Tuesday 25 January 2022

Stages of project evaluation: concepts, methods and useful tools

Evaluation helps the team to determine the vector of development of the project and adjust it in time. However, for many managers, evaluation is a complex and intimidating process, which is why it is often simplified or ignored altogether.

The article will be useful for members of project teams and novice entrepreneurs.

A project is a temporary venture that aims to create a unique product or service. Projects can take various forms and be implemented in any field and industry. For example, projects can be considered:

  • the creation of a vaccine against coronavirus;
  • development of an application for monitoring patients;
  • a project to merge the two organizations;
  • development of a new technical device;
  • construction of any facility;
  • development of an IT product to meet a non-obvious or new need for the market.
  • Also, the projects include start-ups - young companies without experience in operational or project activities, working on an idea with a high degree of risk and uncertainty.

Any project begins with an idea and ends when:

  • the objectives of the project have been achieved;
  • it becomes clear that it is impossible to achieve the set goals;
  • the project is no longer relevant to the customer or the market.
  • Evaluation of the project just helps to avoid the risks of not meeting the budget or deadlines of the project, losing the quality of the product or developing features that no one needs.

I will tell you why teams should evaluate the project and what methods are used in this case.

What is a project evaluation and why it is carried out

Project evaluation is a way to find out how likely it is to complete a task in the right time, qualitatively and within budget.

The assessment allows you to understand the real status of the project.

It is not intended to punish those who are lagging behind, otherwise participants will embellish results or hide inconvenient data and the assessment will become biased and useless.

It is possible to obtain real data for decision-making only if the assessment is reliable and up-to-date. To ensure that there are no distortions in the evaluation process, it is important for the manager to allow project team members to express concerns and assumptions as the project progresses.

For example, some companies use anonymous boxes that are installed in public places so that any team member can put doubts and fears written on a piece of paper there. With a certain periodicity, the project manager checks the box and learns about the problem, which for some reason the subordinates do not talk about personally.

A project evaluation can be divided into an evaluation of the project idea and an evaluation of the project itself. These blocks, in turn, consist of processes related to the assessment of the budget, timing, quality and other components, depending on the level of complexity of the project.

Evaluation of the project idea occurs at the stage when the business plan is formed and the product concept is created. It allows the manager to justify the decision to launch the project and its necessity for the business. The evaluation of the idea usually involves an analyst, a marketing team, a manager of the future project. Based on its results, they make a decision on the initiation of the project, sign the project charter and recruit a team.

Evaluation of the project itself can occur at all stages, from planning to the completion stage. Its task is to adjust the course of the project. After the evaluation of the project, changes are usually made to the documentation, the composition of the team or the list of product features may change, or they decide to close the project altogether. If the team decides to continue, then the need for additional resources is then assessed.

The manager determines what is important to consider during the evaluation of the project. He also decides which processes need to be evaluated and forms a list of criteria for evaluating each of them. In large companies – especially those operating in the foreign market – the evaluation is usually initiated by a separate specialist or a team of controlling specialists who monitor the progress of the project.

The list may include, for example, such processes as:

  • budgeting – whether the potential income from the project corresponds to the resources spent, whether there are discrepancies in the planned budget and real market demands;
  • the quality of the resulting product - whether there are any changes in the quality of the product due to changes that occurred during the project (for example, it was not possible to purchase expensive materials), whether the product meets the requirements of industry certificates (GOST, ISO, etc.);
  • the need for tangible and intangible resources - whether there are discrepancies with the originally planned quality and quantity of resources with the real situation, whether there is a need to redistribute resources or it is necessary to look for opportunities to acquire new resources;
  • compliance with planned deadlines - whether there are problems with their observance, whether additional time resources are needed;
  • additional processes taking into account industry specifics.
  • The composition of the evaluated processes is determined by the manager at the stage of project initiation. Most often this is called the process of adapting the project management system to a new project – it is important to customize it for the environment and processes within the company. During on boarding, the project manager works closely with the project team, the product owner and key stakeholders. Adaptation helps to identify controlled points in the project, correctly allocate resources and develop a basic project plan.

The adaptation process is an important stage in the work on any project, since due to the uniqueness of the product being developed, each new project requires its own set of tools, components and checkpoints.

The project manager develops a plan for managing the benefits of the project. And in the process of adaptation, he needs to synchronize the main business documents of the project with each other - to understand whether there is a discrepancy between them and the business case, which was originally presented to management.

The main business documents include:

Business case of the project – analysis of the feasibility of the project, description and evaluation of the idea, which are used to determine and justify the main benefits of the project. The sponsor or product manager is responsible for approving the business case. The project manager acts as an administrator who prepares documents and data for the business case.

A project benefit management plan is a plan to define the results of a project that allows you to get the planned benefits. The project manager is already fully responsible for it.

Before formulating a business case, you need to assess the needs of the market. It will include an initial assessment of the business idea, an assessment of business tasks, potential problems and opportunities of the project.

  • Stages of project evaluation: concepts, methods and useful tools
  • Progress of project evaluation depending on the stages of project implementation - from idea to completion
  • Project evaluation systems, methods and tools
  • There are a large number of methods for evaluating projects. Governments of different countries use different methods of evaluation, and private companies develop their own approaches to evaluation, based on world and personal experience.

Therefore, the methods of evaluating projects are equally suitable for both the project and the startup, since at its core it is a technological project.

Why do we need a project evaluation system?

Project work should be time-bound, adhere to the TOR and the project charter, and have systems for evaluating and reassessing resources, timelines and other components. Otherwise, such work turns into an indefinite time run without clear goals with hourly pay.

In the project, the customer pays for the result, not for working meetings, the time of technical specialists and the excuses of the project manager. The customer will not appreciate 13,000 hours of product development work if the product is crude and incapacitated. The customer will appreciate only a quality product.

Therefore, the lack of a project evaluation system, along with the lack of fixation of agreements on the project and ignoring the prioritization of tasks, is one of the main reasons for the occurrence of problems in the implementation of the project.

A project evaluation system is a set of processes and tools that are aimed at timely evaluation, analysis and preparation of documentation on the continuation of work on the project or on making changes to it.

In content, the project evaluation system belongs to the group of project monitoring and control processes and should include processes aimed at evaluating important stages and elements of the project.

In small and medium-sized projects, the project manager responsible for the project evaluation system is the project manager, in large projects , the controlling department or the specialist of the project office and the manager of the program within which the project is implemented.

Let us dwell in more detail on the methods, tools and content of project evaluation.

What are the methods of project evaluation

The most common project evaluation tool is peer review, which is used not only in the project approach.

Expert assessments can be individual and collective.

Individual assessment is the process of attracting an expert with experience in implementing similar projects. The expert analyzes the main points, indicates assumptions and risks for them, and then makes an assumption on the assessment.

A collective evaluation is a meeting, symposium, or council to which project participants responsible for different areas and processes are invited. Each participant describes an assumption on the duration, complexity of work on his site or other estimated parameter. The project manager systematizes the conclusions and builds a common schedule or system of actions for the project.

More accurate and less common are quantitative estimates, for example, the PERT method.

The Program Evaluation Review Technique (PERT) is used to estimate the time it takes to complete a project task. The idea of the assessment is to use optimistic and pessimistic deadlines for the task to calculate. The most accurate result can be obtained if we take as an example the real terms for similar tasks in previous projects. At the same time, even without knowing clear deadlines, you can use the expert assessment of experienced project managers to calculate the result.

The calculation formulas for the PERT method are as follows:

O = optimistic estimate: the minimum possible duration of the task, if everything goes according to plan. Risks are taken into account and should not arise.

P = realistic assessment: the average value for such tasks, taking into account the occurrence of risks that do not have a significant impact on the duration of the project.

P = pessimistic assessment: we lay the probability of medium and serious risks, in the event of which there is a possibility of a significant postponement of the deadlines.

The PERT method is well suited for high-level evaluation of projects and estimation of total labor costs, but with a more detailed decomposition of work, the analysis process can be unreasonably time-consuming or erroneous. Therefore, it is not recommended to use this method when calculating short-term tasks.

To determine the scope of short-term tasks, the methods and tools of work evaluation adopted in various Agile approaches are best suited.

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Project Evaluation Tools

There are a large number of tools created to estimate the duration of work, quality indicators and other important components of the project. Let us single out the most universal of them, suitable and often used in a described or modified form to assess various temporal, qualitative and other quantitative indicators.

According to the author of the article, an effective assessment of the project without serious labor costs can be made by consistently using two tools common in flexible project management systems. This is the alignment of the order of tasks and poker planning - we will consider them in more detail.

Ordering Rule

This tool is a step-by-step process that aims to build order from all the tasks ahead.

Stages of project evaluation: concepts, methods and useful tools
The process requires colored stickers, a wall or a board
Before starting the process, the facilitator approves the ratio of the sticker color to the task type. All tasks are written out on stickers and laid out randomly on the table.

Further, each participant in the evaluation process performs one of two actions: he takes a card and places it on the scale or moves an already attached card to an adjacent field, commenting and discussing his decision with the participants. If necessary, a separate window can be added to the board, where tasks that have an indefinite size will be placed.

This process allows you to determine the scope of the project tasks.

Such a tool is effective when working with 10-20 tasks. If you need to discuss more tasks, it is better to divide the process into several sessions or use a similar tool.

Planning Poker

Poker planning is one of the most popular evaluation techniques in project management. For the process, a special deck of cards is used, which is numbered in accordance with the Fibonacci sequence, so that the voter can use them to vote for the task. In addition to number cards, the deck also contains a question card and a card with a cup of coffee.

Stages of project evaluation: concepts, methods and useful tools

For the process, you will need a special numbered deck of cards
The player uses the question card if he believes that the task needs to be clarified or discussed, and a cup of coffee - if necessary, take a break.

Each participant receives a set of cards with numerical values and with images of a cup and a question, and the host announces the task or user story and answers the questions.

Then the participants choose a card with a suitable, in his opinion, rating and put the card shirt up. This is necessary so that the choice of participants who voted first does not affect the decision of others.

After each team member has decided on a choice, the cards are turned over at the same time. Participants with the highest and lowest scores give brief comments explaining their choice of grade.

As a result of the discussion, the team comes to a single decision and moves on to the next task.

Poker planning is one of the most accurate evaluation techniques, but among the main disadvantages is the length of the evaluation process. During an hour-long session, it is difficult to evaluate more than ten tasks.

Stages of project evaluation

Inspired by an idea or product, we plunge into an information bubble and may not notice the obvious for the market and hidden for us shortcomings of the product or service we are developing. Therefore, an objective assessment at all stages of the project is an important process aimed at achieving the success of project activities.

Let's consider the basic steps of project evaluation.

Step 1. Assessment of market and audience needs

Needs assessment is carried out before the description of the business idea - it is necessary to make a decision on the launch of the project. It is on the assessment of the needs of the market and the target audience, the analysis of the situation that the decision to start working out a business idea and preparing the charter of the project or a similar document, the signing and approval of which serve as a formal confirmation of the start of the project, should be based.

As a result of the needs assessment, an understanding and vision of the business goal and business objectives, as well as possible problems, important assumptions and risks, is formed. Also, the needs assessment helps to form an initial understanding of what indicators and for how long the project should achieve, taking into account possible risks and the assumptions described in the assessment.

Step 2. Evaluation of a business idea

Evaluation of a business idea is a creative process that depends on the industry and the specifics of the project. For each industry, the process of evaluating a business idea will be different, but there are universal recommendations:

  • describe project ideas in a convenient format — so that each project participant understands the content of the project and can interpret the data;
  • introduce the elaboration of ideas, their analysis and discussion into the overall process of the department or organization to avoid one-sidedness and limited information;

present the project idea correctly – participants may not understand the idea if it is framed incorrectly. In addition, do not neglect the style of the company.

Step 3. Evaluation of the project management plan

A project management plan is a living entity that requires constant attention. It is almost impossible to plan a project at the initiation stage so that after the start you do not have to revise the timing, cost, change the content or sequence of tasks. Therefore, the evaluation of the project management plan, its updating and revision is a normal practice for any project.

In the case of a short project (3-9 months), we recommend that you evaluate and update the plan every 2-3 weeks.

If the duration of the project is from 9 months to several years, it is better to reassess the plan and update it at least once a month.

Step 4. MVP Rating

MVP is a minimally viable product. This is a prototype of the project product that can be presented to the investor or potential users as a demo for collecting feedback and then finalizing the product to a fully operational state.

The MVP score can be based on the following tools:

  • customer surveys;
  • launch of test landing pages;
  • test advertising campaigns and fundraising;
  • sale of MVP to the client with the condition of collecting feedback and subsequent replacement with a full-fledged product;
  • pre-order processing.
  • After gathering information about the MVP using the proposed or other tools, the project team must analyze the data obtained and finalize the product to its final state.

It is impossible to consider the release of MVP and the collection of pre-orders for the product as a success and the final stage of the project. After the release of the MVP, its refinement must necessarily continue - one of the main priorities of any project should be the focus on developing a quality product for its users.

Step 5. Evaluation of the project result

It is an in-depth analysis of the collected data and the result of the project as a whole.

For the final assessment it is necessary to:

  • analyze and correlate the planned and real indicators for the project;
  • identify the best practices and arrange them in a convenient form for subsequent use;
  • collect feedback from project team members to improve workflows.
  • analyze the result of the project to identify opportunities for its further development and support;
  • for large projects in which the production of complex products takes place, at this stage a project can be initiated to develop methods for the disposal of manufactured products.

Regardless of the complexity of the project, its duration and the expected result, it is important for the project team and the project manager to adhere to the project evaluation systems, work on its development and listen to the opinion of future users of the project result. Following the recommendations described in the article will help reduce the risks of the project and minimize errors in the project itself, reduce the number of errors in its evaluation.

What's the bottom line?

The main reason for the failure in the evaluation of the project is innuendo or misunderstanding between the customer and the contractor. It is necessary to conduct a transparent dialogue with the customer if there are changes in the project. Otherwise, there may be problems.

It is impossible to avoid mistakes in the project, but it is important to evaluate or reassess the project in a timely manner in order to have up-to-date information to adjust the progress of the project and minimize negative risks. However, errors in the project should not scare or repel you from the work and the evaluation process.

Therefore, the answer to the question "how not to make a mistake" will sound paradoxical: practice! Evaluate, make mistakes, gain experience and expertise. Over time, you will encounter fewer errors in the evaluation of the project, and the risks caused by your mistakes will look less critical.

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