How does your company measure success?

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There are certainly any number of ways for companies to measure success.  The number of new customers, milestones (e.g., anniversary years in business), financial reports, and a myriad of performance metrics are just some of the many ways that success can be measured.

But let me ask the question more specifically:  How does your company measure project success? 

The reason that I ask is because of experiences I have encountered whereby it seems that companies are measuring project success based upon the success of the process, and not based on the product (outcome, e.g., the software system functionality or software features required), and this is rather a perversion in my opinion. 

A process is helpful to ensure that the project does not suffer from chaos, is maintained and proceeds upon an organized path, is administered to ensure that all tasks are being performed responsibly and on-time and on-budget.  But if the process success is equated to or prioritized over that of the product outcome, then I strongly suggest that the project has gone off-track and needs to be re-examined. 

Because as important as it is to acknowledge how one gets to the end, sometimes, oftentimes, and as long as nothing illegal or unethical is done, getting there is more important than how we get there.  Meaning that following a process is fine until following a process is not fine. 

In good governance situations, like counting inventory and assembling financial statements, it is important to follow the process because we don’t know – or want to know – the outcome before the end result is known.  This is why we are counting the inventory: to get an accurate account of what is actually in inventory and assess whether the software system reconciles to the physical count. 

The process truly eclipses the results, and it should in these situations.  This is especially true in the reconciliation of the accounting books and the compilation of financial statements.  Targeting a known number and backing into a result is not just wrong, it is unethical and can be taken as illegal behavior.  Don’t do this.  

But on software projects, we don’t always know the complete end result.  We have an idea of what the features and functionality will be of the final product.  However, until we engage in conversation with key stakeholders, we – as analysts (and not the project managers – there is a stark difference between the two roles that companies seem to want to incorrectly combine together) – don’t really know what features to include or exclude, what functions to prioritize to include in which release, until we assess by deep conversation and cross-conversations with the people who have the institutional knowledge and the future-state strategic vision. 

If your project team is just walking through a process for the sake of walking through a process to protect their positions and pat themselves on the back and declare success, then your project is likely not going to produce the product outcome it needed to.  Business analysis is messy; it necessitates crawling across the tangled web of data analysis, business examination, and software investigation. 

And it requires the ability to engage with people on a personal level, to listen patiently and intensely, to ask thoughtful and insightful questions, to be able to perceive problems differently, and to be able to connect some oftentimes very disparate dots. 

Project success is, or should be, measured by producing the right product outcome that meets the needs of the business at the right time. Chaos cannot rule the day, but neither can processes be so rigid that there comes a point when they actually become a hindrance to getting the job done and not delivering what is really required for the enterprise. 

If your projects are not producing the product outcomes necessary to support your business, but your project teams keep declaring success, maybe your project priorities are out of balance.

About the Author: –

Norman Katz-President of Katzscan Inc

Norman Katz is the President of Katzscan Inc. (www.katzscan.com), a US-based consultancy celebrating its 25-year anniversary in January 2021.  Katzscan specializes in improving supply chain performance, business operating effectiveness, strategic software applications, and information insights.  Norman is a multiple book author and a worldwide speaker and writer.

Copyright © 2021, Norman Katz, Katzscan Inc. (www.katzscan.com) and Copyright © 2021 by International Business Magazine

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