Utilization of Project Sentiment Analysis as a Project Performance Predictor

PM World Journal


By Bob Prieto

Princeton, New Jersey, USA

The growth in project complexity and scale provides growing challenges for today’s project managers. Equally, these challenges provide increased challenges for program and portfolio managers who must look at not only the “sum” of individual project performance but also broader portfolio wide performance patterns. Improvements in traditional project management tools must be coupled with advanced analytic and newer tools geared to detection of negative performance precursors. In this paper we examine one possible tool, sentiment analysis, and its application to detection of negative performance precursors.

Semantic Analysis

Early prediction of potential negative trends in project performance is aided by early identification of precursors to sustained negative performance. Among the sources of potential precursors that can be utilized is a wide range of project electronic correspondence and reports.

These reports may be analyzed in many different ways but one approach is to conduct a semantic analysis of the language utilized in the reports. The appearance of semantically negative terms is an early indicator of potential project issues and often is a prelude to formal identification of an issue with defined impacts in structured project reports. The semantic analysis to be conducted is preferentially (but not exclusively) focused on three primary sources of textual data in order to provide higher computational efficiency and increased confidence in the semantic findings:

  • Select pairs of correspondence
  • Periodic structured reports
  • Periodic narrative management reports
  • Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Select Pairs of Correspondence

Select pairs of correspondence, including e-mails and texts, between the project manager and identified senior managers and the project manager and his client counterpart would be included in the described semantic analysis of text. The utilization of e-mail and other electronic text messages that are readily captured provides additional richness to the analysis of the following two categories of reports which are more formal in nature.

The decision to conduct a narrower semantic analysis of text versus a broader analysis, such as all incoming and outgoing e-mails, is driven by a decision to select high confidence data sets to improve the so called “signal to noise” ratio by  filtering out the significant noise that may exist more broadly in a project’s total correspondence. The importance of context sensitive analysis is discussed later in this paper.

More (including footnotes & references) …

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About the Author

flag-usabob prietoBob Prieto 

Senior Vice President


Princeton, NJ, USA 

Bob Prieto is a senior vice president of Fluor, one of the largest, publicly traded engineering and construction companies in the world. He is responsible for strategy for the firm’s Industrial & Infrastructure group which focuses on the development and delivery of large, complex projects worldwide. The group encompasses three major business lines including Infrastructure, with an emphasis on Public Private Partnerships; Mining; and Industrial Services. Bob consults with owners of large engineering & construction capital construction programs across all market sectors in the development of programmatic delivery strategies encompassing planning, engineering, procurement, construction and financing. He is author of “Strategic Program Management”, “The Giga Factor: Program Management in the Engineering and Construction Industry” and “Application of Life Cycle Analysis in the Capital Assets Industry” published by the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) and “Topics in Strategic Program Management” as well as over 450 other papers and presentations.

Bob is a member of the ASCE Industry Leaders Council, National Academy of Construction and a Fellow of the Construction Management Association of America. Bob served until 2006 as one of three U.S. presidential appointees to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Advisory Council (ABAC), working with U.S. and Asia-Pacific business leaders to shape the framework for trade and economic growth and had previously served as both as Chairman of the Engineering and Construction Governors of the World Economic Forum and co-chair of the infrastructure task force formed after September 11th by the New York City Chamber of Commerce.  Previously, he served as Chairman at Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB), one of the world’s leading engineering companies.  Bob Prieto can be contacted at [email protected].