Measuring Project Success

Measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not so.   - Galileo Galilei

Ok, so it is time to implement the solution that you and the team have been working on for months. How do you know if it was a success?

There are many different ways to measure the success of a project, and as it turns out, some are a bit easier to manage than others.

One way to look at whether a project is successful or not is to evaluate it at the time of implementation. Some questions you can have the team answer are:

  • Did the solution go live?
  • Was the solution delivered on time?
  • Were the project expenses within budget?
  • Did the project deliver within the agreed-upon scope?
  • Was the implementation plan executed as expected?
  • Was the change management plan executed as expected?
  • Did hypercare activities support the initial implementation?

These measures are quite simple to identify and track, as they focus on the mechanics of the implementation – did it happen and were there any initial issues? During my change management training, we called them “installation” metrics, and many of the answers are usually a Yes or No -- checking the box to show that you put the solution into place.

  Image courtesy of mrpuen at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of mrpuen at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The challenge comes when you try to measure whether the solution delivered the intended results. Why did the team set out to tackle this project in the first place, and what financial, customer, efficiency, and people outcomes did you expect to gain by investing time, money, and resources toward the project?

A good place to start when identifying these more telling success metrics is the project charter. Look at the business case – what opportunity were you trying to take advantage of and/or what problem were you trying to solve? What goals did the team expect to achieve? How did the team define success?

Once you review this information -- which you should be going back to throughout the project to make sure you stay on track -- you can begin to identify what my change management training called the “realization” metrics. That is, did the project realize the benefits the team expected to see?

Here are some questions you can ask the team to help identify realization metrics to assess your project:

  • Financial – What financial impact will the change bring? Do you expect to see an impact on top line or bottom line results? Does Finance need to sign off on the validity of these metrics? 
  • Customer – Do you expect any changes to customer behavior? Will customer satisfaction be affected? Do you expect to gain more customers and/or a different set of customers?
  • Efficiency – Will your internal processes become more efficient? How much time will be saved / freed up for employees to focus on other, more value-added activities? Are you able to work faster, easier, and with less mistakes? 
  • People – Do employees understand the change and what it means to them? Do you expect to see changes in employee behavior? Will employee engagement improve, and therefore employee productivity?   

If you expect to see changes in any of the above items, work with the team to think creatively about how you will measure them. Seek out people who specialize in measurement in your organization and lean on them -- especially for the realization metrics -- as they will have some great ideas about what to measure and also how to measure it so that you can be confident in your data and understand any flaws in it. 

It could take months or even years to fully realize the effects of a project. And as a project manager, you should hand the solution off to the business owners, so it might not actually be your job to measure the realization impacts by the time the team sees results. So as part of your transition plan with business owners, ensure that the measurement plan is outlined clearly for them.

All in all, measurement is an important – but sometimes overlooked – part of closing out a project. So take time to think through the right measurement strategy with your team.

And while it may seem impossible at times to isolate and measure the effects that your project solution has on financials, customers, internal processes, or your employees, remember that data is powerful! Your leaders will expect to see this kind of information to validate the work that their teams have been doing. And you will definitely look more credible if you come to the table talking about measurement.