Project Management

What is project success?

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by Christian Bisson, PMP


Project success is typically defined as being completed within budget, schedule, and scope, and that has been imprinted so much in project managers’ mind that it blinds them to other important aspects that defines a project’s success.

Client Satisfaction

This aspect of project success seem to be more and more popular, and with reason, if clients are not happy, they will shutdown the projects, or proceed with another organization. If your project is on budget, delivered on time, and does exactly what it should be doing, but the client is so unhappy that they ceases to work with the organization, can you consider the project a success?

For example, if you focus so much on being on budget/schedule/scope, that you decline everything the client asks for without a second thought, chances are the client will not want to work with you long term. On the opposite side, giving everything the client wants and ending up late or 200% above budget is not an acceptable alternative. You or the team will often need to be creative to find ways to balance things out, and properly managing the client’s expectations is also key top this.

Project value

Another very important aspect of project success is the value it’s adding. A project that is doing what was planned, but ends up being useless, is not a success.

For example, if you create a great website, the client loves the design, the development phase had only few minor issues that were fixed rapidly so the team is happy, the project is delivered on time, on budget, and does what it’s supposed to do, however, users that go on the website are completely incapable of finding the information they need, and they end up always calling customer service instead, then is that really a success?

It’s important to identify right from the start what metrics will be used to calculate the project’s success, and tie those metrics to features of the website as you go to make sure a feature is not useless or solves an issue that has nothing to do with the project’s objectives..

Organization Satisfaction

The organization that has provided the services needed to make the project happen is also a key aspect to look at to define the project success, and unfortunately often due to lack of transparency from management, can be a challenge.

For example, there are projects that the organization’s management know they will lose money on, but for them it is considered a long-term investment to bring more business. If that’s not communicated, the project manager will see the project as a failure because it’s over budget.

It’s important to have visibility on the organization’s goals and expectations around the project in question.



What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you use other aspects to define project success?

Posted by Christian Bisson on: September 11, 2018 08:27 PM | Permalink

Comments (16)

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Great article and happened on some projects!!! If you work with a good quality, on time and on budget, the client will be unhappy on some reasons as some cases!!! This is form a mind client. He need something from his mind.

As my knowledge, the reasons of unsatisfied client of project are the scope of project may not defined well, not all requirements weren't collected as well, not all stakeholder were identified or not all resolved issues, some statement of works weren't identified in project charter, because, it will make conduct benefit analysis to verfy the project deliverable is meeting with business value...etc.

If the client need something new ideas, the change request will be generated then it will be added in addendum!!

Good points. Thank you, Christian. An additional value-add is ensuring consistent and complete artifacts that supply a narrative of the project for future usability.

I think in fact many organizations and PMs have factored business/client satisfaction and business value into success measurements for many years. I think the many suggestions on this forum that we only look at OTOBOS are in fact incorrect.

Great article Christian! I would definitely have to foot stomp value-added to the organization as an indicator of success. Enhancing value to the organization and our customers is what projects are all about. Thanks!

Great article, Christian! Considering my latest and still incipient learning on Agile, I would say value added is the key here. And it goes back to a good business case and an appropriate scope. And, of course, lots of questioning, to see whether the project stands on its own.

Good coverage on three points! I always feel customer satisfaction is most important. But the remaining two points also has almost same value. Thanks for sharing!

Good topic. The ROI (Return on Investment) also shows relative level of project success.

I would say the barometer of success is always customer satisfaction.

Good post on indicators of Project success. Checking against benchmarked standards and parameters are key to ensure Project success is uniformly measured and categorised.

Project success can be unequivocally stated to be a value packet to the organization and learning for the project team. These two are key according to my thoughts.

Very interesting, thanks for sharing

Great point of view! Probably it is a time to add a fourth constraint to the classic triangle and this constraint I call 'benefits'. At least it could help us to think about this aspect on the same level as we think about cost, scope and time.

Hi Christian,
Thanks for sharing.
Managing the interests and expectations of individual stakeholder group well will build on the project success.

Nice article. Success measures should include quality and customer satisfaction. I think defining minimum acceptance criteria will help with defining customer expectation.

Excellent Points. What success looks like should be defined up front so the enter team knows the end goal of the project! Thanks for sharing...

great article !!! my opinion is that a sucessful project is the one that managed to accomplish the business objectives, those must include both customers and the organizational ones. to be bluntly honest all project slips a little (or a great deal) the project baseline..that is why integrated change management is more important. what is the point to complete a project on time, whithin the scope if the business objectives were not accomplished?

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