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28 Important Project Management KPIs (& How To Track Them)
Tracking KPIs during your project lifecycle can help you understand where you’re succeeding and where you aren’t. Here are a few to get you started.
Tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) or measures is critical during a project. Without them, it’s difficult to see how you’re progressing toward your goals. But how do you know what you should measure for each project? Overwhelming your team with data won't make the project succeed, but providing the right data, at the right time, ensures the project stays on track.
While we can’t provide a definitive set of key performance metrics for project management, we can highlight some areas of significance that are typically helpful to track. Below are 28 example project management KPIs to get you heading in the right direction.
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Are your projects actually helping your organization succeed? This field guide helps ensure you're tracking the right projects and the right KPIs.
Back in the day, if a project was on time and on budget, it was considered a success. That’s no longer the case. While time and budget are still considered important factors, they aren’t the only determinants of value. You may also want to know whether the project helped you achieve the intended goals, and if the amount and types of resources you dedicated to it were appropriate and even optimal.
Today’s project managers use a variety of KPIs, which generally fall into these four categories:
- Timeliness: This is making sure your project is done on time—and if it’s not, tracking where it’s off-target is important so you can always have an estimated completion date.
- Budget: Are you going to stay under the budget you’ve allocated, or is the project exceeding costs?
- Quality: How well has the project progressed? Are those working on it or benefitting from it satisfied?
- Effectiveness: Are you spending your time and money appropriately, or could you be managing the project more effectively?
Note that not every project may require measurements in all these categories. Before your organization gets down to work, it’s important for both the strategic management board and the project management office to discuss what factors will determine a project’s success and, by extension, which measures will matter most.
1. Make your KPIs clear and focused. Project management KPI templates can be helpful, but it’s most important for KPIs to be S.M.A.R.T: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
For example, let’s say one of the strategic objectives of a local government is to provide quality, diverse housing options that make city living attainable for a wide range of groups and income levels. An appropriate KPI for your local government might be to increase the number of affordable housing units, with a target of rehabilitating 1,000 existing structures per year to meet public needs. This KPI is SMART because it’s specific (pertaining to rehabilitating structures to create affordable housing units), measurable (it has a target number), attainable (it’s doable with the right strategies), relevant (it directly impacts goal achievement), and time-bound (it’s measured yearly).
2. Choose your measures with purpose. Too many organizations track things simply because they always have, but that leads to an overabundance of questionable KPIs. We recommend tracking just a few important measures—those that are most relevant to what you’re trying to achieve. If you can’t explain why a particular KPI is important, that's a good enough reason to drop it. Keep in mind that the more KPIs you have, the more effort it takes to report on them. (Not to mention, you’ll be inundated with information that makes it harder to determine what’s important and what’s not.)
3. Always include a target. Organizations just starting out with KPIs sometimes feel they don’t have enough historical information to assign an accurate target. But working without a target adds a level of subjectivity to the measurement—how do you know if you’re doing well or not? We recommend picking KPIs for which you can make an educated guess on a target using industry research or historical information.
4. Know when to abandon a KPI. If you’re not using a KPI when you’re making decisions for your organization or having a strategy meeting, that may be an indicator it’s not worthwhile to track. You might be expending too much effort trying to track something that’s not providing value.
Below are four categories containing 28 sample KPIs for project management. You will not need all of these measures, but hopefully they will help you think about better ways to manage your projects. These KPIs can be applied to any project management methodology you use. And remember: Your KPIs should be agreed upon by all involved parties before initiating a project, and then measured and monitored as a tool for decision-making during the project.
- Cycle Time: The time needed to complete a certain task or activity. This is helpful for repeated tasks in a project.
- On-Time Completion Percentage: Whether or not an assignment or task is completed by a given deadline.
- Time Spent: The amount of time that is spent on the project by all team members—or, if you like, by each team member individually.
- Number Of Adjustments To The Schedule: How many times your team has made adjustments to the completion date of the project as a whole.
- FTE Days Vs. Calendar Days: How much time your team is spending on a project by calendar days, hours, and/or full-time equivalent work days.
- Planned Hours Vs. Time Spent: How much time you estimated a project would take versus actual hours. If the time spent differs from the amount of time anticipated, it’s a flag that you underestimated the resource allocation or budget, and your timeline may be affected.
- Resource Capacity: The number of individuals working on a project multiplied by the percent of time they have available to work on it. This project KPI helps to properly allocate resources (and determine any hiring needs) and set an accurate project completion timeline.
- Resource Conflict YOY: Comparing the number of projects with resource conflicts year over year (YOY). Not having the resources to complete projects or having employees assigned to several projects at a time can lower efficacy. KPIs that compare these conflicts will show whether the situation is a persistent problem or one-off situation that needs to be addressed.
- Budget Variance: How much the actual budget varies from the projected budget. To track this KPI, measure how close the baseline amount of expenses or revenue is to the expected value.
- Budget Creation (Or Revision) Cycle Time: The time needed to formulate an organization’s budget. This includes the total duration of research, planning, and coming to a final agreement.
- Line Items In Budget: Line items helps owners and managers keep track of individual expenditures—and provide a more detailed way to see how the budget was spent.
- Number Of Budget Iterations: The number of budget versions produced before its final approval. A higher number of budget iterations means more time is being spent planning and finalizing a budget.
- Planned Value: The value of what’s left to complete in a project—in other words, the planned cost of what still needs to be done. For example, if you have a $20K budget and 30 percent of the project remaining, the planned value of the remaining work is $6K. Use this project KPI to compare against the actual cost and adjust the budget if needed.
- Cost Performance Index: Compares the budgeted cost of the work you’ve accomplished so far to the actual amount spent. This is a ratio to measure the expense efficiency of a project—earned value divided by actual costs.
- Customer Satisfaction/Loyalty: Whether or not someone is satisfied and would come back again. This can be measured effectively by a survey. This comes more into play when the project deals directly with a client or customer.
- Net Promoter Score: Similar to customer satisfaction and loyalty, NPS (or Net Promoter Score) is a user satisfaction KPI measured by a one-question survey whose purpose is to gauge brand loyalty.
- Number Of Errors: How often things need to be redone during the project. This is the number of times you have to redo and rework something, which affects budget revisions and calendar revisions as well.
- Customer Complaints: Keep in mind that the “customer” of a project could be someone internal—does someone from your organization complain because someone else isn’t getting things done?
- Employee Churn Rate: The number or percentage of team members who have left the company. If your project teams have high turnover, it might indicate the need to improve management and the work environment. Churn ultimately slows down projects and creates higher costs for the company in the long run.
- Average Cost Per Hour: This measures the effort needed to complete a project, including employee salaries, benefits, office space, equipment, and more. Tracking this average and comparing it to project outcomes helps you determine if your employees’ time was used effectively.
- Resource Profitability: Calculating resource profitability helps you understand if your team members’ time is being used effectively. You’ll need Average Cost Per Hour and billing rates to do this calculation.
- Number Of Project Milestones Completed On Time With Sign Off: There are different parts within a project—are they being completed in a timely manner? Additionally, were the milestones completed and approved by the owner or buyer?
- Number Of Returns: If you have a capital project that requires many parts, you may track the return rate of those parts; this helps you see if you did a good job planning or adjusting to the project during implementation.
- Training/Research Needed For Project: You may track this in hours, number of courses, or something similar. If you need to do a lot of this, your project might get started later than you hope. Another way of looking at this is asking, “What percent of resources did you have at the beginning of the project that were qualified to immediately begin working on the project?”
- Number Of Cancelled Projects: Tracking how many projects have been paused or eliminated. A high number of cancelled projects could indicate a lack of planning, lack of goal alignment, or an inability to take on new projects.
- Number Of Change Requests: The number and frequency of changes requested by a client to an established scope of work. Too many changes can negatively affect budgets, resources, timelines, and overall quality.
- Billable Utilization: The percentage of project hours you can bill to a client. Billable hours relate to revenue-generating, project-related tasks, whereas unbillable hours are typically more administrative, including things like drafting and negotiating proposals.
You want to understand your project's effectiveness and timeliness in one snapshot. Use a Project Status Dashboard.
- Return On Investment (ROI): Encompassing all of the previous four KPI categories, ROI calculations measure the financial worth of a project in relation to its cost. Will the project result in a positive payback for the company or client? What is its financial potential or value? Are there other projects or investments that would yield a higher ROI? This KPI is often used when determining whether to initiate a project, or to compare the value of two different projects. It can also be used as a program management KPI, to evaluate the impact of a portfolio of projects.
A project has many moving parts regardless of what project management methodology (like waterfall or agile) you use, and it is critical that you measure the timeliness, budget, quality, and effectiveness of the project along the way. You need to be sure you are able to execute on these projects effectively with a limited budget—because resources aren’t unlimited. (If you had unlimited resources, you’d probably do things a lot differently!)
If you need some assistance managing your project portfolio, we have just the thing for you. Our Project Management Field Guide walks you through how to differentiate between all things project-related, how to determine if you’re working on the right project, and a step-by-step process to help you prioritize projects. And once your have your project portfolio, you can easily track the KPIs for each project and automate your reporting with a tool like ClearPoint.
– Is my KPI specific?
– Can I measure progress towards this KPI?
– Is the target for my KPI attainable?
– Is this KPI relevant to my organization?
– When do I want to achieve the target for this KPI by?