The Official BQE Software Blog

11 Project Performance Metrics that Keep You on Track

Projects (often also called engagements, jobs, or matters) are the backbone of the way you do business. Isn’t it time that you step up their analysis? There are many metrics that you should regularly check to ensure that everything is on track. If you have to calculate everything on your own, though, staying on top of it can be hard. Even some of the most sophisticated project management software doesn’t make it as easy as it should be.

With a solution like Core, things are easier. That’s why we’ll use it to take you through the project performance indicators you need to track.

Core’s project screen gives you a brief, clean overview of your current projects as well as their overall finances in terms of what’s ready to bill, your work in progress, and what’s overdue.

After you click on a project, you can move over to the “performance” tab on the top right. You can then select a date range to narrow down your analysis.

This screen shows you everything you need to know about the state of your project, including…

The top row shows you important aggregate metrics to assess the overall state of your project...

1. Work in Progress: This is the billable time and expenses that you’ve done but haven’t billed yet. It’s important to track as an asset on your balance sheet and as revenue on your income statement. It not only tells project managers how far along work is, but also acts as a booster if your firm needs a line of credit or loan.

2. At a Glance Financials:

  • Retainer balance: The remaining part of your project’s retainer—if it has one, of course—is helpful in assessing whether or not your project is on track. If you’ve used up a significant portion of the retainer and still have much to accomplish, you know you’ve got to make some changes. This information is especially useful to the principals, partners, accountants, billing users and project managers in the company.
  • Write-up/down: This is the total write-up or write-down on your billable time entries. This is helpful because you might want to bill the client more or less than the actual billable amount in order to manage your project’s budget. Knowing the overall write-up or write-down, moreover, is an illustration of a project manager’s ability to manage the scope of the project.
  • Client hours: Knowing the total of logged billable time gives you a sense of whether or not you’re sticking to your time budget.

3. Billing: Knowing your billing breakdown helps you assess your client. You can see what percentage and dollar value of your bills have been paid—or not. Of course, you’d want to look at your AR aging to know how late the client payments are, but this gives you one view of your lingering payments.

4. Profitability: A very key metric! See your costs versus what’s been billed and the resulting profit. Knowing your project’s profitability while everything is still underway helps you make decisions to keep you on track. Furthermore, once everything is said and done, it’s the ultimate gauge of what you should and shouldn’t do next time.

5. Utilization: This is crucial if you’re billing hourly or hourly-not-to-exceed, but it’s very useful information even if you’re working on a fixed fee project. You’ll get a picture of your project’s efficiency in terms of billable versus non-billable hours.

6. Contract Analysis: This gives you additional insight into what’s remaining in your contract. You get a comparison between the contracted amount, what’s been spent, and what’s remaining. This way, you’ll understand ahead of time whether or not your project will exceed your contract amount.

7. Budget Analysis: Similarly, your budget analysis shows the breakdown for your services and expenses in terms of what’s been used and what your limits are. You’ll get a quick picture of whether your project is over-budget or approaching budget.

8. Earned Value: Earned value displays the project plan, actual work, and the value of completed work in order to help you determine whether or not a project is on track. We calculate it as the amount earned (actual work) divided by the contract amount. When you can see earned value at a glance like this, you’ll quickly have a reliable projection of the future success of your project in terms of time and budget.

You can also see your earned value in a different display in the first row of widgets.

9. Billability Analysis: Your billability analysis aids you in assessing the billability and productivity of a project. It gives you a breakdown of your services and expenses in terms of billable, billed, unbilled, and non-billable. When you compare billable versus billed, you get a picture of what’s been earned and what’s in your pipeline.

10. Margins: The margins chart lets you analyze your profit or loss on a project. It displays billable or billed services and expenses plus their profit/loss margins.

11. Retainers: This section shows you all the information about the retainers associated with a project and client. You’re able to instantly view what you’ve received versus what’s been used and what’s left.

While you might not get through this list for every project if you’re calculating things on your own or using cumbersome software, it’s helpful to have a comprehensive list of what you need to check. These indicators—if checked throughout the life of your project—will help you ensure that things come together on time and on budget.

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