Defining critical project success factors can be considered one of the most important steps in managing a complex project, as it sets the tone for decision making throughout the life cycle of the project. Common issues that can occur with complex projects is confusion and miscommunications among the various dimensions and complexity factors that naturally develop within a project.
Additionally, scope uncertainty is a common occurrence with complex projects. Many projects will regularly contain some level of abstract or irregular demands based on the industry of the project, which in turn may create difficulty for a project manager without much experience in said industry. Therefore, identifying and gathering information on complexity factors gives easier guidance for project managers to follow in defining the success factors for the project.
Critical success factors will typically contain a combination of objective and subjective components, which are often split between qualitative and quantitative inputs. For example, a city council may start a project to clean up their public parks with one goal of having the “cleanest parks in the county” which is a subjective goal, as well as wanting to decrease total garbage collected in the park by 50% over a month, which is a measurable, objective goal. Both of these goals are necessary for guiding the project in the right direction, yet each serves a different purpose in the actions and decision-making of the project.
The components of defining critical success factors also demand that you consider any legal and political aspects, and work with involved agencies and project leaders to ensure all bases are covered.
Additionally, project managers must estimate the project resources needed and determine the resource availability, assess the needs of the local communities, and understand the project feasibility and project characteristics. Once all of these tasks are completed and the relevant information is collected, the project manager can define the essential success factors across all dimensions of the project.
Finally ready to define the critical success factors, project managers must be aware of a key point. The number of success factors should be diverse and relatively low, ideally around 6-10 factors. This ensures that the factors encompass the broad goals of the project, rather than the specific goals/success measurement of all stakeholders. Rather, these few factors will highlight only the most important areas of the project and makes project success achievable and significant.
With all this being said, it is essential to remember that the primary goal of defining critical project outcomes is to rank success factor by overall importance. These factors are intended to be more detailed and tangible than the general success factors that have been formalized in a project mission statement or project charter.
Again, these critical project factors must be broad enough to turn into a set of principles that are widely published in resources available to stakeholders (such as a newsletter, project information signs, etc.). This allows stakeholders to understand the big picture of the project and connect the steps of the project back to these success factors.
After the critical success factors have finally been completed, the team can choose the most effective tools in order to achieve project success. This step will typically occur after the success factors are completed because the project team is able to pick the tools that work best for those success factors.
This also allows project mangers to align their approach in a timely manner by understanding the timeline of the success factors so tools and resources can be acquired at the right times to maximize efficiency. Lastly, project managers may be able to align the project plan to include multiple success factors within resource use.
For example, if two of the success factors are “include ‘x’ amount of locally source labor and small business” and “stay under ‘y’ budget for labor”, a project manager may look into the community to subcontract labor at a price that will help to stay under budget. This approach helps the project manager achieve two separate success factors in one step of the project plan.
Defining critical success factors for a project can be serve as guidance for the entire project yet demands multiple areas of input in creation. By defining the critical project factors, all parties involved I the project have a firm understanding which parts of the project will receive the most attention.
Success factors will be both subjective and objective, and the combination of the two leads to a well-rounded list of factors. Project managers must gather a wide range of information from various areas the project in order to create the best list of success factors for the project.
Lastly, the list of success factors should be short, and broad enough to cover all stakeholders concerns and address all parts of the project.