The Project Success Model

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don't much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn't much matter which way you go.
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Projects often fail when success is not clearly defined from the beginning, during the
initiation and planning phases.

Simply put, project success occurs when outcomes add value to the business. This implies
that the value of a project is defined by subtracting all of the (in)direct costs from all of the
(in)direct benefits the project delivers.

More specifically, there are three core components that work together to facilitate project
success:

1) Business success (value)
2) Product or service success (benefits)
3) Project delivery success (costs)

Overall, a successful project depends on the combination of these criteria.

In terms of project accountabilities, the project manager is accountable for project delivery
success; the product/service owner is accountable for product or service success; and the
project sponsor is accountable for business success.

While this may sound simple and straightforward, the challenges arise in clearly defining
and measuring these three levels of success at the beginning of the project, periodically
review them, and measure them.

That is where the Project Success Model comes into the picture.

"All models are wrong, but some are useful." ― George Box, Statistician

The Project Success Model contains five steps, each one feeding into those that follow.

1) Define the desired business outcome
2) Define the problem
3) Define the scope (project completion)
4) Define project delivery success
5) Define product/service success

The moment the definition of one of these steps changes, it is highly likely that it will have a
direct impact on the others. The diagram below offers a visual path of these steps and how
they interrelate.

The Project Success Model

Although it is often easiest to start by defining the desired business outcome, there are no
restrictions as to where to begin. What is most important is that you go through multiple
iterations – to refine your definition of project success until it is stable, clear, and feasible on
all three levels.

You can download the eBook "The Project Success Model - A guide to defining project success" here.