When evaluating project success, there's nothing like data. But before analyzing project data and determining actionable insights, first define what success means for the project. To define success and analyze the project, follow these six steps:
Define your goals. Defining project goals and objectives is a crucial step to success. If you don't know where you are going, it will be nearly impossible for anyone else to help you get there.
Define the project's scope, success metrics, criteria, and factors. This includes defining all things that can be measured to determine project achievements.
For example, let's say the goal was "to increase customer satisfaction by 15%." A metric we might use would be "satisfaction scores" on customer surveys or in-store visits. Another metric could be the number of repeat customers over time (or any other way we measure how satisfied customers are).
Ask the right questions. The first step in analyzing your project's success is to ask the right questions. Here are some critical questions to consider:
- What's the problem? Why do we need this project? What current situation or condition do we want to change or improve?
- What's the solution? What are we trying to accomplish, and how will it be achieved (in other words, what steps will lead to the desired outcome)?
- How and why does it work? How does each piece of the plan work together—and how would it be different if one part was missing or changed?
- Are there unforeseen issues we should address now rather than later when they arise unexpectedly during the implementation phase(s)? For instance: Will software be compatible with older versions over time? Has new technology emerged since initial planning that may offer more outstanding capabilities at a lower cost?
Analyze the data. Use the collected data to:
- Make decisions. If a project is going well, consider increasing funding and resources. On the other hand, reassess your goals and strategy if it's not going well. Either way, the data should help make informed decisions about how to proceed with the project.
- Improve the project. The more the team knows about what works and what doesn't work in a given project, the easier it will be to improve in future iterations. Ensure that this iteration goes smoothly!
- Communicate progress. Data analysis helps create accountability on all levels of an organization by giving everyone involved a clear picture of how things are going. This allows teams to see how their contributions fit into a larger picture and provides them with concrete evidence that they're making an impact on something greater than themselves or their immediate concerns or interests
Develop action items. In the final stage of the team's analysis, develop action items. Action items are ways to improve the project in the future. There are three key things to keep in mind when developing an action item:
- Identify what went well and what did not. This will help you identify areas where improvement is necessary for the next project or phase of this project.
- Where can I find these action items? You should be able to find them in a project plan document (e.g., a Gantt chart or issue list).
- How can I use these action items? First, have a clear idea of how each action item will contribute toward improving this project overall by asking yourself: "What is my goal?" For example: "I want to reduce budget overruns and overages."
Measure your progress. When measuring project success, ensure you are tracking the right metrics that matter most to your business.
Next, make sure you're tracking the right data. Data can be presented in many forms; knowing what is necessary for your business will help determine how this information should be formatted.
The third factor is the period—when measuring progress started and stopped (and why). Recent changes are more relevant than older ones, so choosing an appropriate timeframe is critical!
Also, remember who is doing the work—individuals or teams? Are they internal or external? Depending on their roles, these factors may impact how they go about their duties in each development stage.
Ask for and act on feedback. Feedback is a gift. Feedback helps us learn, and we must learn to grow as people and professionals.
Feedback is also an act of generosity and connection—you are using your knowledge or expertise to help someone else by sharing what you've learned with them! When requesting or receiving feedback, ensure it's done positively. Listen without judgment or defensiveness, take notes, thank people for their time, and respect confidentiality if requested.
This is your guide if you're looking to develop a more effective project management system. By following these steps, you can ensure that your team is working on the right things at the right time.
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