Project Success Factors 

 September 23, 2020

By  Dave Litten

Project Success Factors

Explain the principles of benefits management and realization making five relevant points.

The benefits are tangible or intangible effects of the project, that justify the time, money and resources that are spent on delivering a project.  If there are no benefits then, ideally, there should be no project.  If the benefits disappear, for whatever reason then the project should be stopped.

The benefits should be monitored and maintained throughout the life-cycle of the project and efforts made to realise them once the project products have been delivered.

However, in many projects, this is overlooked and the projects continue when no benefits can be identified.

Benefits Management

Benefits should be identified by the project sponsor in concept and used as a basis for the business case. Throughout the definition and implementation stages the benefits should be further refined and if possible expanded to re-enforce the business case as the project progresses.

In implementation the benefits should be bench-marked so that there is a reference point that can be used as a comparison during the realization of the benefits. After closure the project sponsor should ensure that the operation business environment takes on the benefits realization plan and does all in its power to ensure the benefits are realized.

Benefits should be measurable.  They can be categorized as tangible and intangible.

Hopefully, the main justification for the project will be made on tangible benefits that can be directly related to a financial measure.  For example staff reductions, reduction in revenue spending on consumables and so forth.

Intangible benefits are more difficult to measure but should be included so that the whole benefits picture can be understood.  They may well indicate areas where cultural change may be required within the organisation.  This could represent considerable challenges to realize these benefits.

Each benefit identified must be carefully and precisely stated and it is useful to test the benefits against the “DOAM” criteria:


  • What precisely is this benefit


  • What differences should be noticeable between pre- and post-project?


  • Where will this benefit arise?


  • How will the achievement of the benefit be measured?

Project Success Factors

Explain the differences between success criteria, success factors and key performance indicators and give two examples of each.

Success criteria are those things, which if met, will indicate that the project has been successful.  Specifically these revolve around time, cost, quality/performance and the customer’s requirements.  Of these the last is particularly important.  Budgets and timescales are often set in advance, and the customer’s requirements and associated acceptance criteria can be difficult to pin down.

What makes the product/deliverable acceptable to the customer?  Indeed sometimes the question, “who is the customer?” needs to be answered.

Examples would include:

  • The project completes within 4 weeks of its target date
  • The project completes within 10% of the agreed budget

Success factors are those things that contribute to the achievement of the success criteria.  Research has indicated that there are five key factors that can be established against which success can be measured:

Project Objectives

  • must be clearly identified within the project plans and kept to throughout the work

Project Personnel

  • the project manager and the project team must be competent

Support from Above

  • the project must be supported by top management


  • time, money, material and people must be sufficient to do the job

Communication and Control

  • communications channels up, down and across the project are established with clear mechanisms for feedback on reports, deliverables and quality. Control must be in place and used such as milestones, plans, approvals, reviews etc.  Contractors must be responsive to their clients.

Key Performance Factors

The APM defines Key Performance Indicators as “measurable indicators that will be used to report progress that is chosen to reflect the success criteria of the project”.

The Key Performance Indicators must be carefully chosen to be suitable measures of the project’s success, and they must be clear and unambiguous to all stakeholders.

Examples could include: Earned Value Analysis to monitor out-turn costs and durations; quality checking results showing that the products are meeting their quality criteria and therefore the end result will be what is required by the customer.

Dave Litten

David spent 25 years as a senior project manager for USA multinationals, and has deep experience in project management. He now develops a wide range of Project Management Masterclasses, under the Projex Academy brand name. In addition, David runs project management training seminars across the world, and is a prolific writer on the many topics of project management.

The Projex Academy

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