Over the last two weeks, I have written blogs on why resource availability schedules are not a valid indicator of an organization’s project capacity. I offered an alternative approach that culminates with finding some metrics that will help you understand your project capacity. In this blog, I’ll discuss some people management metrics that will help you assess your performance, people, teams, projects, customer profitability, and capacity.
Let me say, up front, that I don’t use data as a bludgeon. Data gives us a starting point, from which we can ask questions, get answers, ask more questions, and, in the end, improve.
Complexity is a measurement concept that is at the heart of the Smart Projex method. If you have missed my discussions on complexity, you can read more here. Complexity is just as it sounds, a measure of how complex an activity or project is. I suggest we keep it very simple and give everyone about 5 or 6 choices, instead of an unlimited number of choices. We need to know if an activity is a one day, three day, one week, two week, one month, or multi-month activity.
Assigning complexity at the activity level (or work package) allows us to aggregate complexity by project, work stream, resource, or project manager. We can compare activities across an entire portfolio of projects, from construction to IT to organizational change projects, and R&D. It won’t be perfect but nothing is perfect.
It’s important to note here that complexity is not the same as relative estimating, as Scrum proponents advocate. While I understand the advantages of relative estimating, I think the ability to compare complexity over a portfolio of projects outweighs the advantages. And by keeping the choices of complexity very limited, we make estimating pretty easy.
Budgeted dollars versus actual dollars by person
When we can look back at a year of activities that have been completed by any one person and compare the budgeted dollars to actual dollars, we can assess whether that person is consistently delivering scope at or near what was projected. We can spot the people who are consistently running over budget, improve our estimating process, and identify problems and why they are occurring.
Perhaps one person is running over budget because he/she is new and inexperienced. Another might be running over budget because he/she is consistently assigned the activities that are the most challenging and unpredictable. The approach for addressing the resource data insights are totally different.
We can also look at these data points for project managers, or if we have assigned them, budget managers — to see how these people are managing their work.
Budgeted dollars versus actual dollars by groups
There may be times when aggregating these data can give us some meaningful insights. We may find that a particular team is not estimating well. Can we understand why? Are we continually running over with one particular client? Is that client giving us poor requirements? What do the insights tell us about our communications?
Activity or project complexity versus costs (or income) by person, team, etc.
This is a powerful set of metrics because of the profitability insights. By comparing complexity with estimated costs and then actual costs, we can, over time, improve our estimating. But it’s more than that. We can spot projects with high levels of complexity that might have been underpriced. We can identify projects with low levels of complexity that generated higher dollars. By including the forecasted revenues on a project, we can look at profitability by resource, project, client, sponsor, or manager.
We can compare complexity with estimated and actual costs to improve our complexity assignments. One question that will have to be addressed is our policy on changing baselines. That’s a complicated discussion. What is the purpose of our data analysis? If what we want to do is to use these people management metrics to improve and to assess capacity in the longer term, it may make sense to allow changes to the baseline.
Aggregate complexity of completed work versus work in progress, versus work not started by person
This data metric compares the amount of work in progress with the work that has been completed, versus the amount of work that has not yet been started. If we look at these metrics across the spectrum of employees, it tells us who has availability. It also allows us to compare productivity and to better understand how much work is in the queue.
We can look at the aggregate complexity of work being completed during various periods of time — across the project portfolio. Burn-down charts can be created at the project level, or at the resource level. The latter might be helpful for subject matter experts who could be working on four or five different projects at the same time.
At the portfolio level, we can look at aggregate complexity and better understand how much work we can accomplish in any one month — to assess future complexity.
So, what people management metrics are valuable? I’ve given this a lot of thought, but I don’t have all the answers. If you are interested in this subject, reach out to me and let’s talk.