5 project success factors

By Caroline on Apr 12
Project success factors

Good project management comes top of the list of project success criteria in any organization. It increases productivity, keeps teams focused, offers a great opportunity for flexibility when working, and so much more.

But once you're drowning in a sea of endless tasks, constant urgency, and stakeholders' conflicting priorities, managing the project to the best of your ability may feel out of reach. You can become more concerned with just getting it done. Yet identifying and working through the key project success factors can save it from all just not working out.

So, how can you set yourself up for success before you get started? And what does it look like to keep things running smoothly throughout the life of the project?

In this post, we'll walk you through the five essential project success factors. These will ensure your project either achieves all it sets out to, or even exceeds expectations.

What are the key success factors in project management?

Managing a project well doesn't just require grit and determination. There are elements to it that seem to play a vital role time and time again, even in projects that are very different from one another.

Whether you work in construction, marketing, or interior design, these are the crucial project success criteria to consider:

  1. A Competent and Committed Team
  2. Diligent Planning
  3. Clear Project Goals
  4. Monitoring and Change Control
  5. Proper Project Management Software

Let's delve into each one of these key project success factors and look at why they're so important.

1. A competent and committed team

Committed team

Putting the right team together is essential to delivering any successful project. After all, the project consists of all the tasks the team needs to complete. So the project manager is ultimately really managing people.

Firstly, the project needs a team that can deliver the desired results, all the way from planning to execution. It's essential you assign people with the right skillsets to each aspect of the project. This starts with being or choosing a project manager who is able to overcome the daily challenges of delivering a project.

But simply choosing people with experience isn't the whole picture. Everyone involved should be invested in the success of the project. Otherwise, it could easily fall flat on its face.

How can you get this kind of ongoing commitment from an (often pretty diverse) group of people?

By making sure the team is motivated to work toward a common goal. They'll need to believe what they're creating is important and that the market wants it. And they'll thrive if they feel empowered — that their contribution is making a real difference to the project.

A strong project team works well together on their shared vision, too. Each team member should:

  • Know precisely where their role begins and ends
  • Be accountable to the wider team
  • Feel able to openly problem solve
  • Be encouraged to keep collaborating with others
  • Work independently — without constant guidance from the project manager
  • Know how to give and receive constructive feedback

When it comes down to it, there's only one way to keep every member of the team fully informed and involved — with good communication. You'll want to foster an environment where communication happens both:

  • Formally — through productive meetings and knowledge-sharing documentation
  • Informally — on a coffee break, chat tool, or lunchtime meetup outside of the office

2. Diligent planning

Project planning

It's tempting for every project manager to rush to the project execution stage. Maybe you're excited to bring your vision to life for a client. Or perhaps you've been tasked with making a big change in your company and time is running tight.

But taking shortcuts and not planning sufficiently often compromises the success of the whole project and leaves you open to risk. The benefits of getting to work quickly will soon be outweighed by the downsides.

The first time investment when planning a project is the discovery phase. Here, project managers work closely with the client or other stakeholders to find out more about areas like their:

  • Industry
  • Strengths and weaknesses
  • Pain points
  • Past projects

Once you're equipped with the information you need for the project, you can make a stronger action plan and identify potential hurdles ahead. You can also formulate informed estimates that keep your project's goals realistic. Although loftier aspirations may highlight a team member's competence, they're less likely to succeed in the first place.

When coming up with estimates, managers of successful projects look at their best, worst, and most realistic scenarios. Plan according to how things really are, rather than how you want them to be, and add contingencies where needed. As well as researching the needs of the project, establish clear priorities, a preferred methodology, and best practice frameworks to follow.

You may only need a simple project plan, figuring out finer details along the way, or a more detailed, singing and dancing plan. Either way, you can always correlate the success of a project with whether the team planned enough for it.

3. Clear project goals

Project goals

It may seem obvious to set clear goals — if you don't have a task you want to achieve, your project wouldn't exist in the first place. But pinning down the finer details of your goals can stop them from becoming lost or confused in the busy daily work environment. And that can be the difference between frustrating delays and timely project closure.

All stakeholders should be willing to invest some time to set clear project goals. To really make them stick, make it clear what your goals' criteria are and how you'll measure them. And remember, people like simple goals they can easily wrap their heads around. Once your project team has formulated clear goals, the project manager must make sure everyone understands what the project is trying to accomplish.

Project goals should appeal to every stakeholder for their own reasons, even if those aren't the same as other team members. Top management will see the benefit of a goal that improves profitability for a department. A junior member of the team may see the project as a great opportunity to showcase their skillset.

Most good project managers set desired outcomes that are at least loosely based on SMART. This well-established framework states that your project goals should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

As the project progresses, the goals mustn't be put to the side to gather dust. Instead, they're best:

  • Kept visible to everyone
  • Revisited with relevant stakeholders at different stages of the project
  • Analyzed when you're at critical decision points
  • Reviewed to shape end-of-project evaluations

4. Monitoring and change control

Project monitoring

It's so easy to get stuck into the details of a project as you're working on it. The task at hand tends to become the priority, especially on longer projects that are mapped out for a year or more of deliverables.

But as the project manager, you must keep the wider picture in mind too. Monitoring project goals, both large and small, helps with this. You should be able to clearly understand if the project is on track and moving along efficiently. With this information, you can identify problems early on, avoid missing deadlines, and waste minimal time and resources.

How should you monitor your project? The most reliable way to do this is by both:

  • Measuring performance against Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
  • Creating a project status report to evaluate current progress

Of course, it's likely team members will come up with new ideas along the path to project completion. When a team is excited to help the project reach new heights, it's tempting to try out all of their plans. Successful project managers understand how to discern and evaluate each idea so only the best survive the cut.

Priorities should also be managed so each new idea is evaluated against the original goals and availability of resources. Even if an idea is bright and appealing, it must fit nicely within the scope of the project. Otherwise, a project is open to scope creep and a complete loss of meaningful direction.

5. Proper project management software

We've looked into the five key success factors of any project. By their nature, many of these will ask you to possess the skills of a good project manager. But this is only half the battle.

Project board with tasks and task lists.

The quality of the tools you use also has a direct impact on how easy it is to manage your project. And this doesn't mean making detailed spreadsheets in Excel. After all, most programs just aren't set up for the needs of a project management team. You should have software at your fingertips to make every aspect of your project more efficient.

Investing in good project management software lets your team collaborate easily and securely, each person armed with all the information they need. Clearly-assigned tasks prevent confusion and doubling up of responsibilities. Instead, each team member knows what's expected of them, even during busy periods.

Breeze is exclusively a project management app. Project boards provide a clear overview so it's easier to keep perspective of the whole project rather than the details of a single task. Task lists allow you to switch with ease between different aspects of the project, all from your own personalized view. And with reports built from scratch, you'll provide only the metrics that matter to each stakeholder.

What's more, documenting everything digitally on Breeze makes it easier to create a knowledge-sharing repository. You can review your progress objectively, learn important lessons from your mistakes, and continue to improve on future projects.