Project managers play a vital role in helping projects succeed. Project managers work with the project sponsors, the project team, and the other stakeholders involved in a project to meet project goals. They also work with the sponsor to define success for that particular project. Good project managers do not assume that their definition of success is the same as the sponsors’ definition.
They take the time to understand their sponsors’ expectations. For example, if you are building a home for someone, find out what is most important:
- Meeting scope, schedule, and cost goals of the project to build the home
- Satisfying other needs, such as communicating in a certain way
- Ensuring the project delivers a certain result, such as providing the home of the owners’ dreams or a good return on investment
Project Success Example:
There are several ways to define project success. The list that follows outlines a few common criteria for measuring project success as applied to the example project of building a new 2,000 square foot home within six months for $300,000:
1- The project met scope, schedule, and cost goals. If the home was 2,000 square feet and met other scope requirements, was completed in six months, and cost $300,000, we could call it a successful project based on these criteria. Note that the CHAOS studies mentioned in the What Went Right? and What Went Wrong? examples used this definition of success.
2- The project satisfied the customer/sponsor. Even if the project met initial scope, schedule, and cost goals, the couple paying for the house might not be satisfied. Perhaps the project manager never returned their calls and was rude to them or made important decisions without their approval. Perhaps the quality of some of the construction or materials was not acceptable. If the customers were not happy about important aspects of the project, it would be deemed a failure based on this criterion. Many organizations implement a customer satisfaction rating system for projects to measure project success.
3- The results of the project met its main objective, such as making or saving a certain amount of money, providing a good return on investment, or simply making the sponsors happy. If the couple liked their new home and neighborhood after they lived there for a while, even if it cost more or took longer to build or the project manager was rude to them, it would be a successful project based on this criterion. As another example, suppose the owners wanted to keep the house for just a few years and then sell it for a good return. If that happened, the couple would deem the project a success, regardless of other factors involved. Note that for many projects done to meet ROI objectives, financial success cannot be determined until sometime after the project is completed.
The success criteria should help you to develop key performance indicators (KPIs) needed to track project progress. It is important to document this information in enough detail to eliminate ambiguity. A project benefits management plan should be created early in the project life cycle and updated as needed, as described in later chapters.