Project Success Rates: Going Beyond OTOBOS

Anthony is an enterprise agile Coach with Vitality Chicago, Inc. He has over 30 years of experience delivering large-scale business programs and IT projects. He specializes in helping organizations effectively apply Lean and agile principles and the Scrum framework to gain true business agility. He teaches a wide range of agile and Scrum training courses as well as the cultural elements that are necessary for agile to succeed. Anthony is the author of numerous blog posts and articles and two books: Agile Project Management and Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers. He has an undergraduate degree from Michigan State University and an MBA from Loyola University of Maryland.

It has been common for years to measure project success or failure using the triple constraint. Reporting on whether the project is on time, on budget and on scope (OTOBOS) has strong appeal (and most organizations still use this). But these measures are out of date and fail to report on what is really important—whether or not the project is delivering the desired business outcomes.

The Triple Constraint Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story
I first learned of the triple constraint back in my first PM class back in the early 1990s. I learned that the three constraints of time, scope and budget formed the basis of every project. And I leaned that if any single constraint changed, the other two had to be evaluated for impact.

Though it was simple and perhaps convenient to consider only those three constraints, most people today recognize that there are more than three constraints in a project (resources, quality and risks are also frequently mentioned). Unfortunately, most people still use just cost, time and scope when reporting project status. People have also adopted the OTOBOS to determine project success or failure. And this misses the entire point of the project.

OTOBOS is Not the Project Goal
With all the focus on OTOBOS, many people think that it is the goal of the project. Many project managers certainly believe that is their goal to deliver the project on …

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