Project success: selling the message to all stakeholders
APM’s Conditions for Project Success report provides some useful insights into the reasons why people consider specific project success factors are important.
According to the original BMG research respondents’ perceptions of the extent to which such factors were in place in their most recent completed project averaged ranged from 6.8 to 7.4, with the ‘average overall success’ rating by survey respondents of these same projects at 8.1.
Put together, this data could give the impression that all factors are considered relatively important and have been applied to a similar degree of effectiveness, leading to over 80% of projects rated as successful.
Does this mean that the framework is a sure-fire means of achieving project success across the board?
Maybe, but I don’t think it is that simple in practice, as other surveys suggest that far fewer than 80% of projects are rated a success – indeed, some suggest that nearer 80% do not succeed.
The majority of participants in this survey were actively involved in the management or delivery of projects and, as the survey report acknowledges, it may not be surprising that they rated their most recent projects so highly. A snapshot of opinions about those same projects in 12 months’ time might reflect a different result – especially if looked at through business eyes.
On balance, I see two important areas that future surveys need to incorporate in order to get a more balanced view:
- Understanding the organisational context within which survey participants operate.
- Increasing the range of stakeholders participating, reaching more of those at senior business level.
Improving the understanding of organisational context by, for example, focusing more on:
- the degree to which projects are being managed in isolation or as a group;
- whether and to what extent related/associated projects are managed as a programme;
- if management and governance includes adopting a portfolio of change approach (embracing programmes and independent projects);
- understanding which organisations are adopting programme or portfolio management processes partially, fully, or not at all;
- whether they are new or seasoned operators;
- whether they have centralised or devolved regimes.
Widening the range of stakeholders participating should include better assessment of such things as:
- impact on the delivery of organisational strategy;
- realisation of the specified benefits that gave rise to the investment in the first place;
- effectiveness of the implementation and the degree to which business as usual operations were disrupted;
- consideration of ongoing learning from experiences.
Success factors will need to be carefully defined so that they can be extended to adequately cover the broader context, and applied by a wider range of people who may have limited awareness of the nomenclature used by project management professionals.
By this means, we should be able to provide much clearer evidence of the optimum set of factors necessary for sustainable project success, readily understood by all stakeholders, including senior business executives.
Stephen is a member of the expert group involved in the early stages of the Conditions for Project Success research.
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