How to Measure the Success of Your Project

Oct 23, 2014
6 Min Read

How do you effectively measure the success of a project and then how do you communicate that success to stakeholders? In this interview with program manager Adam Kowal, from Intuit QuickBase, we asked him about ways to help you make sure you're using and reporting on the "right" metrics.

Alexandra Levit:  Adam, what should you do at the planning stages of a project to ensure that you are able to effectively measure success later?

Adam Kowal:  Ensure the team and leaders are aligned on what you are trying to achieve with the project. Think about why you are trying to affect change. If you don’t have alignment here, all is lost. Then, facilitate a session to brainstorm the quantitative or qualitative metrics that will be good leading indicators of success and final indicators of success.  Understand what your dials are and how you are going to turn them – so you can watch if turning the dial makes any difference.

Limit the important success metrics to no more than three. If you have too many, you probably don’t really know how to measure success. Also, watch out for people trying to solve for the “number,” which could result in bad business decisions made to ensure hitting metrics.

Alex: Do you have an example of this?

Adam: Sure, how about measuring call centers on “time on phone” without realizing that reps are creating terrible customer experiences and not up-selling/cross-selling in an effort to get the customer off the phone faster.

Alex:What metrics are most eye-catching to senior leaders and why?

Adam: This is a three-part answer.  1) The most eye-catching metrics to senior leaders are ones that don’t add up! You must ensure you have good data and have tested your instrumentation process. 2) In my experience, a good PM will align with senior leaders on what metrics are most important to their group and the business as a whole. Make sure you’re not wasting time crunching numbers no one cares about. 3) Information that means something is eye-catching. Don’t put the onus on senior leaders to distill all your data into action. Do it for them and talk through your logic.

Alex:  What mistakes do you see PMs making most often with respect to measurement?

Adam: Changing the goal posts willy-nilly.  If you determine over time that some of your metrics aren't right, don’t change them in a vacuum. Think end-to-end about the impact of the change and discuss the issue with your stakeholders. Don’t spin on it for weeks – push for a decision ASAP.

Alex: Once you have initial results, how can you keep measurement momentum going so that you are able to report on long-term success?

Adam:  It’s the PM’s responsibility to champion ongoing attention to this. Metrics are highly sought after in the first few months of a program, but then people tend to get metric-itis. But the one time you don’t check the metrics, something important will pop up that you’ll miss. One helpful tool is a web-based dashboard report that provides a consistent look at your metrics and gets stakeholders into the habit of doing regular quick checks.

Alex: Any final recommendations?

Adam:  Yes, one more thing. Partner early with whoever owns system reporting or needs to build instrumentation. Often reporting and instrumentation are an afterthought, and it’s too late to do them right – or do them at all. Be planful when it comes to these, and make them part of the project requirements at step one.

In our previous interview with Adam, we asked,"Are you collecting customer feedback the right way?"

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