Project Management

Lessons about project metrics

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Categories: metrics, stakeholders, team

Metrics are an important way to learn about how the project is going and to reflect on what has happened in the past so you can do things different in the future. Or repeat the things that work well.

I learned a few lessons about project metrics when I worked on an ERP implementation a while ago now. We measured internal customer satisfaction from the angle of the stakeholders’ experience of being on the project. We used standard questions and asked them to rank our performance on a scale of 1 to 10. (I write about all of this in Customer-Centric Project Management, which I co-wrote with a colleague.)

In my experience, workstream leads scored reasonably based on the context: no one ‘played politics’ to get what they wanted. But there was always room for improvement based on our scores. We had plenty of armchair debates in the lobbies of hotels while working on the road, talking over the scores and why they were ranking project performance the way they did. They weren’t my favourite conversations, but they were extremely useful in building great stakeholder relationships and goodwill over time.

The big lesson for me came when I was asking my own colleagues in the IT department to rank the project and they scored it badly. I took it personally as the project lead as you can imagine! But it was a huge wake up call for not taking my colleagues and friends for granted: I was pouring all my stakeholder engagement effort into people outside of my own team.

Luckily it was easy to fix. I set up conference calls for team Q&A and made time for regular communications. If you listen to what people want and give it to them, you can make a quick difference to perceptions and how easy it is for them to do their jobs.

The takeaways for me, specifically around metrics were these.

Identify stakeholders in the process

Put some time into identifying stakeholders and don’t miss the obvious ones like I did!

Ensure the measures are representative of all stakeholders

If your measures are not objective and are not representative of all stakeholder, consider having different versions of the measures for different things. That’s OK as long as there is some longevity baked in for comparison purposes.

Decide on how to record results

In my case, it was better to keep individual stakeholder results separate instead of creating an aggregate of stakeholder satisfaction scores. That gave us greater insights into how each workstream was feeling. An average would be unrepresentative of the community overall.

Sense check

Are the metrics telling you what your instincts are telling you? If not, why?

As project leaders, it’s important that we set up metrics to measure what matters (I’m sure you’ve heard that before). We need to know who matters and their experience influences the overall metrics on something like satisfaction or the interpretation of project value.

Metrics are only useful if they include or are representative of all stakeholders, and all interested parties, even if you then split those groups out further.

Posted on: February 07, 2023 08:00 AM | Permalink

Comments (3)

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Hi Liz,

If you missed your collogues opinion, you missed the important internal stakeholders opinion.

To have measures for representatives of stakeholders is difficult. Instead broadly consider the following groups of stakeholders for your project. With priority as follows :

1. Customers
2. Employees
3. Investors
4. Suppliers
5. Community.

To record results for stakeholders, the best tool to use is something like a Power Grid matrix.

I would caution on metrics telling you what your instincts is telling you. It may be true or it may not be.

While identifying higher power influence stakeholders that affect the outcome of your project is important, it is also required for your to measure engagement of stakeholders. For this, I would suggest to develop a stakeholder engagement matrix to see how interested different stakeholders are in your project.

In the end, what is difficult is to have stakeholders who are engaged in your project. (Important high power ones must be more engaged and less power ones must be at least informed about your project so that they don't cause any trouble.)

I came across a quandary in my last project. We had defined these gorgeous benefits/outcomes that would be measured well past the close of the project.

As we started discussing the metrics with the unit that would be in charge of managing them, we collectively realized that some of the metrics needed new business QA processes to create and collect the necessary data!

The lesson I learned was: just because it can be measured doesn't mean that you are set up to do so.

Steps identified are quite right to manage projects

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