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SMART Goals of Project Management

April 14, 2015
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A project is considered successful only if the project goals set are achieved. The project progress has to be measured against the goals set at the beginning of the project. This will help to find out if the project is a success or not. It is therefore important to set up appropriate goals. What kind of goals should we set up for a project? SMART goals come in the picture here. Let us take a look at how we can set up SMART goals for a project. SMART goals also motivate the team to make the project a success.

SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Agreed Upon, Realistic and Time bound.

smart goal

Specific – Project goals need to be well-defined and clear. The project goals must be such that one can answer questions like 'What is the project objective?”, “Why are we doing the project?” and “What benefits will the end user get by implementing the project?” clearly. If there is ambiguity in these aspects, there will not be clarity in the tasks assigned to the team and it will be difficult for team members to complete their tasks properly. Being specific means being aware of the goal, requirements for the goal and the steps needed to achieve it.

Measurable – The project goals need to be tangible which means the goals should be answerable to questions related to quantity or time etc. Any project needs to be monitored on the basis of certain measurable parameters to determine its progress. Here are some examples of measurable project goals-

- The cost of the project is $45000

- The number of low priority bugs should be less than “5” and there should be no critical bugs left unresolved upon the time of delivery.

- The process which has been automated by the application developed will take 2 minutes less than the usual time for each transaction.

Such goals can be are accurate and actual performance can be measured against the goals set. This will help determine the success or failure of the project.

Agreed Upon – The project success criteria and objectives should be defined clearly and agreed upon by the various stakeholders and key team members. There should be a sign off by relevant persons on the project objectives and only then the project work should start in full swing. This will help as if there are changes or actions to reduce risks during project execution, those can be done by looking at the objectives agreed upon by the project team and how those and key stakeholders will be affected.

Realistic – The project goals have to be realistic. They need to be doable. They have to consider the constraints of time, cost and resources. A realistic project goal for a company's new website could be “Increase potential customers by 10% within 6 months of website launch”. Such a goal is realistic and at the same time measurable. Lofty goals will scare team members and they will be too stressed and ultimately lose interest while working to achieve these near to impossible goals.

Time Bound - The project goals need to have a timeline. It is important to state that a goal will be achieved within a time limit. This will ensure that tasks and resources are planned such that the project timeline is not breached. All tasks need to have a deadline which adds an element of urgency and importance to the task and team members will take up the task with the attitude and ability required to reach the goal within the deadline. Once they do that, they will have a sense of accomplishment which will motivate them. For example, “All open bugs need to be fixed” is a goal to fix bugs but has no deadline. This may not be taken with the seriousness that it deserves. Moreover bugs with less priority may get fixed before critical ones. If the goal is “Fix all critical bugs by 15th April and all other bugs by 20th April”, team members have clear targets and will work accordingly.

Here is an example of SMART goals and non-SMART goals for the delivery of a software application and the analysis for the same -

It is important to have clearly defined objectives. The entire team will know the project goals and work towards achieving them. If the goals are unclear, the team members will not be sure of their tasks and the project success can be hampered. As a project manager, you have to take time and effort to define goals such that they are SMART.


About the Author

Vidya Kumar is a management graduate with 14 years of experience in the IT industry managing complex Software Projects across various industry verticals. She has around 6 years experience in content development. She has co-authored two eBooks and writes regularly on personal finance, IT, travel and other business topics.

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