The research confirms that project success is a multi-dimensional
concept. It cannot be assessed based on a single, or even two dimensional
measure. A project may provide an efficient solution to the customer's
requirements, yet be considered a failure by the performing organization
in terms of business success. Similarly, some projects seem successful
in the short-term, but may turn out to be less-successful in the
longer run, and vice versa. In some cases, a long time must pass
before the original expectations can really be met and success evaluated.
The research revealed four primary categories of project success.
- Internal Project Objectives (efficiency during the project);
- Benefit to Customer (effectiveness in the short term);
- Current Contribution (in the medium term); and
- Future Opportunity (in the long term).
The research also showed some correlation between these term-based
primary success criteria and particular types of project. To make
this assessment, available project data was classified into four
project types, namely:
Type A - Established Technology;
Type B - Mostly Established Technology;
Type C - Advanced Technology; and
Type D - Highly Advanced Technology
When viewed in this light, it was observed that the relative importance
of the different categories of success varied with technological
uncertainty, i.e. the project type. Specifically, the importance
of meeting time and budget constraints is reduced with increasing
uncertainty, while the impact the project has on the customer increases
when moving from established technology to projects of higher technology,
i.e. those of higher uncertainty.
It is suggested that the four primary categories of project success,
the four project types and, potentially, the three levels of project
management complexity, provide a valuable framework for developing
Principal Success Criteria. These success criteria should be agreed
upon by the project's stakeholders at the time of project formulation,
bearing in mind the type of project in question. Such criteria will
provide substantive and appropriate guidance in the further formulation
of the project. They will also provide a positive reference baseline
for the inevitable project management trade-off decisions required
during the course of the project process and a baseline for post-project
review. Therefore, the following should become an established project
As part of every project's front-end planning, and incorporated
into its documentation, stakeholder agreement should be reached
on the project's principal (and measurable) success criteria having
regard to its project type.
FICE, FEIC, FCSCE, FPMI
© 1996, 2002
Wideman has subsequently labeled these principal success criteria
as "Key Success Indicators" - see the PM
Glossary for a full definition.