Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sacred PM Practices -- Project Sample

A successful kite is one that stays aloft.

A successful landing is any one that you can walk away from.

A successful project is …?

As the size of IT projects increase, project success rates drastically decrease. In fact, for project budgets greater than $750K, project success rates are 33% or less.
(Source: The Standish Group)

I limited my research project to large IT projects that had been successfully executed. The projects in my sample met the following conditions:

  • Must have project budget greater than $750K
  • Must be an information technology enabling business solution

The first thing I learned, after the interviews began, was that not all project success is defined the same. I thought a project was successful if it is completed within budget and on time. Isn’t that how the books define it? I found some successful project managers defined their success as the following:

  • Build a good relationship with the new client organization
  • Learn about what customers really want
  • Bring in some cash this fiscal quarter

How do you define project success? Can a project be successful if it is late, or over budget, or both?


  1. How about a customer happy enough to come back for more of your services?

  2. Projects fail even though budget and schedule constraints are met -- usually because the product delivered does not meet the need(s) of the stakeholders. It is only in a subset of projects that schedule and budget are the primary success factors. In most projects, defining success is based on other criteria. This is a chronic failing in organizations reporting on project metrics and fail ratios including Standish... an overly simplistic view of project objectives.