The Project Success Model ™

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Project success and project failure are NOT absolutes. It may not be possible to be a little bit pregnant, but you can be a little bit successful.

Every project has multiple success criteria related to business results, product/service results, and project delivery results (cost, schedule, scope, and quality).

Some criteria are absolute, meaning they must be completed on or before the originally planned date, and some are relative, meaning they must be completed by a date acceptable to the client.

Project success is determined by how many of your success criteria are satisfied, and how well.

Whether or not a project is successful depends on who you ask. The very happy project manager that implemented the SAP project as scoped on time and below budget (I know, this will NEVER happen), the end-users who absolutely hate the complexity and slowness of the new system, and the COO that has seen IT costs double whilst none of the expected savings materialized may all have very different opinions on the success of the project.

Project success also depends on when you ask. Twelve months after the go-live the users will have a better grasp of the system and initial performance problems will have been solved. And slowly but steadily, the expected savings will often start to materialize as well.

So in order to determine the success or failure of your project, you should define all the criteria relevant to your project, define how you will measure them, and define when you will 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 ™ is a so-called conceptual model. Where a mental model captures ideas in a problem domain, a conceptual model represents 'concepts' and relationships between them.

A conceptual model in the field of computer science is also known as a domain model. Conceptual modeling should not be confused with other modeling disciplines such as data modeling, logical modeling, and physical modeling.

The aim of a conceptual model is to express the meaning of terms and concepts used by domain experts to discuss the problem and to find the correct relationships between different concepts.

The conceptual model attempts to clarify the meaning of various, usually ambiguous terms, and ensure that problems with different interpretations of the terms and concepts will not occur.

A conceptual model provides a key artifact of business understanding and clarity. The concepts of the conceptual model can be mapped into actual implementations that will be different for each organization and project.

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.

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