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3 Ways to Determine Project Success

Jon Gilbertson  |  November 20, 2015

When defining new projects, it’s common to gather stakeholders, brainstorm business requirements, and document every need you hope to address.

But how will you know if you’ve hit your mark? What will be used to determine whether the project is actually a success? Here’s the key: think beyond traditional business requirements. Identify and document how you will measure the success of the project.

In other words, consider your project success criteria.

Wait … What’s Success Criteria?

Success criteria are the standards by which the project will be judged. They evaluate whether the project is successful in the eyes of your stakeholders, and they’re just as important as business requirements.

Using project management processes, we can easily measure budget, timeline and completion of work against your business requirements. But what isn’t accounted for, and has the potential to derail a project at a later stage, are subjective assessments. For example, even though your stakeholders may have agreed on business requirements, they may interpret them differently. Or they may disagree over their actual value.

3 Areas of Success

When you define, reach consensus and document what’s most important to the project’s success, you minimize the risk of last-minute changes and revisiting prior decisions – which can avoid a lot of extra time and expense. Success criteria reduce subjectivity and establish a quantifiable way to measure progress.

In fact, they can be broken down into three areas:

1. Deliverable Success

Factors may include the number of business requirements met and the quality of the final solution.

Example: The project must meet 93% of the stated business requirements with fewer than 5 unresolved issues at the point of launch.

2. Process Success

This includes the way the project is managed, including timeline, budget, communication, collaboration, change controls and adherence to established project management processes.

Example: The project must be completed by February 28, 2016, and not exceed 110% of budget. Weekly iteration meetings will be used to keep all team members updated on progress.

3. Stakeholder Success

Last but not least, this includes subjective elements like collaboration between team members, solution performance and the ability to solve stated business problems.

Example: The solution should result in a 10% increase in qualified leads coming in through our web site within 90 days of launch.

More Tips for Your Success Criteria

When establishing your success criteria, they should be:

  • Aligned with stated business requirements
  • Prioritized
  • Attainable
  • Specific and easy to measure
  • Agreed upon by all stakeholders
  • Adjusted as your project scope or requirements change
  • Documented as part of the statement of work, ideally including:
    • Name of success criteria
    • Details on how they’ll be measured
    • How frequently they’ll be measured
    • Who will be responsible for measuring them

So what’s the moral of this story? When written and used properly, success criteria can keep your project on track and provide a rallying point for all team members involved in the project. Because if you can deliver a project that exceeds goals and that your people are proud of? Now that’s what success is all about.

Posted in: Business Requirements, Project Management, Success Criteria

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