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Using Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and Features in Project Success Measurements

As I pointed out in a prior post on project success measurements, overall project success and the success of the related IT development effort can be mutually exclusive of each other.  A business can achieve the objectives for a certain initiative regardless of whether the related IT effort succeeds or not.  Similarly, an IT initiative can be very successful, but the overall project to which it is related can end in failure due to factors totally unrelated to the IT department.


When measuring business success using objective and quantifiable financial targets, management should resist the temptation to unilaterally paint all the associated efforts with the same brush.  The relative success and failure of each functional area participating in the project should be measured and quantified as well.  Absent this, no meaningful management action is possible to help departments that need improvement.  Conversely, unneeded management focus will be placed on areas that are actually functioning well and delivering on their targets.


Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and Feature Trees are two key models that can be used to objectively measure and quantify the performance of an IT development team on a project.  Using standard Seilevel methodology, the business objectives for a project are defined up front along with the overall project success measurement metrics.  At the same time, the product concept is also defined with a set of key features.  Subsequent iterations will define the features in greater detail till a comprehensive list of features needed to deliver the business objectives are fleshed out.  All of the information described here is captured in the Business Objectives Model except the detailed listing of individual features that are captured using Feature Trees.


It is not sufficient to just track the features to be delivered.  The features have to deliver a combination of functionality and performance to be useful.  Each feature has a set of functional requirements associated with it that define the desired functional characteristics to make it useful.  The performance characteristics of a single feature or collection of features are defined using KPI.


The great thing about using a combination of features and their associated KPI to define IT success is is that they can be very easily measured during the test phase of the project to determine whether they are up to standard or not.  In the worst case, they can be measured after they have been deployed to production.  No matter how or when it happens, it is possible to quantify the quality of the delivered features and their performance in real world settings to get a very good handle on the overall utility of the delivered solution to support the business objectives targeted by the company.  These are the best proxies for measuring the performance of the IT team towards the overall project goals and objectives.


If the final product has a sufficient set of features with corresponding KPI that hit the mark, then the IT department can be deemed to have succeeded, regardless of the overall project success metrics measures.  Similarly, if needed functionality is not delivered or the KPI measures are unsatisfactory, then the overall IT effort in support of a set of business objectives will have failed, no matter what the success metrics measurements for the project as a whole indicate.


In most cases, IT development efforts cannot by themselves guarantee the success or failure of certain business objectives.  Their performance must be measured in isolation as described here to truly understand the role they played in overall project success.

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