Project Management

How to Overcome Common Metrics Mistakes and Make Numbers Your Ally

PMI Toronto Chapter

Bruce is the founder of, a resource for growing IT project managers.

The scientific side of project management runs on numbers, statistics and other quantitative data. For some of us (like yours truly), memorizing formulas was one of the most complex parts of passing the PMP certification exam. Compared to managing projects based on intuition alone, metrics are tremendously valuable. It’s easy to be taken in by the numbers.

Ultimately, metrics are just as fallible as people. But the answer is not to adopt a nihilistic view—to give up numbers and data. No, the better way is to boost our data literacy and how we act on metrics.

When Numbers Steer Us Wrong: Metrics Mistakes
Metrics, like any other business tool, have their limitations. As we increasingly rely on metrics to guide our projects to a conclusion, our efforts may be crippled by one or more of the following mistakes:

1. Failure to understand how the metric works. The first mistake is failing to understand how a metric works. There are a few layers to this mistake. You can have data quality issues. You might also face calculation errors, especially if your metric is calculated based on multiple sources.

What if your project has dozens of metrics? You might not have time to understand every metric at a deep level, so choose a handful of metrics.

2. Relying on low-effort metrics. Many software tools, including project management apps, have pre-built analytics …

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- Chinese Proverb