Need to Assess Project Value without Hard Metrics? Measure Customer Behaviors

I’m busy closing two long-running projects because we met the terms in the contractual agreement. Both have been active projects for over two years. Both are the types of projects that are “rewrites of existing software.”

I’ve been trying to assess the value of these projects to their respective organizations throughout their lifecycles. The project closure phase is a natural time to reflect on value.

Asking if the Project Provided Value

Before the project began, the client and Atomic both agreed upon the budget, timeline, and scope. Those are the three most commonly used metrics to assess a project’s value. When I think about answering the question of whether the project provided value, I can at least answer it within the context of those three project management metrics. In this case, the answer is, “Yes.”

But what about assessing project success indicators such as customer satisfaction, operational metrics, and revenue metrics? After all, those are the true measures of whether or not the thing we built and delivered provided value to the client’s business. The reality is that the clients we work with don’t often have the discipline or the foresight to clearly define these types of metrics before project kick-off. Based on my 20-plus years of industry experience, most companies launch a project without having clearly defined customer satisfaction and revenue goals.

Evaluating Meaningful Behaviors

While we may not have clearly defined goals that we can revisit during the lifecycle of the project, we do have meaningful customer behaviors to evaluate. Behaviors are one way to assess project outcomes. Over the course of these two projects, I saw behaviors change. These are some of the changes that I noted:

  • Fewer calls and emails to customer support.
  • Less time spent using the legacy system.
  • More time voluntarily using the replacement system.
  • A steady increase in adoption of the replacement system.
  • Early adoption of the replacement system.
  • Reduced time completing the same types of tasks in the replacement system.
  • Fewer “how-to” questions when using the replacement system.
  • Troubleshooting the replacement system.
  • More knowledgeable conversations across internal departments using the replacement system (i.e., between transportation and sales; between sales and management; between customer support and sales).
  • Fewer errors made in placed orders.
  • Positive language used in email communication from the client when referencing the project.

Ideally, the traditional quantitative metrics, like key performance indicators (KPIs) and Net Promoter Scores (NPSs), are available at the outset of a project. However, even if they are, this qualitative method of evaluating changes in customer behaviors can certainly augment other forms of measuring value.

If you are interested in the tasks associated with closing a project, visit my colleague’s article for some ideas.