How to Measure Impact of a Project

When piloting a project, you may be considering how to best measure impact of a project.
There are a variety of reasons as to why as project managers, we may wish to measure a project’s impact. But with so many variables to consider, where do we start on our journey?

This article will provide you with this guidance, detailing actionable next steps for measuring the impact of your projects.

Why Measure Project Impact?

Before jumping into what we wish to measure, it’s first important to explore why we are measuring our projects. 

The intention behind measuring projects will dictate what needs to be measured, and to what extent those factors are considered. It’s important therefore to consider from the outset, why you wish to measure your projects.

Some reasons for measuring projects could include:

  • Justifying investment in a project to budget holders
  • Ascertaining which projects are delivering the most value
  • Examining alignment of projects with strategic goals
  • Measuring progress towards project-related goals
  • To ensure compliance with regulatory standards

You may have your own reasons for measuring projects not included in the list. Whatever they are, we would suggest compiling them, and ranking them in order of importance. 

By doing this, we understand the motivations (and significance) behind measuring projects. This ensures the metrics we end up using best reflect the real drivers behind impact measurement.

Knowing your Audience

The second thing to consider is who will be receiving the impact data. 

Understanding ‘who’ is a natural follow-on to understanding ‘why’. It will guide you in defining the most appropriate metrics. Those that will resonate with your audience, and help them understand the information most relevant to them.

In knowing your audience, we suggest utilizing stakeholder management techniques to ensure everyone's needs are accounted for in the most effective way. This usually starts through a process of ‘stakeholder mapping’, which we’ve discussed in other blogs

The idea behind this is to identify all the potential interested parties who may be interested in receiving your project impact data. Like the motivations, they are then ranked in order of importance. 

From here, we can then explore the profiles of our stakeholders, identifying what parts of the project they’re most interested in. We can also explore things such as what medium they would like to receive project data, what frequency and what level of detail is required.

Once we have all this information to hand, we can then go about combining it with the motivational drivers that we originally explored. This provides us with a clear picture of what areas we wish to measure, and to whom this information will be important to. Using this, we can go about creating our Impact Measurement Framework.

Impact Measurement Framework

Using the motivations and stakeholder interested, we can now go about defining the areas of project impact measurements. 

It’s important to consider from the outset that projects (especially larger ones) will have far flung consequences. Measuring every impact area is not only difficult and time consuming, but will most likely be of little interest to stakeholders. It’s therefore crucial to focus on the most important areas to you and your stakeholders.

Some areas that you may wish to consider include:

  • Cost savings
  • Revenue increases
  • Employee wellbeing
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Carbon reduction
  • Scope 1, 2 and 3 Emissions
  • Time saved
  • Safety
  • Wastage

These of course are broad areas for exploration. We would suggest choosing more specific areas within each of those, that most represent your stakeholder interests and your own motivations behind project impact measurement.

Once these specific areas of measurement, we would suggest gaining feedback from stakeholders as to whether they are most accurately fulfilling their purpose. 

During the entire process, we want to be seeking continued feedback and validation. This prevents us from going off course, investing large amounts of resources in the incorrect avenue.

We recommend employing the PDCA cycle throughout, so that this does not occur.

Metrics to Measure Impact of a Project

Once we have defined the key areas that need to be measured, it is time to start defining metrics that measure project impact.

It should be noted at this stage that not all impacts will be quantifiable with metrics. For example, customer feedback may be better suited to be left as descriptive (or qualitative) data, as this can provide a much more useful and actionable data.

Having said this, data that can be quantified should be, as it has several advantages. 

For one, quantified data can be seen as more objective than opinion based - and therefore subjective, qualitative data. Secondly, quantified data can provide a ‘measuring stick’, so that comparisons can be made and progress is more accurately represented.

When choosing data, we need to now decide how we will quantify our impact measurement areas of interest.

For some, it will be obvious. Revenue for a new marketing campaign for example can easily be attributed in your local currency to a digital advertisement using online tools. For some however, we are going to need to be more creative.

Try and think of what KPIs would be suited for each area. Some things such as employee welfare, for example, may not be obviously quantifiable from the outset. However when considering things such as: surveys, absence days due to stress, employee retention rates, etc. are all quantifiable, we can start building a ‘balanced scorecard’ which captures these factors in a single metric.

For others, you may look to measure related factors which are more easily obtained. An example of employee time wasted may be difficult to measure, however device usage or time spent traveling between jobs will potentially be easier to quantifiably measure, and give an indication of the total time wasted.

After choosing what data is going to be the source of our desired metrics, we should now consider how to actually gather this data on projects.

Gathering Project Impact Data

When measuring the impact of a project, we need to think about what methods would be best for gathering said data. This will entirely depend on the nature of the project, as there is no one-size-fits-all strategy. Nevertheless, we have made some suggestions to get you started.

One simple way of measuring the impact of a project, is to ‘pilot test’ it on an area of the business, and compare it to a control group. This control group may be a comparable area of the business, or it may be a previous state of the pilot tested area. 

Whichever we choose, it’s important to bear in mind that a business is not a laboratory, and so not all variables will ever be fully in your control.

Other projects will require more of a long-term approach, especially where the benefits of the project are not likely to be realized for some time. To achieve this, we would suggest putting in a feedback loop into the project itself. For example: a 10 year project may include reviews of the results thus far every 2 years, a building may be constructed with performance sensors in it, or a product may be launched with information to submit reviews.

Extrapolating Data

Something that should be addressed is the concept of extrapolating data. Most of the data that is gathered on projects will not be in the form that your stakeholders will need, and therefore will require some extrapolation.

The easiest way to do this in volume is by using ‘calculation frameworks’. These are essentially sets of rules that can be applied to easily gatherable data to produce useful data. A good example of this is the GHG Protocol, for calculating Greenhouse Gasses. 

Intuitix was designed to automatically apply these calculation frameworks on projects, without the need for human intervention. This reduces time wasted and human error, allowing you to focus on managing your projects. For more information, book a demo with our team.

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