Best Practices

The 25 Most Important Project Management KPIs (Examples Included)

Jonathan Friedman
February 26, 2021
The 25 Most Important Project Management KPIs (Examples Included)

According to the Harvard Business Review, key performance indicators (KPIs) are the accurate measure of success in any project-based work. As a result, it is critical that you have a pulse on how your project is progressing. What are the most important project management KPIs you and your team should track? Don't worry, we'll shed light on the most critical KPIs and provide you with project management KPI examples for each.


Below is everything we will cover. Feel free to skip ahead.

What is a Key Performance Indicator (KPI)?

A key performance indicator is a quantifiable measure that provides insight into how well you and your organization are achieving your goals and objectives? KPIs allow you to track how well or how poorly you are meeting your business goals.

The majority of KPIs tend to be specific and measurable and are often measured against a benchmark.

Why are KPIs important?

Key performance indicators are important because they help you and your company measure performance.

KPIs measure success against your core business objectives. By knowing how well or poorly you are performing against your business goals and objectives, you can change course quickly.

How to measure KPI in project management

The KPIs you need to measure success in your projects will vary depending on the industry. For example, project management KPIs for software development will differ from the KPIs you want to track for professional services, consulting, or customer success. As a result, you won't need to follow the same key performance indicators. However, you can break down no matter the type of project you manage, all of your project management KPIs into the following four categories:

  1. Effectiveness: Are you and your team spending your time and money appropriately? Is your time being utilized to generate revenue for the company? If not, are there ways you and your team can spend your time and money more effectively?
  2. Timeliness: Is your project delivered on time when compared against the plan? If it off track, you'll want to understand by how much so that you can re-estimate a completion date.
  3. Budget: Is your project under budget or over budget? If it's over budget, you'll want to request additional funding sooner than later.
  4. Quality: How well is your project progressing? Are your customers satisfied with the deliverables thus far? If not, you'll want to understand how you and your team can meet expectations, if not exceed expectations.

No matter the type of project you're managing, it's essential that you plan and track your project's timelines, budget, quality, and effectiveness.

Below you'll find several project management KPI examples within each category. However, keep in mind that you don't need to use every KPI. Only use the ones that make sense to your type of project.

The 25 most important project management KPIs

Effectiveness KPIs

Project Management KPI Examples: Effectiveness KPIs

Effectiveness KPIs are the most critical project management KPIs for any client-facing project-based professionals. These KPIs measure how effective you are at earning money.

With effectiveness KPIs you can ask yourself, are you and your team spending your time and money appropriately? Is your time being utilized to generate revenue for the company? If not, are there ways you and your team can spend your time and money more effectively?

1. Billable Utilization

If your projects are revenue-generating, you're going to want to measure billable utilization. This might be one of the most critical project management KPIs. For example, if you manage a professional services organization or a consulting firm, this project management KPI is critical to understand how effective your resources are being deployed.

Billable utilization measures the effectiveness of your resources being put to use to generate revenue for the organization.

Billable Hours can be many hours spent where you charge the client for your work.

Formula: (Billable Hours / Available Working Hours) * 100

Example: You have a software implementation specialist who works a standard 40 hours a week. In a given year (52 weeks), she works 1,248 Billable Hours. As a result, her billable utilization is 60%.

How'd we get that? Well, that's easy. Divide 1,248 hours by (52 weeks * 40 hours) and multiply by 100.

2. Productive Utilization

Similar to Billable Utilization, if your projects are revenue-generating, you're going to want to measure Productive Utilization. This is another one of the more vital project management KPIs.For example, if you manage a professional services organization or a consulting firm, this project management KPI is critical to understand how effective your resources are being deployed.

Productive utilization measures the effectiveness of your resources being put to use to generate revenue for the organization, in addition to any support activities.

Productive Hours can be time spent on projects or support work tasks. Think of it as billable hours + non-billable hours for client work. These are keep-the-light-on activities such as:

Formula: (Productive Hours / Available Working Hours) * 100

Example: Let's leverage the same billable utilization example. You have a software implementation specialist who works a standard 40 hours a week. In a given year (52 weeks), she works 1,248 Billable Hours. Additionally, she spent 250 hours on Non-Billable Hours (a.k.a., Productive Hours) that supported her clients. As a result, her billable utilization is 72%. 

How'd we get that? Well, that's easy. Divide (1,248 billable hours + 250 non-billable hours) by (52 weeks * 40 hours) and multiply by 100.

3. Billable to Productive Ratio

Now, let's combine Billable Hours and Productive Hours into a ratio. By doing so, you can measure how productive hours result in revenue for the organization.

Formula: (Billable Hours / Productive Hours)

Example: Let's leverage the earlier two examples where we have a software implementation specialist who works a standard 40 hours a week. In a given year (52 weeks), she works 1,248 Billable Hours. Additionally, she spent 250 hours on Non-Billable Hours (a.k.a., Productive Hours) that supported her clients. As a result, her Billable to Productive Ratio is 0.83. We got 0.83 by dividing 1,248 hours by (1,248 hours+ 250 hours).

4. Realization

Continuing with the client-facing project-based KPIs, you'll want to understand how much revenue you're realizing. Realization tells you exactly that-how much of your Billable Hours you're actually billing to the client. If you're in a professional services business, you know that you don't always bill for the billable hours.

For many reasons, your client may push back on the hours you are charging them. Maybe they aren't satisfied with the work, or perhaps you agreed to a fixed-cost engagement. Either way, you won't realize the full about of services rendered.

Formula: (Billed Hours / Billable Hours) * 100

Example: Continuing the previous examples. You have a software implementation specialist who works a standard 40 hours a week. In a given year (52 weeks), she works 1,248 Billable Hours. However, her clients only paid for a total of 1,000 hours. That is, she only had 1,000 Billed Hours. As a result, her Realization was 80%. You get 80% by dividing 1,000 hours by 1,248 hours and multiplying by 100.

5. Average Cost per Hour

Continuing with the client-facing project-based KPIs, you'll want to understand the Average Cost per Hour for your resources. What is the average fully loaded cost of each billable person to the company?

Fully Loaded Costs can include any number of the below attributes:

6. Resource Profitability

Continuing with the client-facing project-based KPIs, you'll want to understand how profitable your resources are, which is why we need the Average Cost per Hour. Resource Profitability measures the efficiency of an organization to generate profit.

Formula: {[(Average Bill Rate * Billable Utilization) - Average Cost per Hour)] / Average Cost per Hour} * 100

Example: Continuing the previous examples. You have software implementation specialist, and her Average Bill Rate is $100/hour. Her Billable Utilization is 60%. Then, her Average Cost per Hour is $40/hour. As a result, her Resource Profitability is 50%.

How'd we get that? Well, that's easy, here's the formula: {[($100/hour * 60%) - $40)] / $40} * 100.

7. Canceled Projects

Looking at the number of projects that your team canceled (or paused and never came back to) can help you determine a few different things. You may find that your team can't agree on projects or fails to start challenging projects.

Example: You may see that your team canceled five significant projects last year because of a long time projection. This tells you that your team can't handle long-term projects. Try to teach your team how to tackle long work periods like this.

Timeliness KPIs

Project Management KPI Examples: Timeliness KPIs

With timeliness KPIs, you can ask yourself if your project is delivered on time when compared against the plan? If it off track, you'll want to understand by how much so that you can re-estimate a completion date.

8. Cycle Time

Cycle time is one of the more essential project management KPIs. Cycle Time measures your team's time to complete a specific task as a part of your project. Understanding your cycle time can help you prepare for tasks that your team repeatedly does.

Formula: Cycle Time = Net Production Time / Number of Units Made

Example: Let's say it takes you three days, or 24 hours (8 hours/day) to contact all 100 clients and roll out a new software update. In this example, your cycle time would equal to 0.24 hours per update. In other words, it would be a ~14 minutes to update the software of each client. We calculated this by dividing 24 hours by 100 clients. and then multiplied by 60 min/hour.

Knowing this information can help you better plan new rollouts in the future by timing your rollout correctly. You can also improve this KPI by matching contact times during each rollout.

9. Time Spent

This KPI looks at the amount of time spent on a team collectively or individually. This allows you to look at how efficient and effective your team is together and apart.

Example: You might find that your team as a whole took one week to fix a bug in your system. However, the 'time spent' KPI discovered that one team member took three or those five days to finish their task. Understanding this distinction can help you figure out how to support that team member in the future to quicken projects of the same kind. 

10. Number of Adjustments to the Schedule

If your team changes the project's completion date too often, this isn't good. That means your team is being met with more obstacles than initially planned.

Example: Let's say that you moved back your app launch by a day three times. This means your app will be launched three days later than you planned. You can figure out why the launch was pushed back each day and give those lagging operations some more support the next time around.

11. On-Time Completion

This metric tells you what percentage of projects you've completed on-time. Keep in mind that this only applies to the projects you finished by the first completion date you sent. 

Example: You find that only 75% of your team's projects are being completed on-time. You can now improve this metric by looking at why 25% of projects weren't completed on-time.

12. Days Spent

The 'days spent' KPI looks at how many days your team has spent on a particular project. You can measure this by looking at calendar days or workdays. This metric can help you look at how efficient your team is being, especially on smaller tasks that aren't meant to take too long.

Example: You find that your latest project took 28 calendar days (or 20 workdays) to complete. You projected that the project would only take 25 calendar days (or 19 workdays to complete). However, you discover that one task took 40% of the allotted time.

With this information, you can figure out how to make that task easier for your team in the future.

13. Planned Hours

Before every small task or large project your team attempts, you should write down how many planned hours you think it'll take. You can match this number to the 'time spent' KPI discussed earlier. This can help you understand how to plan tasks and projects in the future better.

Example: You may find that you planned 18 hours for a task that only took 10. You can now better plan in the future by reducing that time and giving it to another job or project that you find needs more time.

14. Resource Capacity

By taking the number of individuals you have working on a project and multiplying it by the percent of the time they have available to work on it, you can determine their schedules for the project. Plus, you can see if you need to hire outside help for your team.

Example: You may find that your current team members give you 90% of the time you need for a project. That may be for any number of reasons. Maybe 10% of their time is consumed by business development, or practice development. By knowing the capacity of your resources you can more accurately plan for staffing projects.

Budget KPIs

Project Management KPI Examples: Budget KPIs

With budget KPIs you can ask yourself, is your project under budget or over budget? If it's over budget, you'll want to request additional funding sooner than later.

15. Planned Value

As you're going through the project, you can take the budget you planned for the project and match that up against the budget you still need. This can tell you two things: (1) if you're budgeting correctly and (2) if you're going to enough money to finish the project.

Example: Let's say that you have 20% of the project left on a $50,000 project. This means that the rest of the project should cost $10,000. Make sure that you're staying on track with this number.

16. Budget Variance

Budget Variance is another one of the more important project management KPIs. Budget Variance looks at whether or not you stuck to the budget across the project. In other words, you have to compare the amount of money that you spent to the amount of money that you planned to spend. Hopefully, these two numbers aren't far off from one another.

Example: Let's say that you budgeted $30,000 for Project A. Then, you spent $32,500. This tells you that you either need to control spending more or find room in the budget for the money.

17. Budget Creation Cycle Time

The time that it takes to create the budget matters as well. Taking the time to research, plan, and agree on a budget still counts as time spent on a project. Therefore, it deserves to be tracked.

Example: You gave your team 100 days to finish a project. It took you 20 days to agree on the budget. That is a fifth of the time for the entire project.

You may want to think about how you can streamline the budgeting process in the future.

18. Budget Drafts 

As you're creating your budget, you'll also want to look at the number of drafts you and your team made throughout the creation process. This tells you how efficient and communicative your team was as they were making the budget.

Having more drafts tells you that more time and planning were spent making that budget.

Example: You found five different budget drafts before agreeing on a final budget. You also find that all of the changes made were small. With this information, you can infer that you could have made only one draft before the final if everyone had given their thoughts before the third, fourth, and fifth drafts were finalized.

19. Line Items in Budget

Keeping track of the line items in a budget can help your team look at where and how they spent all of the money allocated for a specific project. This can help you determine how to save or spend your budget throughout the project's duration.

Example: You have $20,000 to spend. You may spend $5,000 of it on advertising, $10,000 on outsourcing and telecommunicating, and so on. Use whatever items you come up with to drive your project's spending. 

Quality KPIs

Project Management KPI Examples: Quality KPIs

With quality KPIs you can ask yourself, how well is your project progressing? Are your customers satisfied with the deliverables thus far? If not, you'll want to understand how you and your team can meet expectations, if not exceed expectations.

20. Net Promoter Score (NPS)

You may or may not be familiar with the term Net Promoter Score. By definition, the NPS a rating for how likely your client is to recommend you to a friend or colleague. The rating is 1-10 with the following segments:

While NPS is excellent for measuring the entire customer experience with your company's product or service, it should not be the end-all metric for project management for client-facing project-based professionals. We advise that you consider your NPS, but it's best to remember many touchpoints can impact your NPS score.

Example: You are a professional services employee, and you implement software at large healthcare companies. One of your clients provided you an NPS of 6, meaning they can be considered a detractor. However, in a follow-on customer survey, they leave qualitative feedback that the implementation was flawless. However, they don't believe that what they were sold is what they were delivered. They believe the sales executive sold them something entirely different. As seen in this example, with any client-facing project-based work, you should understand the NPS score, but you should also ask follow-on questions to understand the who, what and why.

21. Customer Experience

Many companies conduct surveys with their customers after a new launch or some other significant event. Through a customer survey, you can collect much useful information, such as the measure of customer experience. By looking at whether your customers were satisfied, you can determine whether your project was successful. As a result, this is another one of the more important project management KPIs.

Example: You find that your customer satisfaction rate determined by a company survey is 95%. This means your project was generally successful. However, you can still find out what that 5% need from your company to be satisfied.

22. Customer Loyalty

Customer loyalty is another measure that you may see on a survey. A customer can be satisfied with a project, but that doesn't necessarily mean that that customer will stay with the company in the future. Customer loyalty tells you if the company has impressed the customer.

Example: You find that your customer satisfaction rate is 95%, but your customer loyalty rate is only 20%. This tells you that the product that the survey asked about was right, but it does not confirm that the entire company has been following through with what your customers want.

23. Rate of Error

The rate of error tells you how many times your team had to fix something with a project. Whether it was a small bug or a large problem, your rate of error should be low.

Example: You find that your rate of error for your new application is 2%. This means that 2% of your project had some mistake in it. Next time, you might want to work on reducing this rate of error by looking into proofreading or double-checking the project before launch.

24. Customer Complaints

You might find that your company receives customer complaints after a product or service is launched. With this, you can find out what may be wrong with a project or how customers feel that you could improve that project in the future.

Example: You find that 70% of your customer complains tell you about a bug that doesn't let them log into your system using their email address. This informs your team that there may be a bug when people log in with a popular email address like those associated with Gmail. Your team should start fixing this problem right away.

25. Employee Turnover Rate

You may find that you have a large turnover rate for employees across your company. You have employees coming and leaving between every single project.

By looking at the employee turnover rate, you get a glimpse into your company's satisfaction.

Example: You find that your employee turnover rate is 50% at the beginning of the year but only 5% throughout the year. You may deduce that your company is setting unrealistic expectations for the new year, causing your employees to leave.

Conclusion: Take your project management KPIs to the next level

Now you've learned about the 25 most important project management KPIs, along with an example for each KPI. By investing in tracking KPIs, you and your team will improve operationally and financially.

Since you've learned about the best project management KPI examples, you next need to ensure that you're keeping track of all of the KPIs you plan to use. We at TrueNxus recommend using software to do this. Additionally, we recommend using a data visualization tool such as Tableau or PowerBI.

In addition to tracking KPIs, you should invest in pragmatic project management software to keep your project-based work progressing on-time and on-budget.

TrueNxus's project management software has everything you need to have a successful project. Plus, you can add your team to your projects so that everyone can see the entire project plan laid out. This leads to better communication, understanding, and execution of the project plan.

So, what are you waiting for? Start your free 14-day trial now.