Friday, December 24, 2010

Project Success Criteria

Question: The primary project success/failure criteria involve time, cost, and performance.
Discuss how these parameters may be defined as project objectives to achieve the criteria.


A project is a complex, non-routine, one-time effort limited by time, budget resources and performance specifications design to meet the customer needs.

The growth in knowledge has increased the complexity of projects because projects empower the latest advances. Nowadays, many companies focus on project management, as it focuses on achieving project objectives. It is important to apply managerial process and has its tools that give managers a good opportunity to succeed in achieving objectives.

The three parameters that could be defined to measure the successful or failure of the project are the constraints of time, cost and performance or quality. The successful of the project has been granted when they achieved those three parameters. As the project has its own limited time scheduled, limited cost and has to achieved the targeted specification, the failure may be comes from either one of the criteria or combination of the three criteria. Generally, failure of one criterion could sacrifice the others. For example; a project which delay in timely manner will increase the budget nevertheless the quality will be decreased.

Success Factors

There are many factors to the success of the project and it could be listed as below;
  • User involvement
  • Executive Management Support
  • Clear Statement of requirements
  • Proper planning
  • Realistic Expectations
  • Smaller Project Milestone
  • Competent Staff
  • Ownership
  • Clear Vision and Objectives
  • Hard-Working, Focused Staff
The difference between criteria and factors is fuzzy for many people. The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary describes a criterion as "a standard by which you judge, decide about or deal with something" while a factor is explained as "a fact or situation which influences the result of something".

Success Criteria

Many lists of success criteria have been introduced in the previous decades by various researchers. Primal success criteria have been an integrated part of project management theory given that early definitions of project management included the so called ‘Iron Triangle’ success criteria – cost, time and quality. (Atkinson, 1999, p338)

Project Objectives Related to Cost, Time and Performance/Scope

Client’s wishing to achieve their objective and they will appoint the consultant to propose the business needs and requirement. “Project Management is facilitation of the Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling of all activities that must be performed to meet project objectives”. (J.P. Lewis, Lecture note Day 1)

The planning, scheduling and controlling must meet the needs and expectation of Scope within Budget, on Time and Quality. (Safety and Sustainability) (Lecture Note day 1)

The process to meet the objective involves the internal organizational approach to manage the ongoing operations until completion of the project. The internal and external involvement includes;
  1. The project manager
Having a project manager is not going to guarantee the success of a project. He must have a number of skills to use during the project to guide the rest of the team to successfully complete all the objectives. Business minded, communication, responsiveness, process, results, operational, realism and technological skills are some of the most important skills a project manager should have to deliver success. It could be found in the fact that project manager’s results are difficult to prove and even more difficult to measure. If the project is successful, senior management will probably claim that all external factors were favorable. On the contrary, if it turns to be a failure, project manager easily becomes the scapegoat.

The client or the customer for a project has their own budget, time frame for completion of the project and scope of standard specification to comply with. As a project manager, his main responsibility is to make sure the project succeed within all these constraints. He should approach these constraints as project objectives to achieve the criteria.

For example one organization can gain profit through achieving strategic goals when a project is completed within the targeted time. The successful project also must bargain between the benefits of the organization and the satisfaction of end users to show their performance which can give a long term business through their capability and competency. However, the output must have a standard outcome which includes the proper finishing of maintainability, reliability and validity of the project.

2. The project team

Project managers are very lucky if they have the option to choose their project team. More often, their team is inherited to the project from various sectors of the organization. It is vital to have a good project team to work with, with core skills that can be evolved to core competences and capabilities for the whole organization. All members of the project team must be committed to the success of the project and the overall mission of the company. Apart from their skills and commitment, project team members should have clear communication channels to access "both the functional manager and the project manager within a matrix organization. Effective management of this dual reporting is often a critical success factor for the project" (PMBOK Guide, 2004, p215).

3. The project itself

The type of a project underlines some factors that are important to success. For example, if a project is urgent, the critical factor in that case is time. The stadium in India is expected to be fully operational due to 2010 Commonwealth Game and that is the primary target. However, the incident of the failure of the structure during construction has given the big impact to the cost to rectify within the limited time.

4. The organization

Top management support is the principal success factor, which means that no project can finish successfully unless the project manager secures true support from the senior or operational management. It is extremely difficult to work in a hostile environment where nobody understands the benefits that the project will deliver to the organization.

5. The external environment

External environment can be the political, economic, socio-culture and technological (PEST) context in which the project is executed. Factors like the weather, work accidents or the government’s favorable or unfavorable legislation can affect the project in all of its phases. Competitors should also be accounted as external factors which can challenge project success because the original project could be overshadowed by a more glamorous and successful project launched by another organization.


It is critical for a project manager to understand what the customer considers as a successful project. In order to avoid any surprises at the end of the project, there is an urgent need to identify the different perspectives of what success means before the project goes live. It is also vital to remember that success criteria are the standards by which a project will be judged, while success factors are the facts that shape the result of projects. Success criteria have changed considerably through time and moved from the classic iron triangle’s view of time, cost and quality to a broader framework which includes benefits for the organization and user satisfaction. An additional framework to capture success criteria depending on time was also described. As for success factors, they were grouped into five distinct sets and the literature views were find to contradict on the issue of how critical a project manager is to the final success of the project.

A common factor mentioned by many authors is senior management support for the project and it is recognized as one of the most important factors of all. In conclusion, early definition of success criteria can ensure an undisputed view of how the project will be judged and early detection of success factors will guarantee a safe path to deliver success.

Surely, focus on the project objectives and control the time, cost and scope will be the key to success and fail to control this parameter will cause failure of every project.

  1. Project Management-A System Approach to Planning, Scheduling and Controlling, 2010, Harold Kerzner 10th Edition, Project Management Institute.
  2. Atkinson, 1999, Project management: cost, time and quality, two best guesses and a phenomenon, its time to accept other success criteria, International Journal of Project Management Vol. 17, No. 6, pp 337-342, [Electronic]
  3. Cambridge University, The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, 2005, 2nd Edition, Cambridge University Press, UK
  4. EMPM5103-Lecture Note Day 1. OUM-MPM-SEM1
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