What does make a project a success?

What does make a project a success?
I recently participated in a relatively small project that demonstrated to be a great success. Everything went so smooth from the beginning and through all phases until the implementation that I asked myself what made this project such a success? Why it was easy to move through the different stages without many issues?

Here the key success factors:

The Sponsor: this person had a profound need to get the problem solved as quickly as possible as the current situation was hurting the business in terms of cost, inefficiency and lack of control. His participation on the project was key as he motivated the Project Manager and the stakeholders to move forward with the selected solution. The sponsor played a very active role, demonstrating clear ownership, helping to drive decisions, defending the project at all times and supporting the Project Manager as needed. As an example, two stakeholders were against the proposed solution because they were not so keen to adapt to the change since they had the feeling of losing control when centralizing the information. The Sponsor stood up emphasizing the benefits this implementation will bring to the business such us reducing the compensation costs and improving customer satisfaction as everyone would have now access to the information allowing the easy identification of booking conflicts right in advance. Moving from templates in Excel to an automated centralized system represented a change that was good handled by training and proper communication. More information about on the Sponsor’s role can be found here.

The Project Manager (PM): this person set the right expectations from the very beginning. The PM sat down with the sponsor and key stakeholders to understand the goals of the project once he received the mandate to work on it. He kept the project scope under control, verifying changes before approving them, looking at the planning and its deviations and getting close communication with the project team and the sponsor. The PM executed continuous follow up on tasks and agreed actions, taking care that everything moves as planned while keeping open communication with the team. He shared good news as well as bad ones, controlling the risks and providing the information needed to reach a decision. Although some issues arose during the project he was able to manage them and get them timely sorted out. When the PM found out that the delivery and installation of the initial server budgeted for the project was going to be delayed for more than three months due to change on priorities, he quickly explored other alternatives with the Infrastructure team, fortunately an unused server was located and made available for the project in a record time and also representing a important reduce in costs.
Once the project was closed, the PM continued monitoring the deliveries to verify the expected benefits were reached while keeping contact with the stakeholders to check on additional needs to be covered which will derive in a new project.

The Project Team: The team was composed of 15 main stakeholders acting also as team members and 3 business owners located across Europe, Middle East Africa, with a Steering Committee of 6 participants. The fact that every team member would benefit of the results delivered by the project, influenced the level of commitment and engagement the team demonstrated along the project. The team motivation also played an important factor on getting things done; every team member had a clear understanding of his responsibilities and knew exactly how he contributed to the project’s objectives. The team was very excited as the project moved forward and they started to see the first results.

The Stakeholders: these people had a clear understanding of what the project intended to solve and the risks of not going ahead with it. They provided clear requirements, constraints and wishes which were properly balanced and covered by specified deliverables. Their level of satisfaction along the project and more importantly once results were achieved, they were in accordance with their initial expectations.

The Project Objectives: the project had clear objectives defined at the early start, describing what the project will deliver and the steps required to achieve them. These objectives were aligned with the organization strategy and agreed by stakeholders. These objectives let keep the project on course. Since requirements are never perfect and something is always required that was not envisioned initially, this project didn’t escape to that. Some stakeholders wanted to adapt the system 100% to the current process at their location; most of the project team stepped in, making sure the project remained aligned with the initial objectives and requirements, understanding the need expressed by those stakeholders and providing an alternative solution that was in sync with the original scope.

The Success Criteria: how success on the project is defined? How do we know the project has been completed? How success will be measured? Answers to these questions were provided at the very beginning of the project during the definition phase, getting the agreement of all stakeholders and assuring the project can deliver the expected results. Once the deliverables were completed they were measured against the success criteria before sign off. And during the project, the temptation to provide a bit more of what the customer was expecting was well controlled by the Project Manager, as that could go in detriment of the project schedule and/or budget. Having said that, those extra requirements were properly documented and kept for future enhancements of the solution.

All of the above contributed to this project’s success. Now we are getting prepared for the second phase of this project, which take in consideration such enhancements and other features discussed during the initial phase but left out of the scope mainly due time constraints. The story continues…

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Marianela Abarca

Marianela Abarca

Versatile, proactive, and engaging professional with wide experience in project management and IT business analysis in several international companies related to Internet, finance, food, manufacturing and merchandising industries. Able to manage and deliver IT and business services dealing with multicultural and cross-functional teams. Linkedin profile.