Refocusing Projects onto Business Value, Part 4: Redefining 'Success'

Refocusing Projects onto Business Value, Part 4: Redefining 'Success'

Let’s start at with the absolute basic question — why do we do projects?

"We did well," an executive once said to me, "we came in only 70 percent over budget!"

But did he do better than another Sponsor who drove his project to come in on time and budget by reducing the scope until his project's potential realizable value had almost disappeared?

Executives are often bemused when I ask them why their projects exist, what their 'standard' for success is, and which measures of success they actually measure. They don't know the answers, because they've never even thought of the questions.

Let's start at the beginning with the absolute basic question — why do we do projects?

We do projects to move from where we are to a new state that we believe will deliver greater value than if we did nothing.

This 'value' may be financial, greater flexibility, increased compliance, reduced errors, or whatever.

This value, however, is not a 'hoped for' aftermath of the project, but the whole reason for the project.

"Value delivery" is what projects are all about.

The most common measure of success is "the successful delivery of the project on time, on budget, to specification". But is that right? Does this measure actually deliver the value? Value delivery management research shows that the answer is "No". There are three valid measures of success — project, governance and business — and their all interrelated and equally valid.

Project success can include the successful implementation of a solution, governance success can include realization of the business outcomes, and business success can include a smooth transition and staff satisfaction with the outcomes.

All of these measures must be known, acknowledged, and focused on. Only achievement of all three sets of success measures constitutes full "success" and value.

Conventional approaches to project delivery don't identify these three sets of measures, so value delivery management requires organizations to implement or upgrade their 'Project Success Definition and Measurement' processes in such a way as to identify, plan, and deliver all three sets of success measures.

Then, every dimension of your project should be refocused onto delivering this value.

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Click here for the third article in this the series "Refocusing Projects onto Business Value, Part 3: Defining Your Business Outcomes".

Click here for the first article in this the series "Refocusing Projects onto Business Value, Part I: The Need".

Jed Simms is CIO magazine's weekly project management columnist. Simms, founder of projects and benefits delivery research firm Capability Management, is also the developer of specialized project management and project governance Web site


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