Project Management Critical Success Factors
Critical Success Factor
- Superior Project Management is the use of the right processes by the right people.
- Highly successful companies work “smarter”, that is, they do things, which are efficient and effective.
- Financial Management and Schedule Managementare the two keys to a successful project.
- Success often comes in giving everyone information so they may do their job.
- Great people come from everywhere; those who are trained to succeed perform consistently well.
- Follow-up is a key to success.
- Simplicity means speed.
- Measurement is not an opinion. It seeks facts and verifies results.
Critical Success Factors for Projects
- Organizational culture supports project management
- Have a Formal Process to Define Vision
- Business Need Linked to Vision
- Business Need Linked to Vision
- Match Changes to Vision
Common Threads for Project Failure
1. Management's Seven Deadly Sins:
2. Mistaking half-baked ideas for viable projects
3. Dictating unrealistic project deadlines
4. Assigning under skilled project managers to high-complexity projects
5. Not ensuring solid business sponsorship
6. Failing to break projects into manageable 'chunks'
7. Failing to institute a robust project process architecture
8. Not establishing a comprehensive project portfolio to track progress of ongoing projects"
Vision For Success
Superior Project Management is the use of the right processes by the right people. Study after study concludes this. Highly successful companies work “smarter”, that is, they do things, which are efficient and effective. To start, just by improving current processes gives every firm better result. Furthermore, adopting best practices dramatically improves results faster.
Financial Management and Schedule Management are the two keys to a successful project. Most problem projects result from poor financial management or weak scheduling. Those companies that focus on these two areas consistently make higher than average profits and enjoy superior client satisfaction.
You cannot over-communicate in construction. Success often comes in giving everyone information so they may do their job. The project manager is a hub who disperses information to suppliers, clients, subcontractors, governmental authorities and other stakeholders.
Great people come from everywhere.There is no formula. People who like what they do certainly are good at what they do. Additionally, people who believe that their company is a fair and interesting place perform conscientiously. Lastly, those who are trained to succeed perform consistently well.
Follow-up is a key to success. Loose ends end up in someone else’s lap such as the client's. Tying up the final pieces gives the project finality and closure to all involved. Persons who appreciate the small details of project management receive high marks from all stakeholders including clients.
Simplicity means speed. This covers all areas of construction. Speed is one of the key demands of a project. Two simple processes beat an elegant one every time.
Measurement is not an opinion. It seeks facts and verifies results. Good measurement will be unbiased giving executives insight into what is happening. Smart contractors measure events—or in other words - both results (after) and behaviors (before).
Critical Success Factors for all Projects
Factors critical to the success of any project.
6. Match Changes to Vision
5. Define crisp deliverables
4. Business Need Linked to Vision
3. Have a Formal Process to Define Vision
2. Organizational culture supports project management
Common Threads for Project Failure
- A 12-year study, published by The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia, in 1999 summarized a major project cancellation and said "…the overriding reason for abandonment was organizational behavioral/political issues.
- CIO magazine in an article titled When Bad Things Happen to Good Projects, reported
Management's Seven Deadly Sins:
1. Mistaking half-baked ideas for viable projects
2. Dictating unrealistic project deadlines
3. Assigning under skilled project managers to high-complexity projects
4. Not ensuring solid business sponsorship
5. Failing to break projects into manageable 'chunks'
6. Failing to institute a robust project process architecture
7. Not establishing a comprehensive project portfolio to track progress of ongoing projects"
- Dr. Paul Dorsey, writing in the Interalia Forum in his article called Top 10 Reasons Why Systems Projects Fail, says "There do seem to be three factors that all successful projects have in common. Each of these factors is key to any project's success. Each project can be viewed as a tripod. All three legs must be in place for the tripod to stand sturdily. In a systems project, these "legs" or critical success factors consist of the following:
- Top management support
- A sound methodology
- Solid technical leadership by someone who has successfully completed a similar project
Without each of these solidly in place, the tripod will topple and the project will fail."
- According to a 2000 Standish Group Report, the top success factors for projects were as follows. The list is in decreasing order of percentage factors responsible for success.
% - Success Factors
18 Executive support
16 User involvement
14 Experienced project manager
12 Clear business objectives
10 Minimized scope
8 Standard software infrastructure
6 Firm basic requirements
6 Formal methodology
5 Reliable estimates
5 Other criteria
Importance of Sponsorship for Projects
Executive support, then, seems essential to project success. So, what does it mean to have executive support, and how do we as project managers get it? One essential ingredient is to clearly define roles and responsibilities for projects before beginning them. The project sponsorship role is a key way for executive support to extend to projects. Figure 1 contains a summary of sponsor and project manager roles for successful projects.
Project Manager Roles
Acceptance of "product"
In summary, projects are successful for many reasons. There are no "magic ingredients.' But, we can apply experience, research and common sense to form a list of the major factors. This article has explored but six of them, and to recap, they are:
1) Engaged project sponsorship,
2) Organizational culture supports project management (executive support),
3) Have a Formal Process to Define Vision,
4) Business Need Linked to Vision,
5) Define crisp project deliverables and
6) Match project changes to vision.
Organizational Culture Supports Project Management
The second-most critical success factor for project success is for the organizational culture to support project management processes. Every organization conducts "projects," but the most successful ones embrace a formal project management process. That can only happen when the organization realizes the benefits of a repeatable project management process.
In what ways does the organizational culture need to support project management? Think about the organizations you have worked in. Is (was) there a formal charter, written by the sponsor, to initiate projects? What about a formal process for selecting projects in the first place? Is there a prescribed method for going through the phases of a project? Do you have reusable templates for doing planning, estimating, tracking, reporting, and closing projects? Are there clear project roles and responsibilities defined and communicated? All of these items are good indications of organizational support.
Executive support for project management is crucial as well. Here is a checklist of what that support might look like:
- Engaged sponsors, project managers, team
- Executives available for help with project management deliverables (Charter, Scope Statements, Status Reports, etc.)
- Project success defined at organizational level
- Rewards for successfully managed projects
- Communication of risks and risk strategies are encouraged
- Yellow and red status are not discouraged
Even without these visible signs, you can still manage a successful project. But, your odds are improved when the organization actively supports project management.
Have a Formal Process to Define Vision
The writer Jonathan Swift said "vision is the art of seeing things invisible." How true. The project sponsor is responsible for articulating the strategy and vision behind any project. The raison d'etre of the project. As a project manager, you may have the role of documenting the vision, but the sponsor has the responsibility for formulating and articulating the vision.
One common way to develop the vision is to complete a SWOT analysis. PMBOK® 2000, however, includes SWOT on page 133 in the section on Risks.
What is SWOT? SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It has been around for awhile, but a short review may be helpful. When doing a SWOT analysis, either broad or specific strategies can be formulated by examining an organization's:
- Strengths - how do we best add value to our customers?
- Weaknesses - how could we improve?
- Opportunities - where do we see room for us to change in the marketplace?
- Threats - what are the external competitive or other threats to our position?
We put these aspects into four quadrants, along two dimensions: positive and negative; internal and external (see figure 1). According to the Urban Design Project Manual, published by the University of Illinois, SWOT analysis provides a framework for a strategic approach, as well as for identifying and reporting on critical project issues once the project has been running.
What does SWOT have to do with projects? After doing the SWOT analysis, organizations formulate a business strategy and vision. That vision could be expressed in terms of objectives and outcomes, then further distilled into specific projects. Not only should the project be directly tied to the business vision, but both the project objectives and the business requirements of the project's product are tied to it as well.
Business Need Linked to Vision
We all know that projects are temporary endeavors (we know, for some of you projects go on forever) that produce tangible results, for example, a house.
If we fail to understand the real need behind a project, we're likely going to deliver the right solution for the wrong problem. Get at the real business need and we're in a much better position to tap into the vision that will lead to successful project outcomes.
Define Crisp Deliverables
Another critical success factor for any project is to define clear, crisp deliverables. It sounds obvious, but if you don't know what you are supposed to produce in detail, how can a project ever succeed? It's one of the reasons so many projects fail: the requirements aren't discovered or clearly documented.
A pitfall not uncommon to new Project Managers is trying to come up with tasks and timelines at the beginning of a project. I think that's because the sponsor or boss says, "here's what we want-when can you get it done?" Or worse yet "here's what we want and it needs to be done in three months." Who has time to plan and document requirements?!
The sponsor provides the product description, that is, what the project should deliver. The project charter documents the description. The project plan's scope statement includes specific deliverables, such as the one above, including the features and functions of the deliverables. Detailed requirements, at least for software, include information and process requirements. Those are typically documented in some type of business requirements specification and/or models.
Match Changes to Vision
As we'll explore in later portions of this article, the business vision of a project and therefore the project vision is critical to its success. Without it, managing the inevitable changes to scope is difficult.