Keeping score

VOICES | Project Toolkit

What's the best metric you use to measure project success?

Start With the Basics

“I consider these basic parameters:

1. The bare minimum: Is the project delivered on time and budget and within scope? Does it meet the requirements?

2. The defect rate: The number of defects over the backlog items finished in a project. Usually it is a percentage—the lower, the better. The perfect scenario would be no defect in the product delivered.

3. The business value: Is this a system that can be scaled to other business models? Has the system configuration time been reduced? Are any existing issues resolved? Are customers more satisfied than before?

4. Financial benefits: Does this project lead to an increase in revenue, profit margin, market share and popularity?

For example, for a software development project, we measured the project in terms of budget, requirements, due date and defect rate. Our goal was to reduce the system configuration time by at least 50 percent. When we recorded the configuration time between the old system and the new system, we found that the time for the new one had been shortened seven times from the old system. That meant one implementation team could handle many more clients than before, and we saw that as a successful project—the creation of efficiency.”

—Weifang Leda Wu, PMI-ACP, PMP, IT project manager/ Scrum master at Empyrean Benefit Solutions, Houston, Texas, USA

Measure During, Not After

“I consistently measure schedule and cost variance to help determine a project's success. I find these metrics useful because they not only provide a solid projected forecast of where my project will end up, but they also help me reap what I sow in the current work environment. By using the earned value management concept and formulas frequently throughout projects, I'm able to monitor and control work activities in the project life cycle, making any necessary changes to leverage cost and schedule so as not to affect product integrity or quality.

For example, if a project is beginning to fall behind schedule and delivery dates cannot be adjusted, performing activities in parallel can help alleviate the time constraint. Budget also plays an important role but is often of secondary importance when compared to customer satisfaction.”

—Joe Campa, PMI-RMP, PMP, head of estimating department and project manager, Cameron Steel, Lindsay, Ontario, Canada

Care for Customers

“For a metric to best measure project success, it must address both internal and external customer requirements and long-term needs. In my experience, there are two areas that, together, are the most important indicators in the evaluation of project success: the ROI for internal customers and satisfaction of external customers with the final product.

Early in my project management career, I believed that delivering projects on time and on budget while meeting requirements ensured success. But I've found over time that there are many more variables that must be considered. Project success can be challenging to define, as it varies from project to project depending on the goal of the project, the priorities of the project sponsor and stakeholders, and the requirements of the internal and external customers.

I have found value in applying some of the principles of agile project management in consumer product development and technology integration projects. This approach provides the ability to measure customer acceptance of requirements, product design and functionality. It also offers a projection of customer satisfaction much earlier in the process, when normally external customers would not see the product until after project completion.


In my current position, we break the design phases into smaller work package reviews similar to the method used in agile software development. These reviews measure internal and external customer satisfaction through assessment of product design deliverables and functionality requirements, displaying the results of work-in-progress to ensure that project requirements are on track.

If the customer does not accept the proposed design, defined requirements or product functionality, a metric is produced from each phase showing the level of customer acceptance. Upon review of the metrics, we make course corrections to ensure customer satisfaction with the end product.”

—Ralph Hoy, PMP, director of operations at IGI -Advanced Visualization Systems, Detroit, Michigan, USA

Get Perspective

“Project success—from whose perspective? The true measure of success rests with the sponsors and the degree to which they obtain the benefits for which they paid. In my experience, many ‘successful’ projects fail by this measure, even though the project's end product is completed and implemented successfully.

A project manager may view the project as having been successful if the specified work is completed on time, within budget and the sponsor seems happy. The prospect of further work for the same client is a good indicator of this.

For team members, the experience gained can be a success, regardless of project outcome. I have worked on projects that were expensive failures, but I learned new software and development techniques that were quite valuable to me.”

—Howard Wiener, PMP, president and CEO, Evolution Path Associates Inc., New York, New York, USA, via PMI Project, Program and Portfolio Management LinkedIn Group

What's Your Problem? We'll help you solve it by asking practitioners around the world for advice. Send your project questions or issues to [email protected].




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