The most challenging aspect of any custom application is identifying goals with measurable results. Clear goals are necessary because they define the scope of features to be implemented. This may seem like common sense, but many projects fail due to a lack of clarity in objectives between the sponsor and the people doing the work.
Does A Lack Of Clarity Really Hurt?
According to the Winter 2010/2011 Industry Survey of almost 600 IT people, Geneca found the greatest frustration stemmed from getting stakeholders to clearly state and commit to project objectives (46%). As a matter of fact, the study also found that fuzzy objectives, out-of-sync stakeholders, and excessive rework meant that 75% of project participants lacked confidence in their projects succeeding.
Having unclear project goals not only causes frustration among all parties involved, it also deceases the chance of project success.
To read more about Geneca’s findings, here’s a blog post discussing the study. This post also allows you to download the complete study (entitled ‘Doomed from the Start?’).
How Can I Identify My Project Goals?
For these reasons, it is a worthwhile exercise to brainstorm and identify important features along with a short description for each. If a description is not clear, this may be an indication the feature is too broad and perhaps requires further refinement.
One technique that can help with setting goals is the S.M.A.R.T. criteria. This mnemonic device stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Try listing some of your goals right now and then apply the S.M.A.R.T. criteria to add more detail.
To read more about S.M.A.R.T. goals, here’s two resources to look at:
- Top Achievement’s page on Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals
- Wikipedia’s page on the history, other definitions, and developing S.M.A.R.T goals.
How Do I Measure These Goals?
The results of any completed work must be measurable to show alignment and achievement with a specific goal. For example, a program to calculate the surface area of a geometric shape cannot be view as successful unless the calculated result is verified as accurate.
Review each goal you listed from above and ask yourself “How will I know when I’ve achieved this goal?”
Write down what you will measure for each goal.
Here’s two more examples:
- Goal: To have my students using this application on their iPads in the classroom. This will increase class interaction and learning.
- To achieve this goal: Students will need access to iPads. Class time will need to be dedicated to using the application. The application will need to work on iPads.
- Measurements: Ratio of students to iPads obtained. Class time has been dedicated in planner. Application has been tested and fully works on iPads with multiple iOS versions.
- Goal: Increasing the number of participants in my research study. This will improve the results of my study and provide me with more data for my research.
- To achieve this goal: I will create an application to conduct my study online. I will create a plan for how my application will increase participant numbers.
- Measurements: Comparing the current number of participants to the future number of participants (once application is being used).
Which Goals Are Most Important?
Lastly, it is also important to categorize goals as primary and secondary. In other words, identify what the “must haves” are as opposed to the “nice to haves”. With a limited budget, it is important to prioritize which features are essential to your project.
To do so, think about what results you want from your project. What will make this project a success? This will help you determine the priority of your goals.
Prioritizing goals can be difficult, which is probably why there are so many techniques and resources on the subject. Here are a few to help:
- Prioritizing techniques of comparison, quadrants, and grid analysis
- Create a hierarchy
- List all your goals and circle your top 5
- Questions to ask yourself
Identifying goals helps projects succeed. It is important to make your goals according to the S.M.A.R.T. criteria, and these goals need to be measurable. Lastly, the most successful projects have prioritized their goals and chosen the ones that will help them achieve results.
Parts of this post were taken from Mike’s white paper below. If you’d like to read more on the topic, download it below.