Consider these Four Scenarios and decide which you'd rate as a 'Success'
Say you set out to build a four-bedroom house with a large open-plan family area that opens onto a large patio. Your budget is $500K and the expected timeframe to build is 6 months.
You end up spending $750K, it takes 10 months and you cannot get a bed in the fourth bedroom, the ‘open-plan’ area has six pillars in it and the planned French doors to the patio are now a window with a radiator beneath it (making it difficult to change). So, you now have a (bed)room you cannot use and your open plan living style has been thwarted. Would you call this ‘success’?
You end up spending the $500K and complete in 6 months, but all of the house faults detailed in scenario 1 still apply. Would you call this ‘success’?
You end up spending $750K and its takes 10 months, but you get exactly what you asked for in terms of the house. Would you call this ‘success’?
You spend the $500K in 6 months and you get exactly what you asked for. Isn’t this the true definition of ‘success’?
(There is also a Scenario 0 where you spend $x dollars over y months and get nothing finished.)
Project success statistics by Standish Group, Gartner and others are fairly consistent in their results
Deliver nothing = 15% of all projects started
Over time, budget and under deliver = 50% of all projects started
On time, budget but under deliver = 30% of all projects started
Over time, budget but to specification Unknown, included in scenario 1.
On time, budget and to specification = 5% of all projects started.
Hence the poor project success statistics that measure only 35% of projects as successful in project management terms and 5% as successful in business results terms.
(NB Both scenarios 3 and 4 deliver the business value expected.)
You may be surprised that each of these scenarios is considered ‘success’ in some organizations:
“Completion” is the measure of success regardless of how long it takes or how much it costs and what is delivered
“Project efficiency” is the measure of success regardless of the result delivered
“Delivering the result” is the measure of success, regardless of the time or cost
“Delivered value” is the measure of success. After all, isn’t this why the project was commissioned in the first place?
The real impact is on the realized value.
Negative — all costs, no value.
Negative — remedial and ongoing costs on top of delivery costs exceed value
Negative to breakeven — costs lower, but value realized also lower
Positive but compromised — value realized exceeds costs by a factor of 1.3 delivered for every dollar invested
Significantly positive — value realized exceeds costs by factor of 3 or more.
Shouldn’t you be focused on the scenario 4 measures of success — full delivery of business outcomes and benefits on time and on budget?