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Some Thoughts on Measuring Project Success

I often talk with clients about what makes a project successful for them. Obviously of importance are:

  • Finishing on time
  • Staying with the budget
  • Ensuring stakeholder satisfaction
  • Ensuring a quality project

These are always at the top of the list certainly – for any project without doubt. But then we start talking about past projects and what made a particular project a success in the eyes of the organization and the internal and/or external client, I heard some of the following from clients:

  • The project went above and beyond expectations for a difficult client.
  • While over budget, the value received from the project made the additional cost worthwhile.
  • The strides made by the team in improving the outcome of a difficult project was extremely impressive.
  • The team pulled together during a difficult time to overcome lots of adversity.
  • Each stakeholder really felt like his/her needs were met on the project.
  • The project enabled the team members to learn new skills and build their knowledge.
  • The project manager was able to focus the stakeholders and develop a project plan and scope of project everyone could agree on.
  • The team was able to ensure more functionality for the project than was expected, while keeping within budget and meeting the timeline.
  • Even though the stakeholders were unhappy with the project initially, the project manager did a great job working with them to truly understand their needs and all in all, the end result was great.
  • The project manager did a great job working with an untrained project team and still coming close to meeting the timeline and budget.
  • The project team did an amazing time working under such a tight timeframe. They didn’t make the timeline desired (they came close!), but kept a positive attitude throughout the project and really handled the situation well.
  • Difficult lessons learned captured from one project really helped another difficult project that was in progress  – since lessons learned had never been shared before, this was considered a success!
  • The team really came together to manage a project when the project manager obviously wasn’t able to handle it. They didn’t fall apart or complain, they just did what had to be done.

As you can see, in some situations, success was measured by an accomplishment the team made, or by how well the project manager handled a difficult client, or the ultimate satisfaction of the client. Success was not necessarily based on meeting a budget or a timeline. In some situations, the project was over budget and/or over the timeline desired – but something occurred that made the project a success in the eyes of the client.

Your thoughts? What makes a project successful in your eyes – above and beyond meeting the budget and timeline requirement? Share your thoughts, ideas and stories in the Comments field below. Thanks!