Say you’ve just joined a project, and in your first week, your client contract manager comes to you and says, “IV&V has opened a new observation risk saying that we don’t have any metrics or reporting that our project is adhering to—quick! Define our metrics and produce a report so we can dispute this risk!”

You confidently assure your client that this is not a problem and that you’ll have a set of metrics defined as well as a report for them to review by Monday. After you close the Zoom meeting browser, you take a moment to collect yourself and exclaim, “Help!  What did I just commit to?”

Defining Which Project Areas to Measure

Let’s get back to basics. The ten knowledge areas of the PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) are always a great place to start. Some areas may be more (or less) relevant to your project, so even a subset of these areas can become the project criteria that you need to measure the project progress against:

  • Scope
  • Resources
  • Quality
  • Schedule/Time
  • Budget/Cost
  • Procurement
  • Risks
  • Communications
  • Stakeholder management
  • Integration management

Establishing Metrics

Next, you will want to establish the metrics for each of your selected project areas. When establishing metrics for your project areas, it is critical to know what your standards are. What does “100%,” “meets expectations,” “achieves objectives,” or “on-time” look like on your specific project?

Oftentimes, it’s easier to define what the standard is NOT than it is to define the standard itself. If this is the case, start there. Define the standard you do not want, so you can then work towards defining the standard that achieves your results and meets expectations.

Once you have the subpar standard defined, then incrementally think of metrics that move the needle plus 5% or 10% to define the standard and what you think might meet expectations. Once you start to define what the standard is and is NOT, it naturally necessitates a conversation with your client to confirm your assumptions. Ask:

  • Risk: What is your client’s tolerance for risk? Is identifying risks to critical path 30, 60, or 90 days ahead of time sufficient?
  • Quality: What does 100% look like? Are there deliverables standards the client expects to see in work products? What level of defects is acceptable in a software release?
  • Budget/Cost: What is the client’s tolerance for budget or cost misses? Is it 5% off budget? Or less?
  • Procurement: Is the timeline met or late for procurement activities? Is evaluation criteria for bidders defined?

Presenting your Project Criteria and Metrics

The day has arrived. It is the Monday meeting with your contract manager, and your prepared draft of the project metric set is ready to be presented and start the dialogue to collect your client’s feedback.  You can start your revisions to the metrics, proudly noting that you have presented your first set of metrics, and after this, it is all revision and refinement from here!