CEB data show that 93% of those working in project management offices – the part of the IT team that keeps huge technology projects on track – report increased pressure to complete projects faster and are taking steps to increase “project speed.”
But “fast” is a slippery concept. Are projects fast if the average project duration is shorter this year than it was last year? Or could project speed actually be slower, if, for instance, this year’s projects are much smaller than they were last year?
Using typical indicators such as on-time delivery, the time it takes to get the business case for a project approved, or the completion date versus its initial estimate does not help, as these are measures of duration and how well a project manager can predict what will happen with their project, rather than actual speed.
Such measures may be useful to understand how a project is performing in a specific phase but they are lagging indicators of project speed. Instead, project management offices (PMOs) should track leading indicators of project speed that can be used to predict when projects are being completed more quickly.
4 Ways to Measure Project Speed
No single measure can be used to comprehensively assess project speed. Instead, PMOs should track a handful of predictive metrics.
Sponsor engagement: Poor communication between a sponsor and the project manager (PM) can delay any project. A high level of engagement from an executive or senior manager sponsoring a project will avoid this.
PMOs should track the level of sponsor engagement to ensure PM-sponsor alignment throughout the project by using a standard set of criteria to solicit feedback from the project team.
Sponsor decision delay index: Decisions by project sponsors to delay a project are the most common reason that senior PMs cite for projects slowing down.
PMOs should track the percentage of sponsors that are late in making critical decisions beyond an established period of time. PMOs that are aware of the most critical delays on decisions should be able to target decision support to the most tardy sponsors and accelerate project speed.
Resource bottleneck visibility: Resource bottlenecks are one of the most common causes of project delays, and are a major challenge to increasing project speed.
PMOs should track how often their teams preemptively identify resource constraints. This will help them re-sequence projects, source contractors, and develop their PMs’ skills.
Partner function effort score: Bottlenecks can also occur because the project hinges on feedback from subject matter experts in partnering functions, such as legal, risk, or finance professionals. Unsurprisingly, PMOs that make project participation easier for these partners are less likely to experience bottlenecks.
Track the effort that partner functions spend on projects using a one question survey on the amount of effort partners find it is to work with the PMO.