November 11, 2011 Leave a comment
As project managers, nothing is more important than seeing the eventual success and rollout of the projects and programs in our scope. The sense of satisfaction that a project manager garners from their achievement carries with it esteem and personal prestige amongst peers and stakeholders alike.
Clearly, the eventual completion of a project and the rollout of its inherent deliverable (or deliverables) is the most obvious piece of success criteria for a project. Whether that occurred within budget and on time also factor into determining whether a project has been successful. Completion and closure are good indicators, but when it comes to really determining in no uncertain terms, just how ‘successful’ the project actually was, what are some of the key criteria that should be referenced? What are the overall ‘success metrics’ from which a project manager, the team and the stakeholders can utilize to ultimately gauge just how ‘successful’ their effort has been?
Key Success Metrics
Every project will have its share of metrics during the execution and monitoring and controlling phases. There are, however, metrics that can be leveraged to determine (and combine) the success and value that a project has provided. There are essentially four key metrics used that can denote the overall success of a project and its key deliverables:
This is a broad category, but it generally denotes how the project as a whole contributed to the over-arching success of the company or business unit. Besides the obvious ROI calculations that are performed, financial success metrics can also included things such as:
- Adherence to regulatory agency requirements – ISO9000 or specific government regulations come to mind. Thus, the project was successful in putting the agency or company into a better position from which to gain contracts or business from other companies or the government of a particular nation.
- Adherence to health, safety or environmental laws – In this case, promoting a positive image of the company to customers and peers can have excellent implications for the success of the company’s business as well as allowing it to function in specific regions or geos.
- Maintaining a standard of ethics and good practices – Scandals can cause severe damage to a company, even when the perpetrators are a select few. (Remember Arthur Anderson?) Having a well documented policy of ethics, standards and corporate governance can also assist in portraying the company in a positive light. Which, in turn, will assist in revenue downstream.
Focusing on the present is important for any organization. Current release trains, project deliverables, bookings and sales, and so forth, are all important aspects of a company’s general health. But if a company wishes to survive, it also needs to be cognizant of changes that may be occurring in the future. New trends, a paradigm shift in one of their key markets, and so forth may be severely detrimental if they catch a company of guard. As such, projects may be formed in a corporation to tackle the key issues that may be required for future success. Some of those are:
- Process Improvements – For corporations where process is lax or inconsistent, a project to normalize process across the board could lead to great improvements in productivity. It will also allow the company to better scale as it grows, by reducing duplication of efforts and aligning the disparate process (and potentially cultural) differences that exist internally.
- Maintaining Technical Superiority – For companies that are in the realm of high-tech or advanced technology, keeping up to date on new and potentially new ideas in their realm is imperative. Falling behind when new technologies emerge could easily see a company lose its market share. As such, tiger teams and R&D projects will allow the company to invest in future technology trends.
- Having a Knowledge Repository – Knowledge is, after all, power. And the more one knows, the better they can do their job. Having a place where employees can go to find out specifics about project processes, technology standards, legal constraints, and so forth, will allow the company to have a functioning, centralized location for all things pertinent to their business. Maintaining this repository should be an ongoing project for the corporation.
How a company functions internally is often part in parcel with its corporate culture. There can be a tremendous amount of disparity in this area, especially for companies that perform frequent acquisitions. Regardless, the company can only succeed externally if it is succeeding internally. A few key areas in this realm are:
- Consistent Scope Change Review Process – Scope changes. As much as project managers may cringe, it is a fact of life in our business. But how and when that occurs needs to be part of some agreed upon overall process. Otherwise, projects in similar release trains that perform scope modifications in their own microcosm could derail a larger program.
- Building Internal Relationships – As many in the military will tell you, an army is only as strong as their sense of unity. Similarly, a corporation cannot function if individuals are at each others throats. Forming good working relationships with peers is key to internal success. This may involve joint internal projects and symbiotic endeavours that are mutually beneficial. Quid Pro Quo.
Customer Related Success
In the end, what truly allows a company to thrive are its customers. Keeping them happy is probably one of the most important things to consider for any corporation. There have been many companies in the past that have run into severe problems or went under completely because they broke one of the most cardinal rules of the business world: they alienated their customers. As such, some key areas of focus here would be:
- Continuous Contact and Interfacing – Staying in touch with key clients and always maintaining engagement gives the impression of wanting to provide excellent service. And customers will react favorably when companies and employees alike go the extra mile to keep them abreast of anything pertinent to their specific orders or key deliverables.
- Building Long Term Relationships between Companies – There are often times when projects are tackled jointly by two separate companies in a similar business space. The success of these projects will often lead to new projects and new business opportunities for both corporations. Additionally, companies may orchestrate mutual sales arrangement, ensuring that particular products offered by one company are purchased by the other. Once again, quid pro quo.
- Improving Customer Satisfaction Ratings – Most companies try to keep a running tally on how they are perceived by their customer base. Garnering sentiment from customers is extremely important for a corporation to determine how well it is executing personally and against its competitors. Scores like NPS (Net Promoter Score) have become a very common metric to gauge how a company is performing based on the views of its customer segments. Low NPS scores can trigger projects or programs to target improvements in key areas based on customer feedback.
As noted, various factors determine how well a project has performed and various projects can be triggered to achieve future success for the company. The aforementioned list of success metrics is a good reference when determining what actions to take for the current and future success of the company.