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Project management: the start of the project journey
Project management: the start of the project journey

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4.2 Promoting project success

There has been a substantial amount of research into the evaluation of projects, particularly since the media have a long tradition of reporting on project failures. A number of researchers have established a set of factors which, taken together, indicate that a project has a high likelihood of success. The research is complicated by the fact that different stakeholders give different evaluations of the same project. Furthermore, such evaluations have been found to change over time (see, for example, Fortune and White, 2006).

The two main perspectives on project success follow the simple classification identified in Section 4.1:

  • Success criteria are those related to the what? question, and are a mixture of qualitative and quantitative measures.
  • Critical success factors are those related to the how? question, and are to be found in the project and its environment (a change in any factor is readily linked to project risk).

The success criteria can be identified as part of the case made for a project. Once it has started, the project manager will also have to consider those success factors that will have an influence on the project as it proceeds.

In the broadest sense, project success is about the satisfaction of all the stakeholders. In practice, the success criteria are associated with the basic characteristics of a project so that it can be more readily quantifiable. That is to say, project success is narrowed down to an assessment of whether the time, cost and quality constraints have been met.

Success criteria will differ from project to project according to an understanding of issues relating to their size, complexity and uniqueness. Hence, there is no single checklist that can be used for every project. Most research, such as Turner (1999) and Wateridge (1998), has focused upon the range of criteria from the most readily quantifiable to the broadest qualitative criteria according to the following descriptions:

  • the facility is produced to specification within budget and on time
  • the facility/project achieves its business purpose and meets
  • the project team is happy during the project and with the outcome of the project
  • users are happy during the project and with its outcome
  • the project is profitable for the contractors
  • the project satisfies the needs of stakeholders.

Fortune and White (2006) have reviewed the research into critical success factors and found a set of relationships that can address the fact that each factor can vary over time.

Table 15
Project attributes from a systems viewpointCritical success factors
Goals and objectivesClear realistic objectives
Strong business case/sound basis for project
Performance monitoringEffective monitoring/control
Planned close-down/review/acceptance of possible failure
Decision makersSupport from senior management
Competent project manager
Strong/detailed plan kept up to date
Realistic schedule
Good leadership
Correct choice/past experience of project management methods/tools
TransformationsSkilled/suitably qualified/sufficient staff
CommunicationGood communication/feedback
EnvironmentPolitical stability
Environmental influences
Learning from past experiences
Organisational culture/structure
BoundariesProject size/level of complexity/number of people involved/duration
ResourcesAdequate budget
Sufficient/well-allocated resources
Training provision
Proven/familiar technology
Good performance by suppliers/ contractors/consultants
ContinuityRisks addressed/assessed/managed
GeneralUser/client/sponsor/champion involvement
Appreciation of different viewpoints
Effective change management

The sense of uniqueness with regard to projects indicates that each of the above factors will affect projects in different ways. A business case, for example, might contain a prioritised list of critical success factors to reflect the context in which the proposed project will take place. For each critical success factor, it may be possible to identify a qualitative or quantitative measure that can be monitored during the project. Any variation beyond a given threshold for a particular critical success factor can be interpreted as placing the project at risk.