Factors that contribute to project success can be broadly categorised into five separate groups:
1. The project manager
Simply employing a professional and experienced project manager will not guarantee the success of a project. Of course a project manager will be expected to have sufficient business and/or technical knowledge, have good communication, management and organisational skills maybe with a hefty dose of realism thrown in but all of this will not rescue a project from failure.
Nevertheless, the leadership style and abilities of the project manager will contribute to project success even when that might be difficult to measure. It is not uncommon for the project manager to be blamed for project failures but for someone else to get the recognition for project successes.
2. The project team
The ideal project team would be one comprised of highly motivated individuals committed to delivering a successful project; individuals who all get on well with each other and with the project manager, who are happy in their roles and have the right skills to do a good job. Unfortunately this is not an ideal world and it is rare for such a team to exist. Some team members may have been reluctantly assigned to the project and prefer to be doing something else. The team could comprise people from different parts of an organisation or even different companies who have different business cultures.
Yet it is essential that these people work together as a team if the project is to be a success so it is the project manager’s role to build some team spirit and that is not always easy. The first step is to ensure, as far as possible, that the team are committed to the project and have the skills they will need.
3. The type of project
An urgent project rushed through the initiation stage and with a tight deadline and budget is, of course, not ideal but they still happen. In many ways these types of project should be less likely to be successful and yet are usually the ones for which failure is not an option. For that reason they can succeed because they are being driven by the stakeholders who usually have a serious vested interest in their success. Failures, on the other hand, often occur because of a dis-interested group of stakeholders who do not, necessarily, get as involved as they should.
Projects that are at the forefront of new technology are also those that pose the greatest risk because something new is being attempted but, again, it is the very nature of such a project that helps to motivate those involved.
4. The company
Senior stakeholders driving a project are a major factor in project success so a PM must do all they can to ensure that senior management are on board with a project. Perhaps one of the best ways of doing this is to ensure everyone understands the benefits of the projct and that it is not a case of change for changes sake.
5. External factors
External factors such as the local or global economy, laws and regulations, and market competition can all have an influence of project success. If, for instance, regulations change mid-way through a project this can have a serious impact on costs and timescales. Or a competitor bringing a new product to market with features not included in your new product can undermine the projects goals. These are risks that cannot be predicted but need to be handled effectively to ensure project success.