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Musings on Metrics

Posted by Mike on June 27th, 2007

Metrics for project management is an interesting topic.  I have experimented with different forms of metrics, depending on what was important at the time.  For example, when we were first establishing our project management practice, our metrics focused on adhering to the process.  This worked well when the project managers had a specific objective on their annual review for this metric. We have also tried budget and scheduling variance in the past.  However, this was difficult to make meaningful for several reasons.

  1. Project managers learn how to fool the system and beat the metrics.
  2. Often times, estimates are experienced guesses at best.  The practice that project schedules are typically built in a top down or bottom up approach, results in the accumulation of errors from the estimates.
  3. It’s not typical that projects have the luxury of right to left planning.  Usually there is a business need driving the project schedule to a date.  Determining what can be accomplished in that timeframe is the realistic approach.

Although I have not had the opportunity to try this, I believe there is a better way to evaluate the effectiveness of project managers.  Each project should have a satisfaction score sheet to quantify the success of each project. (This can be done on a 1 to 5 scale of satisfaction with a space for specific comments.)

  1. Rate the sponsor’s satisfaction with the project outcome.
  2. List specific business goals that the project was trying to impact and score each one.
  3. Poll project team members on the project manager’s effectiveness.
  4. Ask the project stakeholders about the effectiveness of communication on the project.

The size of a project also matters when looking at metrics.  Small initiatives are easier to control and complete “on time.”  Large, multi-year efforts with sub-projects are more difficult to manage and measure.

If your organization is disciplined in terms of establishing timelines and budgets, you may be able to measure schedule and budget performance.  I am most interested in customer satisfaction.

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