You just finished another project — how did it go? Did you deliver successful outcomes? How satisfied was the client?
Your professional services business depends on project outcomes and client satisfaction, so it's important that you’re evaluating all project performance. And in more concrete ways than your own thoughts and opinions. The success of individual client projects can heavily impact your bottom line, and every project in some way contributes to your success or failure.
So what’s your process for measuring project outcomes?
If you have one in place, great! It’s worth reviewing, though, to make sure there are no improvements to be made. If you don’t have a system in place, you should. Here’s your guide to getting started.
The first step is to understand project goals and objectives. This may seem obvious. Where a lot of people fall short is in not making goals and objectives measurable and tangible. A common practice to help guide you is the SMART method.
Here is how to assess if a goal or objective is SMART:
Specific: Does it specify who, what, when, where, why, which?
Measurable: Are there metrics and milestones?
Achievable: Do you have the skills, resources and tools needed?
Relevant: Does it fit within overall company goals and business objectives?
Time-bound: Are there imminent and final deadlines?
Also, it’s important to be clear on the difference between goals vs. objectives. A goal is the high-level, long-term accomplishment that you want to achieve with this project. Project goals may be influenced by business goals. Objectives give the more specific and detailed desired outcomes of the project. Objectives contribute to the goals.
Whether setting up SMART goals or SMART objectives, you need to consider how you can impact the project outcome and improve the client’s business.
Scenario: You’re an ad agency working with a long-standing CPG client. Their best-selling product continues to perform well but they would like to increase sales of their latest ancillary product.
Goal: Increase ad conversion rate by 10% in Q4.
Objective: Implement a new ad strategy promoting the new product to existing customers at a 10% discount throughout the quarter.
Scenario: You’re an SEO agency working with a new client that hired you to help drive more organic web traffic.
Goal: Increase website traffic by 15% in six months.
Objective: Release 50 strategic SEO-focused content pages within the first three months of the project that use the right keywords, relevant terms and headings to organically drive more traffic to your client’s site.
Once you have established project goals and objectives, you need to create a plan to support and measure your project success. For the sake of time and consistency, your team should have a standard framework for project plan creation and well-established project management practices.
Project plans typically include the following:
Project planning is made significantly easier by using software designed to not only help you plan and manage your work, but measure your outcomes as well. Many project managers are familiar with popular platforms like Accelo that offer complete client work management and automated project management significantly easier. Capabilities include automatically converting quotes into detailed projects, managing recurring retainer work and providing project outcomes through KPIs.
Project managers and contributors should be outlined within the project plan to be clear on everyone's involvement, roles and responsibilities. It’s important to be thorough here to make sure that adequate team members and resources are allocated for the most successful project outcomes.
Knowing key project stakeholders, their needs and expectations helps establish realistic project plans, timelines and budgets. You have a greater likelihood of being on time, within scope and keeping clients happy when you clearly delineate who is responsible and accountable for what. When team members know what they own, it’s easier for them to measure and track their individual contributions.
Another factor is having the right team in place and choosing people that are the best fit for the project. People can make all the difference and be very impactful on project outcomes. Some important traits to look for when selecting project team members include:
Whether billing clients by project or by hour, measuring time is key for assessing project outcomes and success. You want to ensure that your team and clients are making the best use of time that results in the greatest improvements to the client’s business.
Tracking needs to be in place that tells you exactly how much total time went into a project, along with more granular time measurements like total time by task, employee time by project, employee time by task, etc. Time should be monitored throughout the course of the project to ensure outcomes are developing on time and as intended. If your team is unsatisfied with progress or concerned about outcomes, they may have the option to shift or pivot how they’re using their time to produce stronger results.
Keep in mind, though, that project outcomes measure a larger impact the project had on the client and may require time to see and evaluate. Take that into account to set realistic time periods and track accordingly.
Tip: Have automated progress reports go out to stakeholders and do weekly standup meetings with the project team for project management success. Use a platform like Accelo to track progress, sync communications, send automated reports and display project KPIs via dashboards.
Throughout the project, make sure to check with the client to find out how satisfied they are with the progress. It’s important that, at the beginning of any project, you set realistic expectations and then reiterate or modify these expectations throughout the process. This helps assure that you and the client are aligned and supports greater client satisfaction at the end. What outcome does the client want to see? What is realistic for you to deliver? Do you have the necessary data to determine project outcomes?
To assess client satisfaction, you need to have a plan in place for that as well. It’s best to establish the ideal times within a project to do check-ins, say after a milestone, or decide on set time periods. You can have your team do short assessments during standing project calls with the client, or you can send automated short weekly surveys. All customer communications and feedback needs to be tracked for team members to monitor or reference later if needed.
➡️ Accelo offers email sync, so all client email correspondence automatically appears on the stream within the client record via our popular Activity Stream.
Once a project is complete, you need to review the project’s outcomes. How did your work affect the client and their business? You need to know data measurements before starting the project and at completion of the project. How did the results stack up against the project’s measurable goals and objectives?
It’s important here that you are honest and realistic about how your outputs contributed to outcomes. That’s the only way to be more effective going forward and help ensure that you have access to the right measurements to gauge your work. Proper evaluation of your project performance can help you make adjustments on future projects and create stronger outputs going forward.
It’s good for your own knowledge to know what tools are out there and what is commonly being measured by project teams. Want to see how a platform can help you better manage projects and measure outcomes? Try a free demo of Accelo and see its powerful features and capabilities.