How to measure the true success of a project

By: Karen le Roux, head of Project Management at Decision Inc.

As a Project owner you put your head on a block when driving an initiative, owning the opportunities and risks related to the outcome, and taking overall accountability that the project delivers the agreed business benefits within budget.

The successful delivery of the project does not however mean that this risk is mitigated. Only once the product or service is utilised as intended does the business consider it a success and view you as successful in realising value.

A project can be delivered successfully but not deliver the value intended due to two of the following reasons:

  • Incorrect project requirements identified at the start of the project;
  • Unsuccessful adoption

In this article, I will focus on the second case where there is a lack of adoption in the organisation.

Traditionally a project is considered successful when specific project objectives have been met. These typically relate to achieving the desired outcome, executing the project on schedule and within the agreed budget, while meeting the predefined quality requirements. The project management team has therefore delivered without requiring any additional time or budget and checked all the “boxes” in terms of documented requirements.

This might be the accepted definition of a successful project in the traditional sense for most organisations however this has evolved to become the absolute minimum measurement of a successful project. The success of a project should ultimately be measured on the adoption of the deliverables within an organisations and quantifiable return on investment.

When a project is delivered to the above, there is no measurement defined and tracked in the adoption of the deliverables. These adoption metrics should ultimately determine if a project is successful or not. The original vision or strategy that motivated the organisation to embark on the project must be achieved to justify the time and resources spent on implementing the project.

Projects regularly do not live up to their full potential. This typically happens when clients either ignore this step altogether or take on change management but with a very shallow understanding of the processes and methodologies needed to successfully manage change.  We have found that in order to ensure adoption, it is necessary to have “change management” methodologies in place with skilled resources delivering and executing on those methodologies, principles and processes. This helps to minimise possible negative outcomes and increase positive results. Change itself is a process – leading it, managing it and achieving it is also a process and one that should not be viewed and managed with a one-size fits all approach. Approaches and actions should be customised to fit your unique organisational requirements.

At Decision Inc., we now identify change management as an integral part of our approach to project delivery. We encourage all project stakeholders to invest in the understanding of change management as it will greatly influence your personal success as well as that of your project initiatives.

Change management creates a very different perspective on the Project eco-system and in this series we will unpack its elements so that stakeholders will have a greater understanding of change management and the importance of it.