Since the ultimate objective of project management is to be "successful",
we should first deal with the issue of "success". What really constitutes
"project success"? From a project process perspective, the classic
response is being "On time, within budget and meeting requirements."
However, from a product perspective, a successful project is clearly one in which
the "customer" ends up satisfied.
The former criteria have exercised project managers for decades,
but once a particular project is completed, the results in terms
of the parameters described are merely history. In contrast, the
success of the product will continue to be an issue for its remaining
useful product life. Clearly, "project product success"
eventually transcends "project process success".
Indeed, there have been many cases of failure to meet process success, notably
in the information technology field, yet the product has proved to be very successful.
Similarly, but regretfully, vice versa. Optimum success is obtained when both
success dimensions are achieved simultaneously.
But product success is not so readily identified. In 1988 Pinto
and Slevin concluded from their research work that "Project
success is a complex and often illusory construct, but nonetheless,
it is of crucial importance to effective project implementation,"
and, "project success is suggested to have two major components:
issues dealing with the project itself and issues dealing with the
client." In addition, Pinto and Slevin stressed "... the
necessity of developing an adequate program in terms of knowing
when to determine project success" (emphasis
In a 1997 study, Shenhar, Dvir and Levy developed a universal multidimensional
framework for the assessment of project success.
In this view, project success is seen as a strategic management concept where
project efforts must be aligned with the strategic long-term goals of the same
organization that the product of the project is intended to serve. The intent
is to establish appropriate expectations of both the receiving management and
the project team prior to project initiation. These expectations then provide
a baseline for both the decision to launch project execution and the inevitable
trade-off decisions that will be required of the project's management during
this period. Surprisingly, a documented baseline of measurable success criteria,
or "Key Success Indicators" (KSIs) is frequently missing from the planning
of most projects.
The Shenhar, Dvir and Levy study revealed four primary categories as seen at
- Project Efficiency - Internal Project Objectives such as meeting time
and budget goals.
- Impact on the Customer - Immediate and long-term benefit to the customer
- Direct and Business Success - Direct contribution to the organization
(usually not observable until the medium term), and
- Preparing the Future - Future opportunity (e.g. competitiveness or
technical advantage typically expected in the long term. )
Each of these four categories is translated into measurable criteria as shown
in Table 1.
Measurable Key Success Indicators
- Meeting schedule
- Completing within budget
- Other resource constraints met
Impact of the
- Meeting functional performance
- Meeting technical specifications & standards
- Favorable impact on customer, customer's gain
- Fulfilling customer's needs
- Solving customer's problem
- Customer is using product
- Customer expresses satisfaction
Business and Direct Success
- Immediate business/commercial recognition
- Immediate revenue & profits enhanced
- Larger market share generated
Preparing for the Future
- Will create new opportunities for the future
- Will position customer competitively
- Will create new market
- Will assist in developing new technology
- Will add/has added capabilities & competencies
Table 1: Primary Success Categories and Measurable Success Indicators
It will be noted from these primary categories that time since project completion
is a factor in the assessments and it is not difficult to infer that the perception
of project success may change with time. If the principal focus of a project
is to create future opportunity (fourth category), then such a project is unlikely
to be viewed as a success until those opportunities actually come to fruition.
This relationship is demonstrated in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Project Success Categories Vary with Time
Much of the project management literature refers to "Critical Success
Factors" or "CSFs". However, such factors should be distinguished
from the success indicator measures listed above, because they are management
environment variables and not outcomes. CSFs may be defined as follows:
"Those managerial factors, listed in order of importance, that
when present in the project's environment are most conducive to the achievement
of a successful project."
Examples include: Project objectives aligned with corporate mission; top management
support; a culture of open communication"
and so on.
Research has shown that attention to these factors will improve the probability
of project success, and reduce the chances of failure, but they do not drive
the direction and decision-making on the project.
Pinto, Jeffrey K., and Dennis P. Slevin, Project Success: Definitions and Measurement
Techniques, Project Management Journal, vol. xix, No.1, Project Management Institute,
Upper Darby, PA, 1988, pp. 70-71.
3. A.J. Shenhar, D. Dvir, and O. Levy: "Mapping the Dimensions
of Project Success." Project Management Journal. Vol.28, No.2, pp.5-13,
4. Wideman Comparative Glossary of Common Project
Management Terms v.3.0 at http://www.maxwideman.com