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Which Project Management KPIs?

Kristina Kushner

Kristina Kushner

Do you have measurable standards that help estimating a project success? How do you define that was a victory and you are a top-performing Project Manager? What the Project Management KPIs are?

I would like to put an eye on the Key Performance Indicators that a Project Manager should focus on in order to deliver a valuable product effectively and efficiently. Today let’s review the major Project Management KPIs and define how to measure a project success.


What a KPI is?

To put all dots on ‘i’-s, for the case if someone does not know or not sure about the definition or the meaning of this magic abbreviation; Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, are the measurable tangible or intangible goals that help to estimate and measure a project success.

I am saying a project as we are considering this term from the Project Management perspective. Obviously, it could be multi-applicable and you are welcome to utilize this skill in every sphere you would like to.

Generally, KPI is providing the transparency to the expectations from the project and gives an understanding of where we are with the project goals. KPIs are usually being formed together with the success criteria. Frankly speaking, I would say these instances are more or less the same. However, there are major criteria that we are primary measuring the success of the project with.


3 Whales of the Project

We could put plenty of goals and objectives to the project depends on the product and industry specifics as well as the target we are aiming to hit. Nevertheless, there are always three general whales present that are holding the world of the project on their backs.

I am talking about the major Project Management KPIs that a PM should always keep an eye at and should prioritize accordingly.

This is a Project Management iron triangle: the project is built on: Scope, Time, Cost. These are the general KPIs we are going to dance around during all the time the project lives. We are always concerned about the scope of the project, we are tracking the time that is required to deliver the scope, project cost is always a matter of concern as we need to count our funds and the project should bring more value than an effort we are putting on it.


Project Success

How to measure whether a project is a winner? Primarily as Project Managers we are considering the general Project Management KPIs. As we already know, these are Scope, Time, Cost. 

Of course, there is a probability of prioritization among the mentioned indicators too. Basically, it depends on the Project Management technique that is chosen to manage the project. 

Should we work with Waterfall, the primary criteria will be Time and Cost. In a predictive methodology these will be the core values as when addressing a project an owner usually has only ‘that much’ time and ‘that much’ money to develop it. Scope is still important, however, we need to leverage it to fit the primary indicators.

If we are doing Agile, according to this methodology the leading item to focus on will be our Scope of work. The product content will prevail here and we are putting Scope as a major KPI now.

Chart with pencil and paper


Let’s Measure

We have our general indicators and put them in a head of other success criteria. Now it’s time to define, how to measure them and how to control the success. 

I hope you are controlling your project not on a piece of paper, but utilizing modern tools for managing the project work. These tools are providing a possibility of building charts and metrics to control the progress against the project KPIs. 

Although there are various multiple opportunities for these charts, I would look into just a few of them that will help you to get a picture from a glance. Further, based on your project needs you could fulfill your board with more charts, graphs and metrics, but do not forget to have those ones on the top of the page. 

A screen filled with charts

Charts and Graphs

The most visual and transparent are always the burn-ups, burn-downs and count-downs. 

For the Scope KPI visualization we could use the burn-up chart to see how much have we completed the overall project Scope. We could use a count-down for tracking the number of tasks left per team mate. It could be a bar chart or a pie chart to visualize the loading of the team and their speed of work.

Another methodology for the Scope status tracking is a Traceability Matrix. This is simply a table with the list of requirements and the statuses for them. This might be not needed for a Project Manager, but it could be added to the reports as this matrix helps to simply visualize an overall project status for the stakeholders. Just try it out and you’ll see how useful it could be.

As for the Time, we could take a progress bar or a burn-down chart to check how close we are to the project or milestone completion date, or to the specific deadline.

A man working on code on a laptop

Cost might be estimated in hours or days of work to be visualize in a count-down. This indicator is good to be checked both per project or milestone and per task. It shows how many hours or work we have for the task to feet the timeline, how much hours/days have been consumed, how much is left and whether it is possible to complete the task within a given time for it.

I would advise to play with tools that are available for you and to define which type of visualization works best. It should help to consume less time for controlling the work and to perform on the top of your efficiency.


Success Criteria

As we have mentioned, there are other success criteria but the 3 Whales the project stands on. They are being identified during the project initiation and should be listed in the Project Charter and in the Quality Assurance plan. They are to give an opportunity to define whether the work was done well and whether the project brought the desired value. 

These criteria vary from project to project. This could be a necessity to aim the new standard or to get a company certification. A new application development that will allow thousands of users to use it simultaneously. A reduction of resources consumed per server. Building walls modification to keep the heat inside in winters and coolness in summers. Or maybe the goal of the project is to teach employees new skills and make them pass exams for earning more customers. Whatever possible, but the major criteria of criteria is a possibility to estimate and measure the results.


Let me know if you agree with the major KPIs listed in this article? And what KPIs do you usually use on a project?

Cheers!

Kristina Kushner is a PMP-certified Project Manager. Having years of experience in Tech leading international and globally distributed teams now she shares her expertise though social media. She leads a blog and the Project Management Sandbox YouTube channel. Passionate about Project Management, these days besides the practice in the field, Kristina helps people to start a career in Tech without knowing how to code. Having a diverse background, she understands how challenging it can be to start a career in tech from scratch and with no guidance. Through being a true STEM ambassador her ambition is to help more people succeed in technology.

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/KristinaKushner/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kris.kushner/

Blog:  https://crizper.com/project-management-kpis/