In a previous BroadPoint blog post, we defined project success as “…the business goals are achieved, the project costs are within budget and the “go live” dates are met.”  But steering the many moving parts of a project implementation to achieve those outcomes is a tremendous challenge. A successful project isn’t delivered without hard work and a repeatable project methodology.

In addition to that clear and repeatable project methodology, we have found there are 5 Key Factors which must be developed and actively managed to ensure project success:

1.      Set and Manage Realistic Expectations

The process of evaluating requirements and implementing a project is demanding.  A moderate number of problems is normal and can be expected during the course of a project, but the project team should be realistic in setting the project scope, budget and schedule.

Establish Common Goals Among the Team

It may be obvious, but the first and most important step to managing expectations is to establish a common understanding of the solution that is to be delivered. Normally this understanding is reached with the project team by agreeing to the project business requirements and goals. Having the project team approve the project requirements and goals signifies that they understand what is to be delivered and are in agreement with it.

Define a Realistic Budget and Schedule

It is during this time that you set realistic expectations with the project team regarding the project scope, budget and schedule. Once you have a common understanding and set realistic expectations regarding the project’s scope, budget and schedule, you then need to communicate proactively regarding the status, issues and risks associated with the project as well as re-affirm the expectations throughout the duration of the project. This task can be completed in several ways, including:

  • Status reports
  • Status meetings
  • Informal communication in emails and meetings

In the end, the last step is the most difficult:  perform against the expectations and complete the project.

2.      Maintain Management Commitment

More than ever, project success is directly tied to effective involvement of business executives. The number one reason for project failures, according to Gartner Group, The Project Management Institute and many other observers of project management performance, is due to issues surrounding executive commitment and sponsorship. 

Participate in Executive Level Discourse

To ensure project success, it is critical that management is given regular status reports about the progress being made and the due dates committed to. Project managers must recognize that projects, and project management, are now part of executive level discourse. Good project managers will make certain the strategic value of their project is part of this executive level discourse. As long as management participates in the decision-making process and they are kept up to date on the progress of the project, they will usually support it.

With the path clearly defined, executives and team members understand where the project is headed and the hurdles they may encounter.  While these recommendations may sound self-evident, many organizations fall into the trap of not spending the time upfront to document and communicate the expected challenges and outcomes of the project.  Completing these steps before proceeding always improves the odds of project success.

In part 2 of this blog entry, we will look at the team management practices that will build project success.