The Definition of Project Success

Everyone wants to be successful at their jobs, and project managers are no different. But what constitutes project success? How do we determine whether a project is succeeding or not?

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There are both objective measures of project success (e.g., the delivery of the project scope on time and budget) and subjective measures of project success (e.g., whether the customer was ultimately satisfied with the execution of the project).

Depending on the industry you’re working in, your corporate culture, the business and technical cases for the project, who your stakeholders are, and other diverse factors, these measures of project success are sometimes difficult to fully define.

Further, some success measures and criteria are more important than others. For example, delivering on time might be more important to your customer than coming in under budget.

Unless you take the time to predetermine what success actual entails for you and your project… well, you will spend much of your time “project guessing” instead of project managing. And this is ultimately a recipe for project failure.

When difficult decisions arise (and they will) your job will be much easier, logical, and defensible if you know exactly what “done” looks like ahead of time. One of your first jobs as Project Manager is to clearly define and document both the objective and subjective end goals of the project. Failing to do this means failing to know where to start planning the project and, in the future, failing to understand how to make good, logical decisions for you and your team.

Failing to define and document project success ultimately means project failure.

Bottom Line:

You must pre-determine what “success” is before starting any project.