Is your project a success?

Sometimes it’s difficult to say with certainty whether a project is a success.  Throughout the implementation of the project you may have had technical difficulties, time constraints, poor team dynamic, etc. All these come in an can cloud our judgment regarding the overall success.

There is a famous misconception that many project managers gurus and PhD owners propagate on how to measure the success of a project. Here are some of the measurements I found:

  • Scope
  • Budget
  • Team satisfaction
  • Quality of work
  • Customer satisfaction

These are not metrics of success. They are constraints that one or a group of person decided to dictated to the implementation team to navigate between. You manage to respect all these? Great work! But was the right problem solved?

Constraints are usually flexible. For example to ensure objectives are meet you can:  change the scope of the project (add/remove features), shrink or add extra funding, reduce or increase work quality.

Objectives precise and static. Team Canada wants to win the gold medal in Hockey at the next winter Olympics. Throughout the year they will train towards this objective. During the Olympics you don’t see their coach telling them they now need to win gold medal in curling.

The best way to determine objectives is to work our way backwards. Start by defining the end goal. In what discipline do you want to win your gold medal?

Here are some good questions that will help you determine what are your objectives:

  • What are we trying to achieve for our clients?
  • Why are we doing this?
  • What is the desired return on investment?
  • How will this help improve our reputation?
  • How will this affect the way our customers, investors and competitors perceive us?

If you haven’t started your project, it can be very tempting to talk about tools and methodologies to us. For example, you might define one of your goals: build a mobile application and API to increase our readership. This is very limiting. You might not need a mobile application or even an API. At this point, tools and methodologies  are irrelevant at this point, since they are a means to an end.

Here are some example of clear objectives:

What are we trying to achieve?
Our current platform is very buggy.  It takes us days of testing before being able to deploy safely. We want to reduce the number of bugs and the time required between each deployment.

Why are we doing this?
Most music service that recommend music do it very poorly. We want to change the game and become market leaders in defining customers taste and suggest them relevant artists based on their taste not on what their friends listen to.

What is the desired return on investment?
The expected ROI over the next 6 month is expected to be 10 thousand dollars. In three years, it will represent 20 millions.

How will this help improve our reputation?
By increasing the productivity of our assembly line by 40%, we will be able to dedicate more resource to quality control. Our customers will appreciate the reliability of our new high end tools.

How will this affect the way our customers, investors and competitors perceive you?
Our online image is getting outdated, by creating a more engaging website and mobile application our investors will see us as an innovative company who means serious business when it comes to delivering on time quality content to the Canadian Citizens.

Take a few minutes and do the exercise and write them down. This will be your most important piece of knowledge for your project.

Not only will it help you assess your project’s success throughout the implementation and at completion. It will help you put things in perspective as you explore ideas, methodologies and implementation path! Even better, it will give a meaning to the implementation team and motivate them.

If you haven’t been able to define the goals of your future, on going project stop everything immediately. Take the time to go back to the drawing board. You probably don’t have a project and will waste a lot of time, money and generate much frustration for you, your team and your partners.

Success all comes down to achieving the desired end result. Olympic athletes set their objectives to win a gold medal in a specific sport and their sponsors evaluate their success on how often they climb on the podium. Not on how many times per week they trained or what type of food they ate.

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