Follow These 7 Key Factors for Project Management Success

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Success does not happen by accident. Success leaves clues. If you take a look at the huge body of research conducted about project management success in the past decades, you will discover recurring schemes.

In this article, we give an overview of the seven success factors which were most commonly identified. Use our list to review your own management style and follow the principles to optimize your project performance.

What is project success?
Success factors

What is project success?

Bevor we get to the success factors, let's start with a short definition what project success actually is. At first glance, the answer is easy: A project is considered successful if the project goal is achieved. That assumes you have established measurable goals.

Lots of project managers already fail here. They do not define clear project goals or create goals which can only be reviewed after several years. Sales are, for example, no appropriate metric to measure project success because the markets change and besides, sales can not be measured right after the project completion.

But even if you have established measurable project goals. If you take a closer look, you realize that achieving your project goals is not sufficient to consider a project successful. It may happen that you reach your project goals but fail to achieve several other expectations which were tied to the project completion. Maybe your client was satisfied but you expected to attract further project because of this latest success and this does not happen. Success is a matter of perspective. Depending on the stakeholder you question, you will get a different answer.

To get a more differentiated judgement about your project's success you use time, cost and quality as metrics. Evaluate if you could complete the project in the defined time and budget and if all quality requirements were met. However, fulfilling the requirements does not necessarily result in your subjective feeling of success. Maybe a customer is satisfied with the end result although it does not meet the predefined quality criteria or maybe the project took more time as planned but you consider it a success because in hindsight the delay was wort while it.

Success factors

There are lots of studies on success factors in project management. Depending on the participants, the size of the study and the industry, results do vary. However, some recurring factors get apparent which seem to play a cruicial role no matter the context of a project.

1. Experienced project managers & skilled project team

You can learn the theory and methods of project management but in the end success comes with experience. The more experienced a project manager, the more confidence and skill he will have to overcome the challenges of the daily project business. Mind clear roles and responsibilities to prevent misunderstandings and mismanagement. Successful project managers not only impress with technical expertise but also with leadership.

Without a professional and skilled project team you can be as a prolific leader and use as much advanced methods as you want, your project will not be a success. Make sure your team members have the needed skills to deliver the demanded results and bring a positive attitude to the project. Also, the team must function as a whole. So it is important to build a team which is motivated to work together towards a common goal.

2. Methodical approach

The choice of an appropriate project management methodology is crucial for success. Follow the tools and techniques of the framework you have chosen to make sure your process is clear, reliable and efficient. And as mentioned above, invest time in defining a clear project goal all stakeholders understand and agree upon.

3. Planning

Many project managers rush to the execution phase of the project and do not take enough time for solid planning. Don't make this mistake. Invest enough time and resources in thorough planning. As the quote by Benjamin Franklin says: "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." The more effective and goal-oriented you will work later on.

4. Follow best practices

You do not need to reinvent the wheel: Project management is enough of a challenge. Use wherever possible frameworks and best practices. Draw from the experience of past successes and adapt proven strategies to your individual case instead of building everything from the ground up. This allows you to focus your resources on the truly unique aspects of your project which will make all the difference.

5. Controlling

Check on your progress and evaluate results on a regular basis. Define key performance indicators (KPI) and use reports to be able to quickly grasp if the project is on track. If things go sideways you will recognize early on and be able to take countermeasures before bigger damage is done.

6. Software

The role of project management software is commonly underestimated although the quality of your chosen tools has a direct effect on the quality of your management. Professional and intuitive software minimizes the ris of mistakes and miscalculation and creates the best possible overview of all relevant KPI and displays important data reliably on all needed devices. Software supports secure and easy team collaboration and is the basis to give each team member access to their needed information.

Instead of working with Excel or other spreadsheet programs which are not created to server project management needs, invest in a professional and specific tool. It will simplify your work and it will impact your project success.

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7. Communication

Lots of undesirable developments in projects could be prevented or at least be discovered earlier with proper communication. Make sure to implement and use formal communication processes (meetings, documentation) as well as informal processes. The communication between team members plays and important part. Offer possibilities for your staff to come together outside the formal meetings, for example in a coffee corner in your offices or in a chat tool.


Risks and uncertainties are part of project management. Howver, success does not happen by accident but can be planned – at least to a high degree. If you consider the seven factors mentioned in your own management style, chances are very likely for you to fit your own defintion of project success.

Posted by Paul Henkel on January 15th, 2018 under Project Management

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