By Laura Bamberg – Global Sales Administrator
As a measurement tool, metrics vary in complexity, and they are not always a one-size-fits-all solution. One way your company finds success might not work for another. You should take into account your enterprise environmental factors to begin with, but you can complete a project (of any size and at any company) better by incorporating them into your project.
Metrics can be used throughout several phases of your project. Using metrics can ensure better project quality by helping you move forward faster with greater quality. The more information you can pin down and the more mistakes you can catch before they lead to other mistakes, the easier it is to complete your project on time, on budget, and with improved results compared to past projects. Here are some project components that benefit from the use of metrics:
Organizational Process Assets
In this tome (or database or dusty cabinet) lie answers to project questions you may not have even thought of, in the form of metrics. This is a good place to look before you even gather stakeholder requirements, especially if the information you need to present to stakeholders is still fuzzy – this will help that information coalesce.
Lately, I’ve seen several posts on LinkedIn about best practices of gathering stakeholder requirements or what to do if you’re having trouble communicating with your stakeholders. In my last post, I suggested that project managers should be firm with their stakeholders and managing those expectations. Metrics are a very good way to do that – if you can't give a stakeholder something that can be measured, how can you promise an end result? For example, if you’re building an oven, how can a stakeholder require better cooking performance if you don’t know what this is to begin with?
Project Management Plan
Because the plan contains the blueprint for your project and it’s updated frequently, it's never too late to add metrics to the plan. For example – let’s say that a material you are now using to build that oven means that it can cook more evenly at lower temperatures. Measuring this type of performance is an important metric, because it also means that cooking time is shorter than in any other oven your company has built – so you use this on your current project (especially when testing quality and performance), as well as future projects.
For more perspective on this, see a post by Suresh Malladi, PMP regarding ways to improve your projects.
Here is another great area where metrics come in handy. Quality is often about measurements, so using metrics makes perfect sense. Comparing the quality of deliverables in your project to previous project deliverables can provide an excellent source for metrics. This is not always an apples to apples comparison, because every project is different, but it is still an effective tool to help gauge a project's success.
If you’ve never used metrics as part of your projects, quality control or project performance are two places you’d automatically expect to see them. Adam Thody wrote a piece on using metrics during the project performance evaluation and made the case that “post-project performance reviews” are not the only times you should look at lessons learned. He wrote that unless you set up metrics that people will actually use, you’re destined to fail.
So, why do people dislike using metrics, especially if they’ve not been consistently used on projects or if they change and become a bit more difficult? The short answer is that people don’t always like change! They wonder if it will take more time out of their busy day, if the metrics will actually benefit the project, or just create busy-work. Once you begin using metrics, you realize that even though they might not all be helpful, you still found measurements that provide overall value for your project. So, on your next project, you have a better idea of what type of metrics are needed. In order to create metrics your project team will use, you must have insight into what works best for your company, and this requires a bit of planning, but once you put the appropriate metrics into practice, what a difference they can make!