The Metric I’m Adding to Keep Projects on Track

This week I recorded a podcast interview for a show that’s launching soon, which is all about how to use data and metrics to grow your business.

The host of this podcast is a German guy who seemed more like cheery apple-cheeked character from a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale than a strict numbers guy.

To be honest, I was nervous about how the interview would go. I was there for a hotseat-style interview about how I could make better use of data.

(And since this area is not my jam, I thought I was going to get a pretty serious talking to.)

The host asked me dozens of questions and when he found out I was tracking my revenue, cash flow, profit/loss, and my time, he said…

“You’re actually doing well… for a creative.

Then he went on a whole tangent about how creatives are usually really disorganised and don’t know how to run proper businesses.

Come on dude.

Just because I’m not an accountant doesn’t mean I can’t read a spreadsheet.

I was getting pretty annoyed, because most of the ‘creatives’ I know have worked incredibly hard to build robust, ‘proper’ businesses.

But then he mentioned a metric I’d never heard of before, and I decided I was going to calm down and listen.

The metric he suggested I start tracking is OBI: On-Budget Index.

This is a way of tracking the time or money left for a given project. This is great if you’re working with contractors or tracking complex projects.

Basically, you schedule regular check-ins (say, weekly) to find out how much of the budget (time, money, resources) has been used up, and how much budget is still needed to get the project to completion.

For example, if I wanted to hire a contractor for a project and we agree that they will deliver 50,000 words in 90 days, I can create milestones to make sure they’re on track to deliver.

In this case, the writer would need to put down 555 words a day (and edit them) to hit the target. So a month in, they should have 16,650 words to be on track.

If they haven’t produced that amount, I can ask them about their work flow and what would need to happen to make sure we hit that deadline.

If they’re ahead, I can adjust the timeline, arrange bonuses and improve the projections for how future projects might go.

It sounds really simple, and it is, but I’d never heard of this metric before.

It was a major lightbulb moment for me — OBI alone could help me start to scale a team of writers, where previously I thought that would be impossible.

It’s not specific to writing, but I’m pretty excited about the possibilities one small number can make.