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Definition of Project Success

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What is your definition of success?  Project Management Institute (PMI) would tell you on-time, on-budget, and on-target also known as the Triple Constraints and the Iron Triangle.  However, we have seen many projects that have met the Triple Constraints and did not return value to the organization or the users and executive sponsor were unsatisfied.   For the last 20 years each project in the CHAOS database had a single rating system. Successful projects were considered on-time, on-budget and on-target with some reasonable flexibility. Challenged projects were considered late, over budget or did not meet the target. Failed projects were canceled or not adopted by the users.  All projects were adjudicated by a Standish Advisor with our set of special rules.

We have spent the last six months coding our CHAOS database with the following attributes: on-time, on-budget, on-target (% requirements) and satisfied (very high to very low).  We already coded the database with value (very high to very low) and on strategic corporate goal (precise to distant).   We then issued a group of Dezider surveys.  In our surveys we asked SURF (Standish User Research Forum) members what is their definition of success.  We also had a open survey on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.  We did consider the open surveys, but for some technical reasons we did not include them in our analysis.

We only had one question on this survey and we asked SURF members what is your definition of success.  We had six distinct choices and all of the above.  The choices were on-budget, on-time, on-target (requirements), on-goal (organizational strategy), valuable, satisfied, and of course all the above.   We had 309 respondents to our Dezider Surveys on the definition of success. Fifteen percent (15%) of the respondents agreed with PMI by picking the first 3 choices. One-third of the respondents selected all of the above. Valuable came in as the top choice with 52% of the respondents casting it as one of their up to four votes. Other results show 32% said on-budget, on-time 30%, on-target 26%, on-goal 29%, and satisfied 41%.

Making inquiries into the CHAOS database we find that if you select all six attributes only 1.2% of projects meet that criterion. Therefore the third of respondents that chose all of the above would be disappointed 99% of the time. However if you selected a single attribute, like on-budget you would be successful 42% of the time.  The Standish Group believes that organizations should forget the triple constraints and focus on the value of their project portfolio, not individual projects. In this regard we have created ValueCHECK Optimization and Management Service. The ValueCHECK Optimization and Management Service use our current products of:  ValueCHECK Project Environmental Assessments, individual project assessments, OptiMix, and resolved project assessments. This is a complete service for organizations to outsource their project portfolio optimization and management to us on a continuous basis. This service will reduce overall project costs, decrease management frustrations, increase innovation, and increase the value of the organization’s portfolio as much as 50%.