Summary:

Metrics can tell us how close we are to our projected timeline, if we’re meeting our quality expectations and measure how well a project is proceeding. In fact, many tools and systems now have built-in analytics to help us more easily track and understand those metrics.

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Organizations run on numbers: the variety of metrics that you can use to tell you tell how you’re doing. We also use metrics when managing specific projects. We look at how close we are to our projected timeline, if we’re meeting our quality expectations and similar information to measure how well a project is proceeding. In fact, many tools and systems now have built-in analytics to help us more easily track and understand those metrics.

But when you’re looking at those numbers, there are some deeper questions worth asking:

  • What am I comparing these numbers to? If, for instance, you’re trying to decide whether working with a distributed team has improved your efficiency, you have to have some numbers on what your projects looked like when your team came into the office every morning.
  • Where do the numbers come from? It’s not uncommon to find metrics that are, in reality, more qualitative than quantitative, just to speed up the discussion. But the fact is that you have to know where the numbers are coming  from to be sure that you’re making the right decisions. For example, some projects may be seen as less than successful because they came in later than planned, or at a higher cost than originally estimated, but the original estimates and plans could have been way off, requiring reevaluation part way through the project.
  • How does your team see those numbers? Your team may interpret the figures differently, due to details they have at their disposal. By taking the time to check your interpretations against those of your team can highlight some information you may have missed, even if you’re simply looking at notes they made as they finished individual tasks.

The Benefits of New Tools

The one great benefit that goes along with using technology that monitors  the milestones your team has accomplished is that it makes it easier to spend time actually hitting your goals, rather than tracking metrics. When your software does at least the basic tracking for you, things become much simpler.

Perhaps the hardest decision is determining which metrics are crucial to your organization. For most organizations, getting information on the length of time it takes to complete parts of a project as well as the cost of the project are crucial. But, depending on the type of project, other metrics could also be important: in a software development project, for instance, tracking the number of bugs that pop up (and how long they take to resolve) can help you spot strengths and weaknesses in the ways your programmers work. It can take some to figure out which metrics you need (and to find a project management tool that can track those metrics), but it’s worth the effort.

Image courtesy Flickr user Louise Docker

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