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How stakeholders define the real success of projects

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The classical way of defining success criteria limit us sometimes to the traditional iron triangle of quality, cost and delivery. I have experienced some projects that have surpassed the key performance indicators for all the three elements of the triangle of ‘success’ but didn’t produce the expected real success of the project.

Success of projects is defined both by internal and external stakeholders and can change from project to another depending on the environment, the people and project or programme objectives.

Most important for project managers in my opinion to be successful on their projects is to actively listen to their project internal and external stakeholders’ requirements and feedback along the life of the project. This is not an easy task and some stakeholders are not vocal and don’t share their expectations clearly but engaging and regularly communicating help get most of the job done.

I intend to actively engage with stakeholders by setting face-to-face meetings to review projects gaps and seek advice that brings benefits to the project. The starting point should always be to define a clear agenda for your meetings and adopt an active-listening technique to collate feedback and reflect later on the actions to be accomplished.

As my own experiences with several projects and meeting various project stakeholders reveal the cost element is not the only criteria for financial success. The real financial benefit is the revenue or cash flow to the organisation. The project cost may have been optimised but it shouldn’t come at the expense of the revenue element that enables the project to continue in a healthy state and add benefits to the organisation. As an example, you could optimise the cost of a product or part of the project but risk delaying cash generation that is vital to the organisation and stakeholders’ objectives.

Delivery of the material or equipment isn’t the only criteria to consider as a schedule success element. As project managers, I believe we need to check how the scope is implemented and integrated with the complete system or process and most importantly for the end user, to ensure proper completion of the schedule.

The quality of the product or the equipment by itself doesn’t constitute the final measurement tool for the added value of quality. It is also important to consider the product’s suitability as part of the overall system that contributes to the final project.

In summary, focus is needed on what added value the project brings to stakeholders at different phases of the project. I believe project managers should listen more actively to the stakeholders on the implementation of all products or equipment for it to be fit for purpose on the project and so it can provide real benefits to the organisation.


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