Straight Talk on Project Management


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The award for best IT Project Management metric goes to …

This is the most charmingly geeky and most ‘Project Managery’ conversation I’ve ever been a part of! I won’t lie … I loved it!! And it led to a surprising observation.

A little background. Some colleagues and I were brainstorming blog ideas. It was in the middle of the 2024 awards season, the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes had been and gone, the Oscars would be upon us soon (if you’re reading this in the distant future, 2024 was the year of Barbie vs Oppenheimer at the awards ceremonies – V EXCITING!).

One of my colleagues suggested an awards themed blog with categories like: “Best Supporting Methodology” (I did give a trigger warning for geekery!!); “M.V.P. (Most Valuable Player) In An IT Project”; and “Best Metric”. We moved onto who the nominees would be, and that “Best Metric” category sparked some fierce debate (I told you it was the most ‘Project Managery’ conversation ever) and a rather interesting takeaway.


The nominees for “Best Metric In An IT Project” were:

Return On Investment (ROI) – ROI looks at the value delivered by every pound you spend on a project. Calculating percentage ROI can be as simple as: (Net benefits ÷ Costs) x 100. This can give a ratio of either profit/loss of your project and can also be extremely helpful when determining the financial viability of similar future projects. This would be the bookies favourite!! Surely, only a fool would bet against ROI in the “Best Metric” category!!!

Cost Variance – Is your project is currently under, equal with, or over the planned project budget? A simple metric that can be calculated: Budgeted project cost minus Actual project cost! Actually, it doesn’t get much simpler!! If your cost variance exceeds your budget, you have a negative cost variance, then you have some work to do!!! A positive cost variance, on the other hand, means you’re under your budget, you have enough left to complete the remainder of your project.

Earned Value – This metric shows where your project stands in terms of the work you’ve completed, and value created at this stage. It can be a wake-up call!!! The simplest way I’ve seen this metric calculated was: % of project completed ÷ budget at completion. Earned value metrics have saved many a project from scope creep, what’s not to cheer about earned value?! Plus … who doesn’t love a burndown chart?

At this point, I was torn between the bookies favourite (ROI) and the fan favourite (Earned Value). Other KPIs were suggested and then someone pitched in with an outsider …

Employee Happiness/Satisfaction – Oh my!! We’d been so busy considering the numbers games that contribute to project success, we’d overlooked the key element upon which that success ultimately hinges – the people!! Boosting employee happiness can reduce talent turnover and increase productivity, in fact, a study by the University of Oxford found happy workers to be 13% more productive. So, it’s not just about making yours a nice place to work, it makes actual business sense too, measuring project team member happiness could actually lead to higher scores when it comes to the other metrics, like ROI!!


But how many project teams do measure happiness?

And … how would you?

Look back at those other metrics. See how simple the formulas (in italics) can be when you’re dealing with cold hard data! They’re all easily quantifiable concepts like money and time. And more “÷”, “x”, “+” and “-“s than an Ed Sheeran greatest hits compilation.

It’s more difficult to garner data about softer, human qualities like happiness.

Worth it though, for a potential 13% productivity hike!

If you do quantify happiness, how do you measure it? Get in touch and let me know.

As an independent provider of resources via our Project Management as a Service (PMaaS) model, we realised very early on that Stoneseed was accountable to our clients and our team – and that means consciously keeping both clients and team happy. We regularly ask for anonymous feedback with regular colleague surveys and this can also be a great way to measure happiness across the team. It makes me proud to read some of the comments – click the link!


I think the most important word in that last sentence is “consciously”, achieving happiness in the ranks does not happen by chance, it is an intentional choice. Not forced though, have you ever worked somewhere where awkward “forced fun” was a motivational tactic, was it like living in an episode of The Office? Painful!!! At Stoneseed, we have always worked to build an egalitarian culture within the business, we treat our colleagues with equal respect and our guiding motto when decisions need to be made, is to ‘do the right thing’.

From the Finance Manager who said “We are each valued, not just as employees but as ‘real’ people – recognising we have lives outside of work. Stoneseed celebrate our merits and individual personalities”; to the Project Manager who wrote, “I work for a company that puts their employees and their wellbeing before everything else, something I have never had before”; to the Project Support Office Manager who shared, “My favourite thing about working for Stoneseed is that hard work and effort is recognised (and even rewarded) and not taken for granted” – it shows that growing the culture within our business as a team effort is worth it. Collectively, I believe, we’ve made Stoneseed a great place to work, a place to challenge yourself and develop your career. My colleagues always seem happy!

As one Project Manager put it, “I am always impressed with how the management go out of their way to make sure staff are happy. I only have good things to say about Stoneseed and I’m very grateful for a job I love and working with such amazing people.”

What this all means is, when you hire in talent resources from Stoneseed’s Project Management as a Service portfolio, not only are you buying in expertise, you’ll also have a new mood lifting team colleague – for as long as you need them!

So, surveys are a great way to measure happiness, and it also gives you lovely piece of recruitment and marketing content to share with clients and prospective employees!

There are other data sets that you either have already to hand, or which could be easily compiled to act as a happiness metric. Absenteeism and employee turnover stats, for instance, are pretty accurate indicators, but they tend to help identify a lack of contentment among your colleagues (i.e., if staff are always off or handing in their notice one after another, you can surmise you have an engagement issue, whereas ‘presentees’ could be grudgingly turning up and ‘loyal’ staff might just not have anywhere better to go – they still may not be happy!)

The ESI (Employee Satisfaction Index) approach can deliver more useful data. Respondents are usually asked to score various aspects of their work life with you from 1 to 10 (One being the least satisfied and ten is the most): does the workplace meet their expectations; do they get enough variety; is their current role their “ideal job”; are they happy with levels of autonomy and support; etc. A great question is “How willing would you be to recommend the company to friends?” or “How willing would you be to stake your reputation with a friend or family member by advocating that they work here?” – a 1 to 10 score on this tells you all you need to know about a colleague’s happiness at work level!


So, it’s the big night -The IT Project Management Oscars! The industry legend is on stage clasping the card they’ve just pulled from the glittery envelope: “THE AWARD FOR MOST IMPORTANT IT PROJECT MANAGEMENT METRIC GOES TO … HAPPINESS”.

Cut to shots of the other nominees, ROI, Cost Variance and Earned Value, all clapping and forcing an earnest, “happy-for-the-deserved-winner fake smile”.

Of course, with a 13% productivity boost, the real winner when you measure happiness is YOU AND YOUR PROJECTS.



Find out more about Project Management as a Service from Stoneseed



Happy workers are 13% more productive | University of Oxford