What defines a Projects Success?

What is a Project?

As defined in our textbook, “a project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result”. A project usually involves a new vision, a change request depending on various needs.

No two projects are the same, it can be looked at differently from different point of views.

It consists of components which are achieved in an organized manner with a defined start and finish.

Going through the above definitions of a project, I started wondering, what defines the success of a project?

Generally speaking, a project is successful if it realized its objectives and delivered results within deadline and budget.

Another main factor is how satisfied its stakeholders are, since at the end they are usually the one who wanted the project and invested in making it.

A project success can also be subjective in a way, for example, in a construction a project if the owner decided he didn’t want to carry on the project, and the foundation was already built at that point of time, to the main investor the project was a failure, but the contractor who was responsible to build the foundation can think of it as a success, since his part was delivered in full as agreed upon.

A paper written by Banat’s University in Romania sets 5 factors to identify a project’s failure or success as follows:

  1. Beneficiary
  2. Supportive executive manager
  3. Clear understanding of the requirement
  4. Appropriate planning
  5. Realistic expectations

Which is inline with what we studied during our course, and also emphasizes the importance of communications among team members as well as the strength of the project manager.

Another very interesting article by Mr. Robert Goatham (a project manager), who introduces an interesting view into measuring the success of a project where he defines them within 5 tiers/ levels.

He sets 5 levels of conditions to be met for a project to be considered successful:

  1. Delivered most of the objectives, regardless of time and budget.
  2. Delivered the objectives on time and/or within budget.
  3. Delivered the project on time, within budget and as per the expected quality.
  4. Delivered all objectives as agreed upon, as per the defined criteria, with the expected quality and outcome.
  5. The highest level of success is achieved if the project delivered a product that adds a significant net value for the organization.


5 Layers in Project Success


The editor’s example as explanation of his concept was about The Sydney Opera House, the original budged in the 1957 plan was $7M to be finished within 5 years. It was completed after 13 years and costed $110M. This project would be considered a failure as per the classical definition, but this is today one of the main tourist attraction.

He argues that the value of a project could change over time and might sometimes include outcomes which are beyond a project manager’s control.


From your own experience, what do you think is the main factor in determining a project’s success or failure? Would you agree with Mr. Robert Goatham?




MGT598 textbook, Project Management: The Management Process, 6th Edition