Defining Project Success

There is an article in Dr. Dobbs that describes a survey performed by the author. The survey was intended to query Project Managers, IT Managers, IT staff and business stakeholders on what defined the success of a project.

There were definitely some interesting findings:

  • The IT industry has a long way to go to achieve a 100% success rate for projects
  • Agile projects were more successful than traditional waterfall projects
  • Off-shored projects were most likely to fail
  • Respondents rated quality as the most important issue, and rated the importance of following items this way when analyzed as a group:Quality > Scope > Staff Health > Time of Completion > Money
  • Project managers differed significantly from all other groups in their perception of success, rating time and money over quality.
  • Business stakeholders placed a higher value on ROI and and shipping when ready than the rest of the groups
  • A majority of respondents in all groups worked on projects they knew would fail from the start, but canceling a troubled project was not viewed as a successful outcome

I am not surprised by project managers having a different view, given that they are trained to value on-time and on-budget projects. Someone has to keep an eye on the bottom line, but I have experienced this gap when a project runs into trouble. I have been thinking about the differences between Agile and Waterfall-style projects and how they differ. I think there is some middle ground between the two that is yet to be identified that gives us the benefits of heavier requirements and design and the responsiveness to change.