Most projects have a million things that can go wrong.
Because a project is by definition temporary, it is inevitable that the budget and schedule factor prominently in project success.
But it is a surprisingly common scenario that project managers think the project is going great because the variables they are concerned with are on track (usually the deadlines and budgets) while being oblivious to an unhappy client or project sponsor that is focusing on other variables (usually stakeholder satisfaction).
The project management plan should define project success. It does this by identifying what the project success factors are.
Here is an example from a project management plan:
Project Success Factors
This project will be considered a success if:
- It finishes under budget.
- It finishes ahead of schedule.
- The regulatory agency approves the project.
- The owner is satisfied.
Knowing and defining your critical success factors can be the secret to ensuring the project finishes as a success. Of course there are always obvious ones that require no explanation (like staying under budget and schedule), but I see very few projects where there are no other success factors than the primary ones. There are almost always success factors that fly under the radar, like stakeholder issues, occurrence of certain potential risks, and acceptance of certain interim deliverables.
For this reason we have prepared a checklist of potential project success factors. Next time you are preparing your project management plan and come to the section on project success factors, run down this checklist to make sure you have it all covered.
- Under budget
- Ahead of schedule
- Minimal change orders
- Project achieves award
- Stakeholder’s satisfied
- Stakeholder’s financial performance met
- Stakeholder’s timelines met
- Stakeholder’s communications sufficient
- Stakeholder’s communications on time
- Stakeholder’s approvals given
- Scope does not change
- Deliverables are accepted
- Deliverables are delivered on time
- Quality of deliverables is acceptable
- Quality standards are met
- Product meets minimum performance or specification level
- Quality control does not uncover quality problems
- End user adopts the product
- End user feedback meets a certain threshold
- Schedule changes accepted by project sponsor
- Schedule changes accepted by stakeholder(s)
- Budget changes accepted by project sponsor
- Budget changes accepted by stakeholder(s)
- Project avoided unnecessary disruption to the business
- Project avoided unwanted changes to the corporate culture
- Project team works well together
- Project team leaves the project better than they started it
- Project team is motivated
- Project team members are satisfied
- Project team achieves financial reward, bonus, etc.
- Project team member achieves award
- Vendors are under budget
- Vendors deliver on time
- Vendors achieve quality target
- Vendors maintain relationship with stakeholder(s)
- Vendors achieve repeat business
- Certain major risks do not materialize
- Certain major risks are successfully mitigated
- Certain major risks are successfully transfered to a third party (warranties, etc.)
- Certain major risks occur but are well managed
Now you have no excuse not to have a successful project!