How do you consistently and regularly measure whether you are doing a good job at managing your project plan? Metrics help you review and assess performance. There are metrics in project management for practically everything from budgets to quality, risk to planning. Planning metrics are what we are going to look at today.

Here is a selection of metrics that you can use to measure performance on your project plan.

Percent complete

This is probably the most obvious metric to use on project plans, mainly because it’s the one that is easy for online planning software to calculate for you. It’s also straightforward for stakeholders and your project team to understand.

Percent complete shows you how far through the project you are. It’s a bit like those status bars at the bottom of ebooks: they show how many pages you still have left to go.

Using percent complete is an easy way to build an understanding about the work that has happened and the work that is still to come. However, there’s nothing in the metric about how hard the work is. It’s typically calculated on overall project days (or hours of effort) and how many have been marked as complete. The difficulty level of the task, therefore, has to be incorporated into the calculation of hours. That’s fine if you can do it, but you still might not be able to adequately reflect risk levels in percent complete metrics, so it’s better if you use them in conjunction with other project metrics that don’t related to planning, such as number of open critical risks or similar – whatever makes the most sense to you and helps sets your percent complete numbers in context.

Estimate at completion

This metric looks at how long the project is forecasted to run for. It’s also used for budget calculations but here, in a discussion about project planning, we’re using it to talk about timescales. Your estimate at completion is going to reflect how accurate your estimates have been to date and how they spin forward to give you a view of how long the rest of the work is going to take.

It’s not only inaccurate estimates that affect this. You may have had to swap out resources and different people will need different times to finish a particular task. This is definitely the case when you exchange an experienced resource for someone doing the job for the first time, so when you compare your original plan to your new ‘estimate at completion’ version of the plan you may also have factored in skill level.

Resources over-allocated

This metric looks at the resources who are working on your project plan and their capacity to complete their allocated tasks. Someone who is over allocated will have more work allocated to them to do in a single day than there are hours available to work.

Resources under-allocated

This metric is another one to do with your project team and their capacity for work. Someone who is under allocated will have less work to do on project tasks than there are hours in the day available to work. That means they will be able to take on more project work (or other types of work, if you don’t have project work for them).

The implications of this are clear: with more resource hours available you can get more work done more quickly. Alternatively, if you don’t have appropriate tasks for that person to do, you could perhaps loan him or her to another project. There may be creative ways that you can avoid paying for all their time from your project budget if you don’t have work for them to do.

The value of baselines

A baseline is a snapshot in time. Take a baseline view of your project plan in Seavus Project Viewer and record the position of your project today. Moreover, use its latest release for available for Apple Watch and schedule important notifications that matter to always stay on track with your project. This gives you a great record of what you thought you would be able to achieve, and your project plan metrics will help show where and how things have changed.

Throughout the project, take regular baselines so you have an audit trail of the major stage changes.

Compare and improve

Use your metrics and your baselines to compare current performance with future, planned performance, and then to analyze your actual performance too. Metrics taken regularly help you identify trends. For example, if you use Estimate at Completion as a metric and you assess that every month, you’ll soon notice if your targets are staying the same or shifting. And let’s face it, if they are moving, it’s far more likely that they are moving upwards and outwards instead of your project suddenly becoming cheaper and faster. Regular project metrics can help you spot that trend is happening and move in to do something about it – even if all you can do is fully understand the situation.

What other project planning metrics do you use on your projects? Let us know in the comments.