Brian Phillips' Also Supports Customer
There is a common view that "as a professional project manager, I have completed
the project to specification and this is the measure of success". If the new PMBoK
had left it there, then it would be sadly lacking. This approach to Project Management
success is about the performance of good practice (which is important), but if
it does not consider the outcome and benefits from the project, we are not managing
projects well. Ultimately, project success is determined by the results for the
One of the suggested contents of a Project Charter refers to project success
from the perspective of the "project initiator or sponsor":
"Project approval requirements (i.e., what constitutes project success,
who decides the project is successful, and who signs off the project)"
This moves more closely to my understanding of project success it's
all about what the customer considers to be project success. We once delivered
a project late and over budget, with last minute approval from the sponsor after
advising him we COULD complete on time and cost, BUT with reduced quality. He
wanted quality so we "FAILED" in the strict terms of the definition, but the customer
was very happy with the result.
Referring to the original question, from the project manager's perspective
my view is that we succeed if the customer is satisfied. But there are two different
measures our professional performance in the project and the customer's
expectations from the project.
The comparison is like being the best player in a team game, but you lose the
game. You can feel some professional vindication (I did everything right), but
if the end goal was to win, the project was unsuccessful.
@David H.: Re the London Olympics (thanks Max for the example),
there are published reports on the real success factors, with the games themselves
as Part 1 and the Legacy Asset Disposal as Part 2 with a focus on the
realization of benefits from asset sales and lease. This extract makes it clear
how Project success is judged:
"The majority of venues and facilities on the Olympic Park now have an agreed long-term use and legacy tenant"
Like beauty, success is in the eye of the beholder.
8. Brian Phillips:
Portfolio, Program, Project and Benefits Management Consultant
9. PMBoK® Guide Fifth Edition, section 18.104.22.168,
10. See London Olympics referenced briefly in the next section
11. Check out the UK Audit Office reports (It is a serious read)