What is a successful project?

This question might look rhetorical, as the answer seems so obvious, however experience proves that the criteria of a successful project is not always a shared view, is rarely defined and often differs for each project participant.

The first project manager might respond A successful project is a project that responds to the specification note and therefore the listed requirements whether technical, security related or functional”. They would likely insist on the “brilliantly met, technical challenges”. In short, delivering what was ordered is a criterion of success.

The second project manager would be, without a doubt, more sensitive to the budget and timeline. This aspect of the project is equally as important, even essential to qualify a project as a success.

The assistant project manager would highlight the quality of the steering and the methods used for implementation. Keeping control of the project throughout its duration is also an undisputed criterion of success.  

These different points of view reflect the majority of responses that we can obtain regarding any project. Of course, this list is not comprehensive, it does however cover a large variation of classic responses.

If we analyse each idea one by one, they are all very relevant. They are even all necessary in the success of a project, but are they sufficient? Responding methodically to a specification note? respecting the budget and deadline? is this enough to confirm a project’s success? I don’t think so.

With all these necessary elements, we are missing (in my opinion) one essential component: User vision. The best project, with excellent technical execution and a perfectly completed specification note has no sense if the project delivered isn’t used.

This may seem like a clear answer, but have you never seen a project in your professional life that is useless? An IT system that had been put in place, only to be abandoned only months later? An up-to-date software package that brought no added value and ended up being forgotten?

A project is a large investment for any company looking to make a significant profit. Its success can therefore not solely be measured by the technical, methodological or contractual elements, it is in its utilisation that the success is measured.

Project recognition is the adoption of the tool by the users. It is for this reason that the human dimension must be considered as an element in determining the success.

The human factor is but a grain of sand, capable of bringing even the most well-oiled machines to a halt. By not taking it into consideration, you are posing a sizable risk to the success of your project. Most people tend to agree, but how many are willing to follow their own advice?

Roland Cauvin

Roland Cauvin

Directeur de projets AMOA SIRH


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