quality reviews, and don’t delegate that responsibility. Instead, 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 work to do. You’ll 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 the short- and long-term impacts of what you learned in the evaluation.
4. Reporting and Disseminating
Once the evaluation is complete, you need to record the results. To do so, you’ll create a project evaluation report, a document that provides lessons for the future. Deliver your report to your stakeholders to keep them updated on the project’s progress.
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 maybe they prefer PDFs with easy-to-read charts and graphs. Make sure that you know your audience and tailor your report to them.
Benefits of Project Evaluation
Project evaluation is always advisable and it can bring a wide array of benefits to your organization. As noted above, there are many aspects that can be measured through the project evaluation process. It’s up to you and your stakeholders to decide the most critical factors to consider. Here are some of the main benefits of implementing a project evaluation process.
- Better Project Management: Project evaluation helps you easily find areas of improvement when it comes to managing your costs, tasks, resources and time.
- Improves Team performance: Project evaluation allows you to keep track of your team’s performance and increases accountability.
- Better Project Planning: Helps you compare your project baseline against actual project performance for better planning and estimating.
- Helps with Stakeholder Management: Having a good relationship with stakeholders is key to success as a project manager. Creating a project evaluation report is very important to keep them updated.
How ProjectManager Improves the Project Evaluation Process
To take your project evaluation to the next level, you’ll want ProjectManager, an online work management tool with live dashboards that deliver real-time data so you can monitor what’s happening now as opposed to what happened yesterday.
With ProjectManager’s real-time dashboard, project evaluation is measured in real-time to keep you updated. The numbers are then displayed in colorful graphs and charts. Filter the data to show the data you want or to drill down to get a deeper picture. These graphs and charts can also be shared with a keystroke. 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.
Project evaluation with ProjectManager’s real-time dashboard makes it simple to go through the evaluation process during the evolution of the project. It also provides valuable data afterward. The project evaluation process can even be fun, given the right tools. Feel free to use our automated reporting tools to quickly build traditional project reports, allowing you to improve both the accuracy and efficiency of your evaluation process.
ProjectManager is a cloud-based project management software that has a suite of powerful tools for every phase of your project, including live dashboards and reporting tools. Our software collects project data in real-time and is constantly being fed information by your team as they progress through their tasks. See how monitoring, evaluation and reporting can be streamlined by taking a free 30-day trial today!