Project success has been historically defined as a project that meets its objectives under budget and under schedule. This evaluation criterion has remained as the most common measure in many industries. But for a development project, success goes beyond meeting schedule and budget goals, it includes delivering the benefits and meeting expectations of beneficiaries, stakeholders, donors or funding agencies. But defining these dimensions of success is more difficult and some can only be evaluated years after the project has been completed, and for many organizations these types of evaluations are difficult to do due to lack of funding.
To help organizations make an assessment of success a distinction must be made between project success and project management success. Project success can be measured as a level of effectiveness, were the project deliverables are measured in terms of benefits and stakeholder satisfaction, in other words the extent to which the project ultimate objectives are attained. Project management success is defined by the level of efficiency the project achieved to reach the project objectives. Efficiency is related to how the project manages its limited resources to meet the goals while building good relationships with internal and external stakeholders. On the other side there are many ways a project can fail, a project can fail in meeting the budget, schedule and scope goals, but be a success in meeting the development objectives, likewise, a project can meet the budget, schedule and scope goals and fail in meeting the final development objectives.
A project can only be successful if the success criteria were defined from the start. When initiating a project, it's essential to define success across three levels:
·Level 1: Project completion success: this level details the criteria by which the process of delivering the project outputs is successful. This criteria addresses the four project constraints, scope, schedule, budget and quality. The criteria is limited to the duration of the project and success can be measured during the life of the project and as soon as the project is officially completed. This measures the efficiency of how the project used its resources to deliver the project outputs.
·Level 2: Results success: this is about defining the criteria by which the product or service delivered is deemed successful (e.g. service is used by all beneficiaries in scope, students attending school, water systems operational, certified teachers, etc.). These criteria need to be measured once the product/service is implemented and over a defined period.
·Level 3: Development success: this is about defining the criteria by which the product/service delivered brings value to the beneficiaries, and how it contributes to their well being (economic, health, social, etc).Examples include income increase by 50%, disease reduction by 25%, etc.
The worst type of failure occurs when the project fails to meet the development objectives. Organizations that are able to meet the criteria of success are characterized by the use and application of a consistent, repeatable and predictable methodology that supports the planning and implementation of development projects and make project management a key competency supported by an environment that nurtures learning.