Nine Key Quality Metrics for Ensuring Project Success

August 22, 2023
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Deltek’s more than four decades of experience supporting project-based businesses has yielded key quality metrics that provide strong indications of a project's potential for success. While a high-quality schedule does not guarantee on-time delivery, successful projects typically score well on these metrics. Incorporating these metrics into project planning will improve schedule quality by reducing omissions, errors, and gaps and improving schedule details and relationships between activities.

1. Logical Relationships

Missing logic is the most fundamental schedule quality check. Every activity in a project schedule should have at least one predecessor and one successor. Failing to establish these logical relationships will impact the accuracy of time analysis and risk assessment. Without proper logic, a schedule becomes a mere collection of tasks without clear dependencies. To create an effective roadmap for execution, tasks must be connected based on their true precedence.

Correcting missing logic requires careful consideration and accurate representation of the work's sequence, rather than arbitrary linking.

2. Logic Density™

Ideally, this value should be at least two, indicating that each task is connected to at least two other tasks. An average of fewer than two logical links per task may suggest that the schedule needs review and updates. However, an upper limit of four relationships is recommended to avoid overly complex logic, which can lead to confusion and hinder project performance. Schedule logic should be easy to follow, with clear dependencies between tasks, ensuring that work is sequenced logically.

3. Critical Path

Identifying critical activities is crucial; these tasks, if delayed, will directly impact the overall project completion date. By realistically estimating durations, continuously reviewing and mitigating risks, and anticipating challenges during execution, the number of critical tasks can be minimized, reducing the risk of delays. Careful planning and risk mitigation can help minimize critical tasks and increase the likelihood of on-time delivery.

4. Hard Constraints

Hard constraints force activities to adhere to specific start or finish dates. While they might seem useful for fitting activities into a certain timeframe, they can hinder accurate schedule calculations based on logic. Instead of relying heavily on constraints, emphasize building schedules with flexible logic to understand ongoing impacts as the project progresses. Reducing the use of hard constraints allows the schedule to be more adaptable and better represent the flow of work.

5. Negative Float

Negative float indicates that project goals, as planned, cannot be achieved within the given timeframe. When creating a baseline plan, it's essential to avoid negative float, as it can lead to a plan prone to failure. If negative float arises during project execution, prompt corrective action is necessary to prevent potential delays and project failure. Negative float in a schedule demands immediate attention and optimization to ensure project feasibility.

6. Insufficient Detail™

While creating a schedule with fewer activities might seem efficient, it can lead to a lack of necessary detail for managing the work. Activities with durations greater than 10% of the project duration should be analyzed for insufficient detail. Strive to strike a balance between manageable task structures and providing the team with the necessary scope and sequence of work. Balancing task granularity is vital to ensure the team's understanding of work requirements while maintaining schedule manageability.

7. Number of Lags

Lags, representing non-working time between activities, can obscure the schedule's detail and progress. Replace lags with actual activities to gain better insights into real-world progress and resource allocation, which is crucial for accurate project tracking. Minimizing the use of lags improves the schedule's transparency and enables effective resource allocation.

8. Number of Leads

Leads, with negative values, adjust the successor's start or end date relative to the logic link applied. While useful in specific situations, excessive use of leads may indicate an unachievable schedule and should be addressed accordingly. Carefully evaluate the use of leads to ensure they are employed appropriately in the schedule.

9. Merge Hotspots

Merge hotspots, where multiple links converge on an activity, can lead to delays and resource bottlenecks. While some milestones may require multiple predecessor tasks, excessive merge hotspots may indicate an attempt to patch missing logic rather than accurately sequencing activities. Properly managing merge hotspots is essential to avoid potential delays caused by poorly structured dependencies.


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While a well-structured plan is not the sole determinant of project success, it significantly increases the likelihood of achieving project objectives. Projects often fail due to unrealistic or poorly designed plans, as well as weak execution. One way to adhere to these key metrics is by leveraging Deltek Acumen, a product portfolio management solution designed to create quality schedules, improve project execution, reduce risk, accelerate projects, and improve confidence in successfully delivering projects. By focusing on these key quality metrics and continuously refining the schedule, project managers can mitigate potential failures and enhance the chances of successful, on-time project delivery.