Project Practitioners > Metrics and Measurements - What Do You Need?

Metrics and Measurements - What Do You Need?

By Jerry Perone

Good day everyone…

Remember to email me if I can assist you in any way. You also have my mobile number which you can use as well.

In keeping with my focus which I announced, I would like to go back to enterprise-wide project management change. This week was interesting in this regard because I had so many questions about metrics and measurement. To be successful with an enterprise-wide project management initiative, metrics and measurement are of paramount importance. Metrics are the parameters, the key performance indicators – the what. Measurement is the process by which data are obtained for use in producing metrics – the how and the who. I am sure that every one of you reading this know the importance of metrics. Everyone knows that if you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it. But what are the metrics that an organization or PMO needs? Generally the metrics can be thought to fall into several categories.

  • People metrics: These are metrics which tell us something about the people we have as project managers, project leads and others. The PMO’s target audience Examples are the number of PMPs, the number of training classes held, the number or training hours, number of OTJ training hours. (leading indicator)
  • Process metrics: These are metrics which tell us something about the processes which we are deploying and operating under our enterprise or PMO. A maturity assessment is the most useful and common here. Other metrics might be the number of projects approved, the number of projects completed, number of risks identified. Any critical input or output may be measured. (leading indicator)
  • Project metrics: These are metrics which tell us facts and trends about our set of projects for the full life cycle. Examples of this metric are how many projects, type of project, overall duration of the projects, total cost of the projects, total labor hours of the projects, percentage of contracted project work, projects being managed by PMPs, others. (leading indicator)
  • Performance metrics: These are the metrics that show us variances. This is what we are trying to improve --- cost, schedule, scope variances. The most valuable metrics in this category are really the earned value set. The reason for this is that these metrics are based on an integrated cost and schedule control system and the fact that these metrics can be rolled up or summarized at any level including up to a total enterprise view. Imagine telling the CEO, that this month, across all the 900 projects in process now that the average cost variance is 15% and trending down and that the average schedule variance is 10% and trending down as well. And oh by the way, project x and y are the only ones in the set of projects that are above 20% on their cost and schedule variances. Wouldn’t that be some management system? (lagging indicator)
  • Quality Metrics: These are the metrics which tell us about defects that result for performing the processes which we operate or that the people are producing. They are important for many reasons. For example, what does it mean if our cost and schedule variances are in control but there is tremendous rework? Quality metrics tell us how well we are doing something. Some possible metrics might be % rework, number of defects, number of classes cancelled, number of process deviations. (lagging indicator)

Many of the metrics and the associated measurement system must be embedded and designed into your processes and programs. Each process should have an owner which should result in each set of metrics having an owner. Someone must be appointed to manage and assure that metrics data is ready to be acted upon each week or each month. Therefore the organization structure is an overall leader or manager, the PMO or EPMO director. Reporting to this person either with a solid line or a dotted line, are the various process and metrics owners.

You may have noted above that each metric group was identified as being either a leading indicator or a lagging indicator. The leading indicators can be thought of being progress or improvement drivers. Improvement in these metrics will show up in the actual data long before project performance earned value improvement datas appears. Project performance and quality metrics are lagging indicators. Improvements in these metrics will show up eventually as we seek this objective but this improvement will take time to show up in any metric. It may take two years. In the meantime, everyone is questioning the money and time spent to date. Without having process, people and project metric data to show and sustain interest, buy in and excitement, programs are cancelled or continue on life support. So the strategy is to use the people, process and project metric data to buy time while their effects are taking hold. Eventually performance and quality improvements will be shown on your trend graphs. Companies have many many projects in play – even a small IT shop may have 300 or 400 projects. If we send 20 project managers to training a month and a project on average is 12 months long and it takes six to twelve months for a methodology to be developed and implemented, then maybe, only maybe, will there be a measurable improvement is 20 of these projects in a year even without the methodology. If you add the methodology into the equation, it would be two years before such an improvement is seen. And now if we are talking about presenting an overall enterprise or PMO level summary graph chart for schedule variance which will show an improvement, we need enough improved projects to force a point in the graph to move noticeably up. This is at least two years out. So, ergo, you need the other leading indicators or metrics to drive your program until then.

One great recommendation that I can give you is to plot and present your metric data on semi-logarithmic graph format or paper. The reason for this is that by using this paper you will be able to very easily see small changes in the very early years. This obviously will help your case while the rest of your important work is being accomplished.

A few words on measurement before we close out the blogosphere this week. In order to know what you are looking at when you present metrics data, you must know the lead time of the data. How many weeks or days is the labor hour data? The travel data? The contractor data? Footnotes and dotted shifted lines are helpful to call this out instantly to observers.

So, Project-Connectors, have a great week, and I will see you back here next week: same Blog Time, same Blog Channel. If you missed my blog of 10/21 you may want to go back and read it to check out my offer for a complementary project plan review.

Jerry Perone
Mobile Phone: 240-462-1443
Email Address:

Related Links
Project performance tracking can be done by making each deliverable visible, or by following the milestones. Some organizations may want to explore cost/budget tracking at different levels. Alan Koch explained how to calculate the cost of quality.

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