How Do I Critically Evaluate My Project?
Projects are expensive processes where the commissioning person or organisation expects to see some significant change, improvement or delivery/performance improvements, often on a large scale.
It is critical here to look at the data generated by the project team in measuring and assessing what the outcomes, good or bad, are from the process. To some extent the nature of the project will determine how it is to be measured but, that said, the following are some sound and trusted ways of effectively and efficiently evaluating outcomes:
- Comparing the outcomes with the original objectives: Has the project achieved its intended aims and has it met the correct quality standards
- How has the project achieved its purpose? Hopefully a success has been seen but even if it is a failure we need to know why this has taken place
- How well has the project used human resources? Analysing and assessing the skills used and identifying future training requirements at all grades
- How well has the project used physical resources? –Can we draw any conclusions from comparing budget forecasts with actual costs and reviewing the levels of waste generated?
- What problems can we identify from the running of the project and what potential improvements can we implement? Even if there has not been a glowing success story to report, at least you should be able to identify areas for further development and exploration that can be applied in other projects.
- How will we advise stakeholders and decision-makers? What are the messages we need to communicate here that will be important to the range of stakeholders involved in the project? What will their likely reactions be to the outcome?
- What further project work now needs to be done? Do you now need to set up a new project to solve major issues that were discovered when working on the first project?
In all of this review process the importance of using reliable and relevant data cannot be underestimated as it is essential to identify what we want to review, what we want to know and what we want to measure. Using data project evaluation will focus upon:
- comparing estimated costs with actual costs – to evaluate the budget allocations and identify the causes of variance
- collecting and reviewing feedback from customers and other users of the services and products covered in the project – e.g. independent surveys, feedback forms, forum comments, focus groups or satisfaction surveys
- analysing operational data – e.g. looking at patient records in a hospital to evaluate changes in services
- reviewing progress reports – e.g. final ‘wash-up’ reports from staff and other stakeholders about their experiences and recommendations
- analysing sales patterns – e.g. to see when tickets were purchased and by whom; to see if business changes have affected sales as expected
- analysing changes in activity and comments on websites and social media – e.g. to illustrate a change towards Internet shopping following a project on online sales
There will be many different lessons to learn from any one project BUT the most important thing in the whole process is to use the exercise as a major learning exercise – successful organisations run projects that are not always a glowing success BUT they are successful because they use this knowledge and learn from it for next time.
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