Why Do We Measure

Identifying, gathering and leveraging the right mix of metrics adds value to a project. Metrics provide a more factual and quantitative basis for describing how you are doing and what you can do better. Without at least some basic metric information, all discussions on performance and improvement are based on subjective evidence, perceptions and guesses. If you want your project’s success or failure to be based on factual information, you need to determine ahead of time what your success criteria are and how to measure them. Then collect the metrics, even if they are imperfect and imprecise. They still provide a better foundation than perceptions and guesses.

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Use the Metrics that you Collect: You don’t want to collect metrics just for the sake of collecting them. If they are required by your organization, collect them. Also collect any other metrics that are needed to validate whether the project was successful. However, if you don’t have a purpose for the metrics, or if the project is not long enough that you can use the information for process improvement, they are not worth collecting for that particular project.

Compare the Cost of Collecting a Metric Vs. the Benefit: Just as there is some cost associated with most project management activities, there is a cost to collecting and managing a metrics process. In the case of scope management or issues management, this is a cost the project needs to invest in to be successful. Managing metrics, however, is more under the discretion of the project manager and the overall organizational culture. In many cases, the cost to collect and leverage a certain type of metric is prohibitive. These metrics should not be pursued. Other metrics are interesting, but do not provide the type of information that can be leveraged for improvement. The bottom line is that the cost to gather each metric must be balanced against the potential benefit that will be gained. When you think about project metrics, start by gathering metrics that are required by the organization. Then add metrics that have the lowest cost and effort and can provide the highest potential benefit.

Link Team Performance with Individual Performance: This old adage about “what gets measured gets done” is true on projects. If communication is important on your project, then build some metrics around communication. For instance, survey the clients and stakeholders on a quarterly basis to see how effective they think your communication is. If you are encouraging teams to reuse existing components, then track the instances of reuse and the hours and cost savings.

Manage Metrics – Beware Unintended Consequences: Metrics will drive certain behaviors. When you are establishing a metric, think about how the metric might drive unintended consequences and be sure that you set up the process in a way that clearly drives the desired behaviors.

Source of information: Ten Step Project Management archive of Newsletters.

Related Blog Post: How do you Measure the value you add?