Project Management

Back to PM Basics (Part 4): Defining Success & Objectives

Following 20 years at a large Canadian telecommunications firm, Bruce established the project management consulting firm Solutions Management Inc (SMI). Since 1999, he has provided contract project/program management services, been a source for project management support personnel and created/delivered courses to over 7,000 participants in Canada, the United States and England.

This is the fourth article in a series that will build a foundation of project management knowledge. The first two articles introduced the fundamentals of project management, and explained the project life cycle and the importance of a project charter. In Part 3, readers learned about the triple-constraint and how to identify and prioritize project stakeholders.

This article will address the following topics:

  • Define project success
  • Differentiate business objectives from project objectives
  • Introduce the concept of a project plan

Project Success Definition
At first thought, the answer to the question of “What is a successful project?” may appear obvious. After all, project managers build project plans and then guide the project to completion, hopefully on-time and on-budget. Surely if they do that, the project is a success. Or is it?

Stakeholders, as defined in Part 3 of this series, were defined as an individual or group that has an interest in a project. The article then went on to define a key stakeholder as the individual(s) who must be satisfied by the projects output. The questions then become:

  1. Could a project be late and/or over-budget and also be considered successful?
  2. Is it possible for a project to be planned and delivered as planned, and yet not meet the key stakeholders’ business outcome?

The answer to both …


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"The purpose of art: to make the unconscious conscious."

- Richard Wagner