There are a lot of components that define the success of a project. Most would use budget and timeline to define the success or failure of a project. However, if the project is completed on time and under budget, but the product of the project isn’t optimal, that can hardly be called a success. So, we think it’s important for our clients and prospective clients to understand how we define a successful project.
Complete or Complete Success?
Everyone defines a successful project differently. Beyond that, successful project management doesn’t always necessarily mean project success. An author at the International Project Leadership Academy classified common definitions into five tiers:
- Tier 1 – The project was a success if it delivers all or most of what it said it would (the scope), regardless of schedule or budget performance.
- Tier 2 – The project was a success if it delivers what it said it would, on schedule and/or within the agreed budget.
- Tier 3 – The project was a success if it delivers what it said it would, on schedule, within the agreed budget and to the expected quality standards.
- Tier 4 – The project was a success if it delivers on all agreed project objectives, be they scope, schedule, budget, quality or outcomes based (i.e. goals to be achieved or strategic positions to be attained).
- Tier 5 – The project was a success if the product produced by the project creates significant net value for the organization after the project is completed.
Communication is Key
It’s a lot right? Because there are so many different definitions of success, it’s important to have an open dialogue with clients about what the success of every project looks like. When you’re on the same page from start to finish, expectations can be communicated and met at every step. I know what you’re thinking, Shouldn’t this all be mapped out in the initial contract or scope of work? Well yes, but there aren’t too many projects that go exactly to plan and sometimes that’s for the best. And since we know to expect it, we can communicate it.
Our Client Relationships Are Never Complete
Not only are there many different definitions of success, there are different perspectives. A project can be deemed a complete success, but then a few months down the road things start to look quite different. Let’s assume we’re talking about custom software to fix a pain point. The software development project might stay on budget, get done ahead of the deadline and do exactly what it was designed to do. However, after some time, it becomes apparent that no one is using the software, they don’t know how, they don’t have the time to learn the new process and keep up with business, etc.. Whatever the reason, at the end of the day, that’s not a successful project.
All of this is to say, we actually don’t define what a successful project looks like. Instead, we work with clients to flesh out what their definition of a given project is. After all, it’s theirs -their software, their investment, their solution. Let’s talk about what this all means to you and your organization.