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The Definitive Guide to Project Success Criteria

What makes a project successful? At her Girl’s Guide to Project Management blog, Elizabeth Harrin confronts this question head on. In fact, when it comes to project success criteria, she answers every what, how, and why question you could ever have. When you’re done here, the only thing you’ll wonder is how failure was ever an option at all.

Ruling Out Failure

By pooling her informational resources, Harrin comes to the definition that “Project success criteria are the standards by which the project will be judged at the end [of the project]to decide whether or not it has been successful in the eyes of the stakeholders.” Okay, you might think, it’s clear that a project should be successful in the eyes of stakeholders, but why should I care a lick about criteria? Harrin points out that defining success criteria is one way to avoid unnecessary accusations of project failure.

Successful organisations take the guesswork out of this process: they define what success looks like, so they know when they have achieved it. If you want project success, you have to define what success looks like for your project. Perhaps budget is the most important thing to your stakeholders, and quality is taking a back seat on the project. Perhaps customer satisfaction is essential, and you don’t care how many overtime hours the team has to work to get that end result.

Two Rock Solid Criteria

Harrin goes further to define two specific types of success criteria. The first is related to management of the project. That’s certainly an important aspect from an internal perspective. But it’s also essential to measure success in terms of delivering value to stakeholders. A project charter or a plan initiation document will ensure that all criteria are fixed in writing. This document rules out any ambiguity. That is, although you’re being held to a solid standard, you also can’t get flack for failing to deliver on that which was never promised in the first place!

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About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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