Conditions for project success

APM’s Conditions for Project Success is a series of independent research that seeks to identify the core factors which lead to the successful delivery of projects, programmes and portfolios. 

The Dynamic Conditions for Project Success 2021 report builds on the Conditions for Project Success 2015 findings and can be used at an organisational level to set up projects for success from the outset. 

In 2015, we published a report which sought to identify the core factors which lead to project success. These conditions, subject to the situation and the judgement of the project professional, can be implemented with any project, programme or portfolio and help to best ensure project success. However, despite widespread usage we identified at the end of this research that dynamic conditions at the organisational, professional, and socio-economic levels existed that could help to shape successful project-based organisations.

With this in mind and through a commissioned tender we sought with the Universities of Sussex and Southampton to further develop the findings of the 2015 report by investigating these organisational, professional, and socio-economic dynamic conditions that can enhance project outcomes.

Download the 2021 report        Download the 2015 report

2021

Dynamic conditions for project success

The research discovered nine new dynamic conditions to help achieve project, organisational, and professional success. These are:

1. Interpersonal skills
2. Training and certifications
3. Team ethos
4. Technology and data
5. Contracts
6. Knowledge management
7. Agility
8. Sustainability
9. Diversity

Download the 2021 report


Who is the intended audience?

The research would primarily be of interest to all project based organisations and professionals. However, the findings are relevant to anyone with an interest in the successful delivery of projects, programmes or portfolios.

Why is it important?

The study highlights opportunities for project management organisations and professionals to improve project success and project outcomes, including prioritising informal mentoring, improving data analysis and decision making with technology and AI, and establishing knowledge management roles for more effective learning from past projects. 

For project professionals, this work advises on specific mindsets and activities that can help to support and develop their teams. These activities can help to ensure that their projects create a legacy that can underpin long-term organisational success.

Who took part in the research?

The research team gathered the data using a systematic literature review, interviews with a cross-section of 37 project professionals, and a survey that attracted a total of 1,015 responses. The analysis identified nine dynamic conditions drawn from the relevant academic literature and refined through the research process.

What are the main challenges?

This report is separate from the 2015 Conditions for Project Success on the basis that the study examined primarily non-project related factors that nonetheless can affect project success.

This study occurred under unprecedented circumstances amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. All aspects of the study took place entirely virtually; this served to shape the responses from the project management community.

Where can I read more?

Download the Dynamic Conditions for Project Success report.

What did you discover?

The dynamic conditions reflect the activity and changes in both the project profession and the wider environment. Sustainability is now high on the UK government’s policy agenda, influencing how large organisations in the UK and abroad set and monitor sustainability standards for their projects.

Leadership skills and training to support the development of that training is becoming even more important with a sharp focus on project data and analytics and leadership standards. Similar arguments have been proposed for the rest of the conditions included in this report arguing that project professionals might be missing a strategic opportunity not considering them while formulating their project plans, teams, and day-to-day operations.


The nine dynamic conditions found were:

Interpersonal skills
Interpersonal skills allow project professionals to engage with stakeholders, build and lead teams, and the generic skills and responsibilities of being a project professional. This includes leadership, emotional intelligence, and communication skills.

Training and certification
Training and certifications describe the requirement for any professional to continually develop their competence. This can take two forms: formal training courses underwritten by qualifications and accreditations by professional organisations or broader informal learning processes such as mentoring and exploring the latest research findings.

Team ethos
Team ethos comprises the values shared amongst project team members including a commitment to respect, transparency, open and honest communication, working collaboratively, and building trust.

Technology and data
Technology and data in project management concerns identifying and using the correct digital tools to manage and complete projects. More complex concepts include project data analytics as an area of competitive advantage.

Contracts
Contracts are agreements made between two or more parties that create legally binding obligations between them. The contract sets out those obligations and the actions that can be taken if they are not met.

Knowledge management
Knowledge management can be defined as the organisational activities that facilitate the creation, storage, sharing, and application of knowledge collectively held within the organisation. It allows individuals, projects, and organisations to share tacit knowledge to disseminate best practice and prevent repeat mistakes.

Agility
Agility is a broad set of principles encompassing many development methodologies for iterative and incremental developments throughout the life cycle. This helps organisations respond to changing requirements and situations.

Sustainability
Sustainability in the project management context balances the environmental, social, economic, and administrative aspects of project-based working to meet the current needs of stakeholders without compromising or overburdening future generations.

Diversity
Projects are increasingly made up of individuals with different backgrounds, abilities, and ways of working. These differences create value, and diverse teams can bring about higher performance because of different experiences and perspectives. There can also be a strong sense of inclusion and community when people of different backgrounds and abilities come together for a common purpose.

Download the 2021 report

2015

Conditions for project success

The research identified 12 success factors, otherwise known as APM’s framework for success. From this, five factors were found to have ‘the strongest and most consistent relationship’ with the traditional measures of project success: time, cost and quality. These were:

1. Project planning and review

2. Goals and objectives

3. Effective governance

4. Competent project teams

5. Commitment to success

Download 2015 report


Who is the intended audience?

The research is primarily designed to promote the importance of professional project management to senior project executives and influencers. However, the findings are relevant to anyone with an interest in the successful delivery of projects, programmes or portfolios.

Why is it important?

Trillions of pounds are invested in projects, programmes and portfolios every year. The cost of failure can have a catastrophic effect on the economy, environment, and society. APM recognises that the environment in which the projects, programmes and portfolios operate, the conditions for project success, are at the heart of improving project outcomes.

Who took part in the research?

Over 850 project professionals and thought leaders from across the private and public sector were asked to rate their most recent projects and the contributing success factors.

What are the main challenges?

Although APM’s success framework was overwhelmingly supported by survey respondents, it is often not applied in practice. For example, only 4% rated project planning and review as excellent, while 14% said it was either poor or absent from their last project. Similarly, effective governance was only moderately good or absent in 48% of cases.

Where can I read more?

Download the Conditions for Project Success report.


What did you discover?

The research identified 12 success factors, otherwise known as APM’s framework for success. From this, five factors were found to have ‘the strongest and most consistent relationship’ with the traditional measures of project success: time, cost and quality. These were:

1. Project planning and review

Pre-project planning should be thorough and considered, with monitoring and review throughout the project.

2. Goals and objectives

The overall goal of the project should be clearly specified and recognised by all stakeholders involved in the project.

3. Effective governance

The project needs to have clear reporting lines and regular communications between all parties.

4. Competent project teams

The project professionals leading, or forming a core team, need to be fully competent.

5. Commitment to success

All parties involved in the project must be, and remain, committed to the project’s success.

Download 2015 report

Factors in project success

Both reports drew upon extensive literature reviews of existing literature around project success, depth interviews with senior project professionals and educators and major surveys of APM members and the wider profession comprising nearly 2,000 respondents across both reports. 

The 2021 report for example drew upon nearly 3,500 published papers on project and project management success and the emerging organisational, professional, and socio-economic dynamic conditions that emerged around them between 1981 and 2020. The depth interviews helped to further refine the dynamic conditions identified with diversity emerging as a ninth condition.

The interim findings arising from these three phases were tested and validated during a workshop at the APM’s Corporate Partner Forum in February 2021. The research was guided throughout by a steering group consisting of project professionals and academics which can be found under the acknowledgments section of the 2021 report.

Download the 2021 report

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