Award-Winning Metrics For 2018
by Kevin Korterud
What are the best metrics for determining if a project is about to experience schedule, budget or quality slippages? These metrics are best categorized as delivery volatility metrics.
Executives already know when a project is in trouble — they are more concerned with those projects whose trajectory is on a currently unseen course to trouble.
PMI offers guidance on project metrics to help detect delivery volatility, such as the Cost Performance Indicator and Earned Value Management. While project reporting will likely have one or more of these metrics, I got to thinking what other metrics would indicate the potential of delivery volatility.
An additional complication is the various approaches used today, including agile, waterfall, company custom, software product, service supplier and regulatory. These can all generate their own set of metrics.
While pondering this question watching TV one evening, I noticed a multitude of movie, theater, television and music award shows that tend to occur this time of year. A characteristic of these shows is the numerous categories that are awarded to nominees — Best Supporting Actress, Best New Pop Group, Best Special Effects and so on.
As I was organizing my thoughts around metrics, I figured: Why not use award show categories to help shape an answer on which metrics would best suit early detection of delivery volatility?
As the Master Of Ceremonies for the 2018 Project Metrics Award show, here are a few of the winners:
As our projects become more complex and more numerous, the ability to deliver on a set schedule becomes more important. The SPI has the great benefit of comparing actual and planned progress in an objective manner: earned value/planned value.
The true power of SPI comes into play when selecting a method for earned value accumulation. Assuming work plans are at a level of granularity where task progress can be measured within a two to four week window, a conservative earned value scheme such as 0%/100%, 25%/75% based on task start and completion is a very objective means of calculating progress.
With these conservative schemes, you capture value when the tasks have started (when resources are truly free to work on tasks) and whether the task has been completed (usually with acceptance of completion by a project manager or stakeholder).
Given today’s tight delivery timeframes, as well as the need to coordinate delivery with other projects, SPI is a good indicator as to the schedule fitness of a project.
2. Best Supporting Emerging Metric: Functional Progress Metrics!
As I shared above, there are now a multitude of methods available to run projects. From these methods, all sorts of new metrics are available to project managers to identify delivery volatility. These metrics can include completed user stories, forecast backlog, project burndown, build objects, test case performance and many others.
In addition to these new metrics, a whole host of new waterfall, agile and other tools have come into play that capture functional progress outside of the traditional work plan tasks and milestones. In fact, work plan detail requirements can be relaxed when these tools are used to shed light on the functional progress of a project.
The power of these functional metrics is that they allow the next level of inspection underlying project phases, tasks and milestones to see delivery trajectory. For example, being able to see the detailed completion progress of requirements, build objects and test cases in automated tools allows project managers to catch underlying barriers to progress before it is revealed in a work plan.
As project managers, the universal outcome for our efforts is that we need to create value for our project executives and stakeholders. While activities can lead to creating value, our mission revolves around the production of deliverables in a timely manner to fulfill a project value proposition.
The inherent power in providing and approving deliverables in a timely manner is that they are completely objective means of progress. No matter what method, effort, dependencies, resources, tools or other constructs of project management are employed, deliverables are an indicator of whether you are making progress. The track of deliverables being created, reviewed and approved on schedule means you are making definitive progress toward value.
Creating a track of deliverables and their targeted completion dates with progress that can be monitored through other metrics allows a universally understood path to project completion. For example, if a deliverable has not yet been approved by stakeholders, you are making visible a potential schedule delay that would impair future work activities.
To host your own 2018 project metrics award show, one does not need a spotlight or trophies. You just need to think about what metrics can serve to detect early signs of delivery volatility beyond the self-declared green/yellow/red stoplights that are typically found in project status reports.
If you were handing out your very own 2018 project metrics awards, what categories would you select? What would win?
By Marian Haus, PMP
Throughout any given initiative, project managers must deal with issues that are sure to arise. Some are solvable within the project organization, with or without the project manager’s influence. Others however — especially those that could affect the outcome of a project — go beyond a project manager’s range of influence and authority.
Such major issues and risks can lead to escalations, which require special handling and management.
Various project management guidelines and specialized literature insufficiently cover the escalation management domain.
Escalation means trouble — so it’s a word very few people want to hear about. It also means that a higher authority will need to be called up to take action before it is too late.
When necessary, and if done in a timely and appropriate manner, escalation management can help a project manager solve issues outside of their authority or influence.
Here are some tips and tricks for project managers to better deal with escalations.
1. Be Prepared
From the project outset, define a clear escalation path and mechanism. For instance, establish an escalation committee (e.g., your sponsors or upper management board) and agree on escalating major issues when necessary and bypassing certain hierarchy levels in order to escalate faster.
Don’t overdo it! You should not escalate every encountered issue—only escalate major issues that have considerable impacts.
2. Assess and Qualify the Risk
Is it serious enough to escalate? Is there anything else you can do to avoid an escalation? Is it the right time to escalate?
Certainly, in order to be effective, the escalation should be raised in a timely manner. Therefore, neither should you exaggerate with going through an elaborated risk assessment, nor should you wait too long until raising the escalation (e.g., do not wait until the next reporting period is due).
3. Communicate the Escalation
After you’ve done everything you could have to prevent the escalation (you raised awareness, you communicated, you have pushed and pulled), it is time to escalate!
To escalate effectively and efficiently, first keep a calm and clear head. Then, follow these tips:
4. Follow Up
Generally, every escalation requires some resolution time for when the project manager and the project team will implement the decisions agreed upon by the escalation board.
You will need to regularly inform your escalation committee with status and progress updates until the risk and problem are completely resolved. And, after getting back on track, you should conduct a lessons-learned exercise with your project team to learn and grow from the encountered crisis situation.
Would you agree? How are you managing escalations in your projects?
What exactly is value? A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) -- Fifth Edition suggests value is a concept unique to each organization and encompasses the total sum of all tangible and intangible value elements.
Determining the tangible ones is relatively straightforward and can easily be reduced to a financial return. More difficult is understanding the intangible value elements the project can create -- and identifying low-cost options with the potential to create massive intangible value by creating favorable outcomes in the minds of stakeholders.
One simple example is the practice of cutting small viewing windows in construction site fences. The cost is minimal, but the practice delivers value through improved safety because passers-by don't need to stand near the gate to see what's going on. There's also the public relations value of letting the public see the actual progress of the work.
The challenge is finding and tracking these valuable intangibles, bearing in mind most of the value will be created in the minds of various stakeholders. One useful tool is consultant Edward de Bono's Six Value Medals:
Based on those, we can perform a "value scan" when determining courses of action within the project and prioritize actions to achieve the values that matter most.
Take a simple example. The last office refit covered up a duct in the wall of the CEO's new office. Now your project has to rip the sidewall out to access the duct and upgrade the cabling. Where's the extra value? Some possible medal ideas include:
There are probably other possibilities as well depending on the actual project. How do you assess the value of your project to your stakeholder community?