Metrics: Project Success Indicators and Statistics

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There are so many elements of project management that the project manager could consider critical— leadership, communication, relationship management—but perhaps nothing is more important than successful completion of a high-quality project on time and under budget. To that end, project managers frequently employ the use of metrics and statistics as concrete success indicators all along the project lifecycle.


“I think every project manager uses success indicators in every project that he or she has,” said Thomas Love, PMP, owner of Thomas Love Associates and former president elect of the Austin, Texas, chapter of the Project Management Institute (PMI). “There’s something called earn value where when you start a project you know where you’re going and you use different formats to track your progress. You develop the base line or budget, and you track your budget and periodically test to see if you’re under- or overspending or how you are in relation to your budget. You do the same thing with your plan. If you’re going to build something, how will you measure expenditures, all time and effort toward getting your item built? Are you ahead of schedule or behind schedule? You have a formula to use that you can plot on a graph to see where you are.”


Statistics are the matrices and other numbers that project managers can use to calculate the percentage of project completion or percentage of budget spent, etc. Using a formula can help managers track expenditures and determine if it’s necessary to reallocate resources in order to bring a project to completion on time and under budget. Using a formula also can help determine how far behind things may have fallen in a project cycle—all of which is necessary data to adjust the budget, plan and mitigate damage control, while explaining the whys and hows to the powers that be.


“We get estimates from our plan and our budget,” Love said. “Those are the two main things that we have to work with: the project plan and the project budget. At the beginning of the project we develop our detailed plan of what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, how much it’s going to cost and what resources we’re going to allocate to that. That’s our baseline, and we track things according to that baseline. If there is a change that will require more resources or more time, then the baseline is adjusted and the budget’s adjusted. If you’re going to have a major change and it’s going to be more than you planned for, then there has to be money allocated to pay for that change. If you put it against the original budget, something has to be given up.”


Understanding the give-and-take of budgetary constraints is why it’s critical to use metrics in project management—there are frequently unforeseen delays or changes, and you have to stick to the budget.


“One of the main mantras of project managers is ‘on time, within budget and quality,’” Love said. “Problems happen on projects. When you plan, you try to allow for that. But sometimes if there’s project that needs more time than you’ve planned, you’re going to have to adjust for that schedule. Also, if somebody comes in at a later date—say we’ve been working on something for four months on a six-month project; it’s just about complete—if somebody wants to add a new feature, it’s going to take a lot more time to work that new feature into the process than it would if it would have been at the beginning of the project. The later into a project a change is made, the bigger impact it has on project completion.”


–Kellye Whitney,

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