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Project management metrics
May 2, 2019

What Metrics Are Important When Managing A Project?

By Brian McHale

There’s probably nothing that you like more than wrapping up a successful project with your team.

But if you’re not a professional project manager, chances are you’re not really sure which metrics you should be using to track your progress. And what’s not measured doesn’t get improved.

In the sea of information, project metrics can get confusing.

That’s why we’re going to demystify all the different performance metrics to help you create a tracking system that’s going to lead you to success every single time!

First Things First: You Need to Set SMART Goals

No two goals are alike, but the trick is in setting them so they don’t seem more complicated than grocery shopping.

The key to successfully using project management metrics is using Peter Drucker’s framework – SMART goals.

SMART is an acronym that stands for goals which are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

For example, when you work with your team on an IT project for a client who wants you to develop an app, you:

  • S – define the scope, be specific as possible here so that it’s clear for all stakeholders to understand
  • M – decide what metrics you’ll use to measure progress. These should be solid metrics that can be either achieved or not and agreed upon by all stakeholders
  • A – the goals should be achievable in this project. Otherwise the first two points need to be reconsidered
  • R – you keep it real by not aiming to build a new Facebook in two weeks, but the app the client’s asked for
  • T – you set a clear deadline by which the project should be completed. This again sets expectations of what will be delivered from the above.

SMART Goal Setting for Project Managers

Now, you’re likely setting all of these naturally, even if you’ve never received professional project management education.

The problem occurs in the M – measuring whether you’re achieving or not achieving your goals, and making sure that you can improve and optimize in the future.

And that’s where project management metrics can help you!

Which Project Metrics Help You See the Future?

Maybe project management isn’t divination, but there are some metrics that can help you plan better for the future.

The SMART framework front-loads work to the planning stage, but once these criteria are agreed, you have a clear roadmap for the metrics you measure throughout the rest of the project.

Productivity Metrics

1. Milestones completed

If you want to know how long it’ll take for a project to get done, you can easily calculate the average by tracking how long it took to complete project milestones and the project itself.

If you’re using Office 365, an integrated for task manager can help to define individual steps for the project and these stages will help shape the milestones you will aim for.

2. Billable and unbillable hours

If you’re working with external clients, you should also be calculating the hours you spend on paperwork and other things you don’t typically bill them for.

This’ll set you up for success when it comes to…

3. Return on investment

The amount of time you need to spend on a single project is incredibly important when measuring the ROI (return on investment) of the project.

For example, if certain projects take too much time and don’t bring enough value, it could give you the pointers you need to turn in the direction of other projects.

However, you can’t see the (lack of) value unless you’re measuring it.

Project management metrics Return on investment

4. Project cancellation and change rate

Whenever you need to pivot in a different direction during the project’s duration, it costs you time – and money.

Understanding how often (and at which stages) you need to change or cancel projects can help you understand whether it’s you, the management/clients, or something else.

Quality Project Metrics

5. Customer satisfaction

This project management metric is especially relevant if you’re dealing with external clients.

However, even if you’re completing projects for your company you can still measure satisfaction with the feedback from stakeholders and results it brings to the company.

6. Net promoter score

The main goal of this metric is understanding how likely your customer is to recommend your product to their associates or friends. Again, NPS is great for dealing with external clients.

And it’s really simple, too! NPS is usually obtained by sending a simple survey.

7. Number of errors and customer complaints

You should closely monitor the number of errors your team has made to understand why they’ve made them. Often, it’s not lack of expertise that causes them, but the lack of right tools for the job.

Time Is Money: Time & Budget Project Management Metrics)

8. On-time completion and planned hours vs actual time spent

If you want to gain a better understanding of how efficient your team is, you should look at on-time completion rate of your projects.

How often have you wrapped the projects by the due date?

You should also look at the difference between hours you’ve planned to spend on the project versus the actual time you spent working on it.

9. Number of time and budget changes

Understanding the difference between what you’ve originally planned and what turned out to be the reality is the most important thing you can do with a project metrics tracking system.

This isn’t just vital when working with external clients. It’s also important when you need to plan out a project that requires management’s feedback.

If your stakeholders have a penchant for asking you to make magic with a $2 budget, you need to know it so you can plan ahead and succeed despite the difficulties.

Project management metrics Budget goals moving

10. Resource conflict

If your team is handling multiple projects at once, chances are you’re going to feel understaffed from time to time.

However, you can’t know for sure (nor can you improve anything) if you don’t measure how often the resources conflict.

How Project Management Performance Metrics Help an Unwilling Project Manager

It seems like everyone’s job includes project management these days. And while this can get hectic, what matters is helping your team be the best professionals they can be.

Metrics can help you understand how things are going, and identify the areas where you can improve.

You don’t have to do it manually, either.

If you’re using Office 365 in your company, all you need to do to unleash the full power of project management is Project Central.

A visual task and project management tool, it gives you all the information you need to say:

This is what we’re excellent at. This is what we could be more excellent at.

And your team will love you for it!