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The Self Evident Truths of Project Management: Truth #6 - ‘Success’ has three dimensions”

The Self Evident Truths of Project Management: Truth #6 - ‘Success’ has three dimensions”

To be truly successful, a projects must meet three measures of success. Unfortunately, the number of projects that meet all three measures of success is fewer than 5%.

The project was completed on time and the solution worked. The project team had worked long, long hours in the last few weeks to get the project over the line on time. Given no contingency, the project had only just over spent its budget.

The project team was pleased with its ‘success’.

The governance team was at best bemused.

They hadn’t really defined what ‘success’ would look like from their perspective but they knew it didn’t look like this. As the project had been ‘mandatory’ no one had bothered to define what ‘success’ looked like in governance terms. They should have been able to measure the achievement of the desired business outcomes, associated benefits and value; but they hadn’t been defined. They just knew that ‘on time, slightly over budget’ did not ‘hack it’ as a measurement of success.

The business was livid.

The solution increased the workload; the exceptions had not been catered for and were all now dealt with manually. The staff’s jobs were now more pressured and no career paths for them had been thought through. The expected savings were impossible to achieve but no one would believe the business’ “excuses”.

The business had expected both the routine and exceptions workloads to be automated (the latter were de-scoped when funds got tight), that the implementation process would ensure their staff were fully equipped to meet the demands; but they were only trained in the use of the new system. The new job roles defined bore no resemblance to the actual roles having to be performed. And the only response from the project team was “Hey, we’re out of here!” as they bailed out to another project elsewhere.

True project success is when:

  • the project team delivers a working solution and outcomes to the quality required that enables the business to perform its functions efficiently and effectively


  • the governance team delivers the resultant business outcomes, benefits and value based on the work the project team delivered


  • the business can efficiently and effectively implement the outcomes and operate the new end state on an ongoing basis, realizing all of the projected benefits.

Unfortunately, the number of projects that meet all three measures of success is less than 5%. That’s why we developed ‘Value Delivery Management™’ to increase this figure significantly.

© Jed Simms, Australia 2009.


Further support and useful tools to help you manage your investments, projects and portfolio are available from valuedeliverymanagement.com.

For the previous article in this series visit The Self Evident Truths of Project Management: Truth #5 - “The Value Equation changes the focus of projects”.

For the first article in this series visit The Self Evident Truths of Project Management: Truth #1 - We do projects to realise the Associated benefits.

For other series of project management articles by Jed Simms visit How do you know if your PMO is successful and "PMO: What’s in a name?".

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

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