I am currently trying to create some better systems for keeping on top of the projects which I need to manage. As part of this, I am attempting to draw up a list of core metrics that I think every project will have (so I can write a program to display data about each project).

I understand that every project will be different, and each will have their own metrics, but surely each project will have some metrics which are always going to be the same as others. I'm trying to think more about high level stuff as oppose to individual tasks. For example:

  • Outcomes - what is the outcome of this project. What will it look like when it is finished.
  • Goals/milestones - what are the goals or milestones of this project. This could potentially be the same as outcomes, but maybe more abstract. E.g. by the 1st of march, it should be in x state.
  • On track - is this project on track for completion
  • Budget - what is the budget for this project

Maybe I'm trying to invent something of my own which isn't helpful, and I'd appreciate being told this if so.

There are some similar questions on this site, but I'm not sure they really cover the metrics I have just outlined.

As another question, if this same question was asked on a 'departmental' (e.g. finance/HR) or 'organisational' (the whole company) level, what metrics would be good for tracking progress and keeping order?

  • Earned Value Management is kind of the obvious, stock answer.
    – MCW
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 11:38
  • There's only one metric that really matters: Return on Investment.
    – RubberDuck
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 18:09
  • 1
    While there are some commonly-used metrics (which vary by methodology) there really isn't a "one size fits all" core other than whether a project is within tolerances or not. And of course, tolerances (and how you measure them) will vary from use case to use case and project to project. There's no "Unifying Theory of Project Management," although you can always quote whatever the PMBOK says if you want to argue from authority. :)
    – Todd A. Jacobs
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 20:32
  • To the community at large: I like this question, but think it's inherently too much of an opinion-generating question because there isn't a canonical answer. Can the question be improved to avoid polling? I'm reluctant to vote on it directly because my votes are binding; however, I think the question needs editing to avoid closure as being too broad or too opinion-based.
    – Todd A. Jacobs
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 20:34

2 Answers 2


Lead Time and Cycle Time are more modern metrics than worker time, number of tasks, etc. They're a kind of meta-metric that can be impacted by lots of other things, but ultimately, a process's ultimate efficiency can be boiled down to those things.

Lead Time: the total time it takes for an item to enter the workflow, be processed/worked on/etc, and delivered to the consumer.

Cycle Time: a subset of Lead Time, you can measure Cycle Time as the time that item spends between different points in your system.

For example, in a software context, Lead Time could be the time between when a User Story is entered into the backlog and its delivery to the production environment - its entire life cycle. Cycle Time could be the time between that story's commitment to be worked on and its delivery to QA, or QA to the deployment pipeline, or any other pair of steps in the process.


You've stepped into the realm of portfolio management and what you possibly require is some sort of a dashboard. One that shows your red spots and the health status of various projects.

This can be useful if you look at it once a week or month. But it will not tell you what to do daily.

Also, data can always be misleading. So, it's wise to not keep yourself attached to the dashboard and find more verbal and wandering or reporting methods to check out the pace of the projects.

Here are a few other ideas that could be worth exploring:

  1. Risk metrics (a weighted average of risk values, etc)
  2. No of opened and closed tasks charts
  3. No of late tasks and backlogs
  4. Amount of coffee consumed per person per day :)
  • The metrics you propose here measure how busy people are, not how effective they are.
    – RubberDuck
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 3:36
  • @RubberDuck sure. And they help the management know whether their plans are still valid or not, and take measures to prevent failures. (Maybe not the coffee-consumption one). Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 15:14
  • @RubberDuck I'm not reading it the same way as you. For example, #3 measures deviations from plan and the size, growth, or churn of a backlog is often useful from a process effectiveness perspective. While I agree that measuring results is more important than measuring utilization, I'm not sure that I agree that this answer is promoting the 100% utilization fallacy.
    – Todd A. Jacobs
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 20:30

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