Measurements and indicators

Measurements and indicators

How can measurements support infrastructure delivery?

Taking the appropriate measurements – and responding to them correctly – can enhance the value of a project, maintain standards and improve future performance. However, the measurement process can distort practices and become an end in itself.

Why make measurements?

  • Improve understanding (internally and externally)
  • Assess impact and effectiveness
  • Validate assumptions
  • Account for investments (financial or otherwise)
  • Use the past to inform the future
  • Learn from success in area A to assist area B

What is measurement effectiveness?

  • Providing information to key stakeholders which is relevant to their objectives
  • Enabling, not inhibiting, progress towards objectives

    Assessing the things which matter, not just those which are convenient

    The basic test for the appropriateness of specific indicators is that they make sense to the affected persons (Kline, 2001)

Project measurements involve people. It is important to remember that “The advancement of knowledge and the pursuit of information are not in themselves sufficient justifications for overriding the values and ignoring the interests of those studied” (ASA, 1999)

Measurement jargon buster:
Indicator: where you are and which way you’re heading
Target: indicator level which signals success
Validity: how effectively a measurement captures what it’s supposed to
Reliability: the extent to which measurements reflect actual performance
Dimensions: aspects considered in the measurement process (e.g. social, political...)

A huge variety of assessment frameworks are available. To implement any of them successfully there are some key areas to consider.


Kline (2001) Indicators for Sustainable Development in Urban Areas
ASA (1999:2) Ethical Guidelines,

Link measurements to project objectives and strategy

Measurement checklist

  1. Understand the project objectives, strategy and context. Can measurements help?
  2. Define scope (geography, stakeholders, time)
  3. Involve key stakeholders from the outset
  4. Link measurements to strategy and objectives
  5. Establish causality between measurements and outcomes
  6. Understand the impact of the process, including the scope for unintended consequences
  7. Continually review the measurement process, and check assumptions are valid
  8. Share the results in a clear format

Tools and resources


Aspire is a tool for assessing sustainable development and poverty alleviation. It considers four dimensions (environment, society, economics and institutions) and can be used to create a graphical performance report at any point during the project life cycle. Aspire was developed by Engineers Against Poverty and Arup International Development.

Visit the Engineers Against Poverty website for more.


Developed by a group of international experts BellagioSTAMP provides 8 principles for assessing progress towards sustainability.

Visit the IISD website for more on the BellagioSTAMP.


Ittner and Larcker (November 2003) Coming Up Short on Nonfinancial Performance Measurement, Harvard Business Review.