As new technological tools enable organizations to collect and process more information than ever before, measurement and data analysis has become a major focus in nearly every industry. Project management is no exception—today’s enterprise project managers are expected to identify, monitor and report on a variety of metrics for every project.
With so much data available, even experienced project managers can have trouble determining which project management metrics are the most significant and useful. Chasing the wrong metrics will not only waste valuable time for you and your team—it can lead you to misinterpret the actual health of the project by overstating or understating project risks. As you prepare for your next project, make sure that the performance metrics listed below are part of your reporting and risk management plans.
Cost may not be the only important metric that project managers need to track, but it’s almost certainly the one that will receive the most attention and scrutiny over the life of a project. Company executives, who are often removed from the day-to-day progress of the project, tend to use budget performance and budget projections as a way to gauge a project’s status. At the enterprise level, project managers often need to report on each budget component separately, rather than simply the overall project budget.
Everyone involved in a project, from the most senior stakeholders to the newest team members, needs to know whether or not the project is progressing according to schedule. Many enterprise PMs provide a high-level summary of a project’s timeline performance at the beginning of each status meeting and at the top of each status report. As with cost, it’s important to measure not only the overall project performance, but the performance of each team or workstream within the project.
Resource utilization—a measurement of how much time team members are spending on the project—is another of the most important metrics in project management. Utilization is typically determined by dividing the number of possible work hours in a week (40, for example) by the number of hours spent by a given team member. If utilization numbers are above or below the targets for the project, it’s an indication that something is wrong. Low utilization often means that the project is overstaffed or that incomplete tasks are blocking other scheduled tasks, while unexpectedly high utilization can mean that the project is understaffed or in crisis.
Looking at the percentage of tasks that have been completed is like looking at mileage markers on a highway journey. Knowing whether a project is 25 percent complete or 75 percent complete, for example, may be essential in situations where company priorities have changed and the organizational leaders need to determine whether the project should be completed as planned, restarted or placed on hold. For this reason, many project managers create project milestones that’ll help them out along the way.
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