How to monitor the effectiveness of software delivery
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” – this quote is often repeated in various professional publications, time and time again. Although no one actually knows who said it first, a number of IT specialists find a lot of truth in it. We are no exception – and that’s why, in our opinion, every solid IT company should have a set of indicators that help measure the effectiveness of software delivery.
Delivery Success Indicators – a short overview
What should be analysed?
Delivery Success Indicators (DSIs) are a set of KPIs that help managers monitor all of their projects with greater efficiency. Since project evaluation should be based on facts, not gut feelings or instincts, this means that DSIs should be based on the occurrence of certain events and behaviours – things that can be observed, counted and somehow measured in order to show the actual state of software development.
Why are these indicators so important?
Having a set of clearly defined DSIs benefits both sides of the cooperation. The software company can better manage the project, while the client can have a more detailed and in-depth view into how the work is progressing.
In short, Delivery Success Indicators:
- help define the status of the project, so that everyone knows where they stand,
- allow an IT partner to draw adequate conclusions and streamline the delivery process,
- help build trust, increase transparency and maximise work efficiency.
What are the biggest challenges related to DSIs?
Preparing a proper set of indicators to successfully monitor the effectiveness of any software project takes a lot of time and requires some analysis. Plus, the indicators should be used in the right way, in order to receive data that actually reflects the situation. Here are the most common challenges for companies to overcome:
- Applying only the indicators that are measurable and actually relevant to the success of the project.
- Setting up DSIs to achieve a common understanding among everyone involved in the evaluation process – those specialists should all see DSIs in the same way.
- Managing changes in DSI structure – adding criteria and questions taking into consideration historical data to enable organisation’s development.
- Implementing DSIs at the right time – because when a project is brand new, your indicators may not be that applicable yet, so it’s better to wait a month or two before making the first evaluation.
That’s more or less it when it comes to general theory. Now let’s have a look at how DSIs work in practice.
Delivery Success Indicators – The Future Processing Way
What do we measure?
First, we defined 86 DSIs which are measurable and influence our software delivery process in a significant way, and then we divided them into 6 main categories:
- Best Practices of Project Management – pertaining to things like the communication process or the governance structure.
Example of an indicator: having a written agreement between both parties
- Best Practices of Software Development – this may be in relation to the code or the quality assurance process.
Example of an indicator: having a single coding standard.
- Customer relationships – including indicators that show the level of trust and satisfaction your customers have toward your company.
Example of an indicator: regular meetings and close communication.
- Project delivery according to the client’s expectations – in other words, meeting deadlines, understanding and fulfilling requirements, and having detailed plans.
Example of an indicator: maintaining an ongoing conversation about project requirements.
- A leader and his/her impact on the project – – such as the overall attitude, the level of trust he/she inspires, and how the work organisation is handled.
Example of an indicator: client does not communicate mistrust towards the leader.
- The Team – their effectiveness, degree of motivation, and the relationships that they build with clients, etc.
Example of an indicator: people helping each other out of their own initiative.
How do we measure this?
In order to get the full picture, we go through each of these 86 indicators at least once a month, and evaluate every project on a 5-point scale. Then we assign them to different groups according to their most recent score:
- 5 – world class (example to learn from)
- 4 – good / strong / efficient
- 3 – mediocre but stable (tolerable in the short term)
- 2 – threatening or degrading
- 1 – wildfire
Next, we focus on:
- making improvements in the yellow and red projects,
- exchanging best practices across green projects,
- implementing the best practices that we learned from the green projects – within the yellow and red ones.
Also, we are always honest and transparent with our clients: we keep them posted on the current situation and provide them with possible solutions to any business problems. After months of implementing this type of project evaluation, we are now able to do it in a pretty quick and efficient manner. We are also working on incorporating machine learning solutions in the process to further increase our speed and accuracy.
What we’ve improved with the help of these DSIs?
Both our efficiency and quality of software delivery have skyrocketed ever since we introduced these Delivery Success Indicators. We strongly believe that this is an approach that every solid IT company should adopt, especially if they often work on a number of different projects representing various degrees of complexity, simultaneously. From our experience, DSIs have allowed us to make significant improvements in these 6 main areas:
- We are able to maintain a higher standard of delivery process.
- We are able to be more proactive, which helps prevent the occurrence of many critical situations.
- We can better define risks and take the appropriate protective measures beforehand.
- We are able to make more precise decisions in our organisation on both strategic and operational levels – where the team extension or additional financial support is needed at the moment.
- We have become even more reliable and dependable – by being able to show our clients real facts and numbers.
- We know exactly why we’ve succeeded and what we can improve.
- We are able to use the organisation’s knowledge to improve services and define the key areas while creating DSI.
In general, having a set of measurable indicators greatly increases the chances of project success, as the indicators show managers from both sides of the cooperation the exact level of performance and which areas need improvement – even the minor ones. Asking the right questions helps uncover all the important details that can be easily overlooked, especially if no one knows for sure what should be taken under consideration in the first place.
Of course, it takes some time to work these things out and create Delivery Success Indicators that are suitable for all the projects that a company runs. It is also true that numbers will never replace individual approach and competent managers. However, they are irreplaceable in implementing a Learning Organisation and directing outstanding talents into places where they make most difference.
They are definitely worth the effort, and should be prioritised over other tasks, as having DSIs correlates directly with the efficiency, reliability and success of a business.