Over my close to twenty years of project management consulting and training experience I have been involved in this discussion on more times than I care to remember. Some people claimed that as long as the project was completed on-time, on-budget and delivered a full scope promised, it should be considered a success.
Others claim that it is OK to be somewhat late and over budget, but deliver a great quality product. And yet there is another group of professionals that claims that – of course, within reason – budget and timeline are not that important as long as the project realizes the truly great idea behind it.
Let us try to analyze each one of the “project success” ingredients. Let us assume that we have a project at hand that has been completed on-time, on budget and delivered a full scope of excellent quality. Does this automatically imply that this was a successful project?
In order to assess this question, we would need to take a look at a couple of examples. Imagine that a real estate development company in 2014 commissioned a project manager and requested him to build a luxury condominium building near a local lake. The project manager has successfully completed the project on-time, on-budget and delivered the full scope requested. Having said that, shortly after the construction was finished, the executives discovered that due to a number of factors (including economic and demographic ones) they would be able to sell only 10% of the units built.
Can this project be considered a success? Most likely all of the readers will agree that it was not, since the company failed on the portfolio management end of the spectrum (i.e. selecting the projects with the highest possible business value).