It’s easy in the world of project management to convince ourselves that our projects are successful, especially when they have been delivered on time and on budget. We might have worried along the way about a missed milestone, an over-spend or a technical hitch but when the final deliverable goes out on time it’s time to celebrate – isn’t it?
Unfortunately, not always, because what we don’t consider often enough is what a successful project really looks like. If it was just about meeting time and money targets then we wouldn’t have so many dissatisfied customers or reams of update requests the minute a project is “completed”. So we need to better understand what is required to make a project successful before we even start out. We need to also make sure everyone agrees what success means for each particular project – not in a high level way that talks about schedules, budgets and scope but in a more detailed and meaningful way.
So let’s have a look at some of the more detailed success factors:
Have you ever worked on a project where none of the stakeholders were committed to its success? Or, worse, where the project manager and project team were not committed to seeing it through? If the project starts out with a lack of commitment then it will be a steep road ahead to reach a successful outcome.
And, of course, the opposite is true when everyone involved is committed – the project is set up for success right from the start.
Another factor that will set a project up for success is trust – again it’s a 2-way thing. The client and stakeholders need to trust the team to do their job, and the team need to trust the stakeholders to support the project and provide the tools, decisions and resources to complete it in a timely manner.
What was the project’s original purpose? What were the intended benefits – not subjective personal opinions such as look and feel (except, perhaps, in the case of certain design projects) but what the project will deliver on a broader scale.
Project management is being embraced by businesses of all kinds in order to reliably, efficiently and consistently deliver beneficial change in an organisation. But in order to be able to do this the intended benefits must be aligned with the strategic objectives of the organisation and it must be possible to monitor and measure these benefits.
A project is only truly successful if it delivers the benefits that were expected.
This is not always an easy task because external market forces, lack of resources and unforeseen risks can all conspire to throw a project off track. It’s common for customers to change their mind about deliverables and/or benefits mid-way through the project.
Nevertheless, with a sound project management framework that focuses on the intended benefits, these hurdles can be overcome and projects can be completed successfully.
Risks and Variables
Of course, it would be impossible to guarantee that every project is a success even if focus always remains on the original benefits and there is a sound PM framework in place. That is simply because projects are about change and in any such situation there will be risks (some unforeseen) and there are often too many variables, especially in complex projects, to guarantee success. However, you can give yourself the best chance of success by monitoring or measuring the following throughout the life of the project:
- Communication channels
- Customer satisfaction levels
- Stakeholder engagement
- Team motivation levels
- Requests for changes
- Quality Assurance