Why Some Projects Succeed and Others Fail

From the Voices on Project Management Blog
by , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

About this Blog

RSS

View Posts By:

Cameron McGaughy
Marian Haus
Lynda Bourne
Lung-Hung Chou
Bernadine Douglas
Kevin Korterud
Conrado Morlan
Peter Tarhanidis
Mario Trentim
Jen Skrabak
David Wakeman
Roberto Toledo
Vivek Prakash
Cyndee Miller
Shobhna Raghupathy
Wanda Curlee
Rex Holmlin
Christian Bisson
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
Jess Tayel
Ramiro Rodrigues
Linda Agyapong
Joanna Newman
Soma Bhattacharya

Past Contributers:

Jorge Valdés Garciatorres
Hajar Hamid
Dan Goldfischer
Saira Karim
Jim De Piante
sanjay saini
Judy Umlas
Abdiel Ledesma
Michael Hatfield
Deanna Landers
Alfonso Bucero
Kelley Hunsberger
William Krebs
Peter Taylor
Rebecca Braglio
Geoff Mattie
Dmitri Ivanenko PMP ITIL

Recent Posts

3 Ways to Balance The Delivery Ecosystem

6 Steps for Improving Organizational Maturity

Debunking Six Misconceptions About Agile

3 Reasons Project Managers Are Like Jugglers

PMI + TED: Possibility Speaks



Why Some Projects Succeed and Others Fail

By Marian Haus, PMP

There is obviously a high interest in the project management community and literature about what drives project success. For example, searching online for “why projects succeed” will return you five times more web pages than “why projects fail.” Similarly, there are four times more pages about “project success factors” than “project failure factors.”

This is no coincidence! The overwhelming interest in project success insights is driven by the struggle of many organizations and project managers to understand what drives success.

But before answering the question of why projects succeed, let’s first try to define project success.

The most common definition of success is delivering the project on time, on budget and in scope. PMI’s PMBOK Guide® says a project is successful if the following parameters are met: product and project quality, timeliness, budget compliance and customer satisfaction.

Others define project success by measuring the project ROI (or business case) over a certain period of time. If the ROI is positive, the project is declared successful, regardless of its deviations along the way.

I have my own definition: A project is successful if it meets its given goals, within acceptable variance boundaries (e.g., in terms of scope, time or budget). This is a relative definition and relies on the fact that the world is not perfect. Hence even a successful project will rarely be a 100 percent success.

A civil construction project might be declared successful if it meets its scope and quality. Acceptable time or budget deviations might not be seen as failure. Similarly, an IT project might be declared successful if it meets its scope on time, with acceptable deviations from quality or budget.

A project’s success is relative: it depends on how the success criteria and metrics are defined from the very beginnings of the project, along with who will measure them.

OK, there are clearly many definitions of project success. Similarly, there are also many views and studies on why projects succeed.

Let’s take a look at a few studies and try to find a common denominator.

According to PMI’s 2015 Pulse of the Profession®: Capturing the Value of Project Management, over the last three years the number of projects meeting their goals—hence being successful—has remained steady at about two-thirds of projects. This success is the result of organizations supporting project excellence by focusing on fundamental aspects of culture, talent and process.

But size matters, too. A Gartner study from 2012 shows that small IT projects (below US$350,000) are more likely to succeed than big projects (budgets over US$1 million).

Other studies reveal that project success is tightly linked to clear project objectives and requirements that are fully understood and supported by actively engaged stakeholders.

My view on the common denominator that leads to project success is simple: the main drivers of project success are rarely of a technical nature. Instead, the drivers are the basics of the project management culture and discipline within the project organization.

In other words, fix the project management basics, and your chances of reaching project success will increase.

Posted by Marian Haus on: December 06, 2015 08:50 AM | Permalink

Comments (25)

Page: 1 2 <prev

Please login or join to subscribe to this item
Marian: True to grounds. Joseph Juran's definition of 'Qauality' reflected more on delivering the scope within the other two constraints Time & Cost. 100% success stay myth. It's fair enough if we could release the 'acceptable' quality. No need to excite for parking lot requirements of customer.

Not sure, how techanicality is not as important as PM culture and discipline??? Can we afford to get the customer buy-in showcasing our seriousness in the form of culture,discipline,work ambiance kind of hypothetical factors??? Surely not - right? We can see that smiling customer only when his/her brainchild looks approachable/usable. Hence, it's too risky to give technicality the back seat.


@Ramesh you're right in your part. Also we know there are many ways to attain technical solutions to the stated problem.

I perceive this article in this ways and looks logical.

As per the conclusion, in fact it says that basics - I.e. the platform we primarily need or available to play, like the the culture and discipline within, and so it increases the chances of success.

One more thing I have seen are cases in which project fails though technical fulfilled without these basics. Without culture and discipline, we would face through many challenges.

@Sandilyan, OMG it seems my perception looks seemingly mistaken. I haven''t mean we don''t need discipline, rather it''s not it alone which makes a project success or otherwise. Its surely an add valueo on top of tech delivery. Since this discussion revolves around only one side of the coin, it''s my effort to draw the attention of folks to the other side of the coin holistically. We should follow our heart but to take our brains with us is my perception rather rhythmically.

Got it Ramesh, thanks

Page: 1 2 <prev

Please Login/Register to leave a comment.

ADVERTISEMENTS

"The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life."

- Muhammad Ali

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsors