Post-project reviews allow an organization to learn valuable lessons for future projects.
Types of Project Success Measures
Projects consume significant amounts of time, money and other organizational resources. No project runs perfectly with perfect outcomes. Post-project reviews are the opportunity for the organization to learn valuable lessons in how to run the next project more effectively.
To do this at all well with minimal conflict between the various players (remember, many organizations are a hotbed of organizational politics), the project sponsor and steering committee will need to agree on the measures of project success before the project starts. Make sure that the measures of success are objectively verifiable by an independent person and documented in the various project documents.
Project success criteria fall into three areas:
- hard measures
Was the project delivered on time, on budget and on scope?
- soft measures
Were project clients, team members and other stakeholders satisfied with the project?
- benefits realization
Did the project actually deliver the organizational benefits proposed?
Using Project Success Measures
For the hard measures, be careful to compare project performance with the latest version of the project plan. With a well-disciplined project change control process in place, changes to the project's baseline schedule, cost and scope will be captured in the major project documents. Make sure you review the latest versions of these documents in constructing your performance measures. A handy tool for calculating and reporting the hard measures is our Project Scorecard.
The hard measures will tell you how the project performed. However, they will not shed any light on why the project performed that way. Whether the project was a roaring success or a dismal failure, you will be little the wiser. Looking into the soft measures will give a very useful insight into the project's processes and inter-relationships that led to the final result.
These measures also need to be agreed at the start of the project, with a clear setting of performance objectives. Performance results are typically determined through a combination of surveys and interviews. Make sure that you canvass the views of team members as well as the other key players; clients, sponsors, steering committee, end users, and so on. As a minimum, you should gather information on how project goals, roles, communication and implementation were perceived. Refer to our A Guide to Project Management for customizable survey forms designed specifically for conducting such reviews.
The hard and soft performance targets spoken of so far are within the responsibility of the Project Manager to achieve. On completion of the project, the project outputs are handed over to the Business Owner. The Business Owner is then responsible for using the products of the project for the benefit of the organization. Benefits realization, then, is the third area in which to evaluate the project's success.
The expected benefits accruing to the organization from the project is argued in the Business Case. How to achieve these benefits should then be planned in the Benefits Realization Plan. The last stage of the post-project review process develops and uses organizational measures to determine to what extent benefits were actually achieved. In some cases, this review is undertaken some considerable time after the project is completed.
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