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Topics: Agile, Benefits Realization, Cost Management
When is a project a success ?
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I have delivered the scope, deadlines within budget. I have documented the lessons learned and am ready for the next project ? Wait a second.. is my project a success ? What are the criteria that make a project a success? Is it only the iron triangle ?
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Complete the project before the scheduled time
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1 reply by Priya Patra
Oct 25, 2019 12:40 AM
Priya Patra
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Thanks Krish for your response.
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Priya -

That barely describes project delivery success as even that needs to consider quality and stakeholder satisfaction.

"Real" success needs to tie to the realization of business value which might only be evaluated months or years afterwards.

The Sydney Opera House is the standard example I use in classes when I speak of a project which vastly missed the mark based on evaluation against the Triple Constraint but is still considered a success based on the sustainable impact it has created.

Kiron
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1 reply by Priya Patra
Oct 25, 2019 12:28 AM
Priya Patra
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Thanks Kiron for your response. The Sydney opera house is an excellent example why iron triangle may not be the measure of success. Agile introduces the value triangle, do you think that is well suited to measure the success of a project ?
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The process success criteria must be defined before the project start. If you are in this point of the project life cicle and you have to ask this question then you are lost (hehehe).
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1 reply by Priya Patra
Oct 25, 2019 12:29 AM
Priya Patra
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:) Thanks Sergio for your inputs.
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The project success factors should be agreed upon at the beginning of the project and documented in the project charter between the Sponsor and the PM. It should be the Sponsor (ideally) identifying the project as a success or not. Of course he/she can take into account quality, stakeholders' satisfaction, etc.

Triple constraints form the baseline to measure project performance, so that project can achieve agreed success factors. Triple constraints can be a success factor themselves.

If in the course of the project delivery any of the triple constraints change, lets say loss of 2 Mio occur, or why not even budget + 2 Mio due to a large change request, there can be a decision to continue with the project and the new baseline has to be approved by the sponsor and/or steering committee. The new baseline becomes the one project performance is measured against.
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Sergio took the words right from me! Success factors/criteria should be defined at the start of the project. Something to measure against to determine if the delivery meets the pre-defined success criteria.

And like Kiron stated as well, that should tie back to the intent of the project, which would have a business justification.

Some organizations use OKR's (or benefits realization maps) to help ensure projects provide their intended value.
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When the project achieves all deliverables and products within planned time, cost and budget and at the expected quality. Assuming that the stakeholders' needs are reflected in plans.
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I read something interesting, a couple of weeks ago, that made a lot of sense to me. The iron triangle/triple constraint is not a measure of success at the end of a project; it is a measure of what is valued at the beginning.

I am of two minds on the topic of project success.

1) Was the product or service delivered without critical defects or gaps in scope, and was it accepted by the customer? Early in my career, I worked for a company that considered it a success when a project was finished.

2) As part of what was delivered, was there a plan that included post go-live metrics for measuring the expected value/ROI, milestones for when to realize value, and an owner? I can't think of a project I've worked on that realized 100% of the expected value the day we went live. It doesn't make sense to hold a project, or project manager, accountable for what happens months to years after a project goes live, but accountability demands that the project manager should make sure a plan is in place in order to say the product of a project is ready to hand off to the business. NOTE: this may not apply to every type of project, but it does seem to fit most of the IT and business projects I've worked on in my career.
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1 reply by Aaron Porter
Oct 25, 2019 10:47 AM
Aaron Porter
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Steve Ratkaj's Navy analogy complements what I was trying to say. You can build the ship to spec with no flaws and say the project was a success. The success of the ship is going to depend on several factors, some of which are the competence of the crew and the competence and number of enemies they face. It may be a year before anyone realizes they needed a battleship instead of a destroyer.

BAs and PMs have some accountability for what is delivered, but who decided it was a good idea in the first place? Does the PM define the business risks associated with the project? Is the PM responsible for plans to address market forces over the useful life of what was delivered? Does the PM get recognized and rewarded for business successes that aren't realized until 6 months after a project is complete?

Time to switch metaphors. Do you hold Craftsman responsible for whether or not you can drive a nail? If you can drive a nail, and you get paid for building something, does Craftsman deserve any of that money?
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Priya: The world is more dynamic every day. The majority of PM disagree with me, and I am more aligned with Kiron. I will give you a few examples: A really big production facility was built on time, budget, quality. But it was closed a few years after being built. Payback had not been achieved. At the other side of the world, a smaller facility was built with all the indicators in red, but several years later is producing and earning money. So: Indicators are not the best way to measure a project's success. Keeping this as your measure is old fashioned. Your first project success measure is stakeholders' satisfaction. The second measure: time will tell.
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1 reply by Priya Patra
Oct 25, 2019 12:38 AM
Priya Patra
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Hi Jorge, Thank you for your response, I think here too we are speaking about output vs outcome. Please correct me if I am wrong
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It depends on whether the project success is measured by its output or its outcome. You can deliver a product or service on time and on budget but if it is misused or, worse, not used at all then you did not get the desired outcome. As project managers, we are responsible for the ouput. The debate rages on as to whether we should also be responsible for the outcome.
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1 reply by Priya Patra
Oct 25, 2019 12:23 AM
Priya Patra
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Excellent.. Output vs Outcome. As you rightly said, we are more focused on output. How can we our project criteria defined to measure outcome ?
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If before the start of the project you asked the client or stakeholders what success means to them / how do they define success, I would say your project is a success if you accomplished what they told you success is to them.
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1 reply by Priya Patra
Oct 25, 2019 12:34 AM
Priya Patra
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Awesome Chinyere. We do a visioning exercise with our stakeholders to find the success criteria. Would love to know what other ways can we leveraged to uncover the success criteria.
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