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6 Standards of Evaluating Project Success and Why They Matter

One of the more valuable internal tools for mapping projects is the evaluation of those projects brought to completion. Boost Midwest has found our clients benefit now and during future projects when we provide data that measures the success of each phase of their project. A thoughtfully prepared evaluation:

  • Allows leadership to see which processes and methodology contributed to delays, faulty specifications, breakdowns in communication and cost overages.

  • Identifies successful project phases, highlighting information which can provide important information for future projects.

  • Provides information to build a database to highlight any patterns that repeatedly help or hurt a project. This information can be analyzed as to the whys and hows to create project structures and processes based on past successes.

Project evaluation is seen as a critical phase of the overall project scope. The Harvard Business Review considers it part of the close-out of the project and lays the responsibility for this on the project manager’s shoulders. However, the success of some projects may be based on the performance of the deliverable over time, and evaluation may take months after the project is delivered to the client. Boost Midwest can help track a project long after its close out to ensure it is still meeting its goals and satisfying your customer.

There are six different criteria to measure project success, using both subjective and objective criteria:

  1. Scope. Did the project achieve its objectives as set out in the project plan?

  2. Schedule. Was the project completed on time? Were all team deliverables completed on time? Did the schedule change during the project?

  3. Budget. Was the project delivered below, at or above cost?

  4. Team Satisfaction. Often overlooked in project evaluations, this subjective measurement can be very helpful by highlighting insights for success—or lack of success—only someone “deep in the trenches” can provide.

  5. Customer Satisfaction. Client feedback is naturally one of the more important measures of a project’s success, leading to future projects from the customer or through their network of contacts. Feedback should include not just the final deliverable but the entirety of the process, including communication with the customer, and how the project responded to any changes in scope.

  6. Quality. Even after the project is delivered, quality assurance is often an ongoing piece of the project puzzle. Are all stakeholders satisfied with the end result? Is there an avenue to track the project success over time?

Measuring success is filled with gray areas, and a slew of academic papers attest to this. But one adage to keep in mind is the Goodhart Law, which states:

“When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”

So, determining the individual criteria within each standard evaluation criteria matters. Here’s what to avoid when establishing evaluation criteria:

  • Criteria in Conflict. It’s important to make sure that criteria in one phase of the project isn’t in opposition to criteria in another phase or within the same phase.

  • Too Little Criteria. Too narrow a focus for determining success of a project can lead to unintentional consequences. To avoid creating the wrong incentives that can cancel initial benefits of the project, make sure the success criteria set covers the full scope of the project and definition of its success.

  • Too Much Criteria. The more criteria set, the more possibilities there are for conflicts—and failure. It helps to limit the amount of success criteria through agreement, and possibly compromise, with all stakeholders.

  • Static Criteria. Just as a project scope can change, so can its criteria for success. Be willing to adjust the criteria mid-project, if warranted. And remember that not all projects will have the same criteria.

Finally, use a scorecard to help measure the success of a project:

  • First, prioritize criteria as to its importance to the overall project.

  • Then, score each criterion on a scale from 1 to 10 to calculate the total “success score” for the project. If six criteria are used, then 60 would be the top score, if 10 criteria are used, then 100 would be the top score, and so on.

Evaluating project success is an important part of project management but can also be time-consuming. And, when evaluating criteria it may be difficult to balance objective and subjective perspectives. At Boost Midwest, our Project Management Division can measure the success of your project based on criteria determined from the outset or, if that step was not taken, work with you to establish criteria, leaving you free to begin your next project.

To learn more about how we can help, or simply to meet our team, schedule your free consultation with us today.


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