What is a successful project?

This question may seem meaningless, thoughtless and without any interest, as the answer seems obvious. Experience proves that the criteria of a successful project is not always shared, rarely defined and often differs for each participant of the project.

The first project manager might say “It’s 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 highlights the quality of the steering and 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, however it covers a large variation of classic responses.

If we analyse them 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 obvious, but have you never seen a project in your professional life that is useless? An IT system put in place, abandoned only months later? An up-to-date software package that brings no added value and ends up being forgotten?

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

Project recognition is the adoption of the tool by the users. The human dimension must be considered as an element determining the success.

The human factor is but a grain of sand, capable of bringing even the most well-oiled machines to a halt. Not giving it consideration is a sizable risk to a project. Everyone agrees, but how many follow their own advice?

Roland Cauvin

Roland Cauvin

Directeur de projets AMOA SIRH


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