project success: success factor and success criteria

Topics: Project management, Management, Project Pages: 16 (2764 words) Published: October 17, 2013
by M. Shaw
Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm  

  Winston Churchill

Since the 1960s there have been an increasing number of Project Management

scholars that have expressed concerns regarding the ways to manage the success or failure of a project. Crawford (2000) theorised that there are two major avenues of thought in this area being: how success is judged and the factors that contribute to the success. These two avenues were later crowned ‘success factors’ and ‘success criteria’ respectively of which both will be discussed in depth during this essay to provide an insight for future project management scholars.


The way by which a project is judged as to whether it is successful or not has

long since been deliberated by many Project Management scholars. Crawford’s (2000) efforts to detail these criteria has helped however a better understanding is required such that each project manager or key stakeholder can choose as to what criterion will defined whether the project is a success or failure. This section will elaborate on Crawford’s (2000) studies by drawing on one of her principle advisers, Atkinson. Atkinson uses the Iron Triangle as the foundation of the work and then building on it to develop a robust methodology for success.


Figure 1: Iron Triangle (Atkinson, 1999)


Iron Triangle. Oilsen (1971) over fifty years ago stated that the Iron Triangle

(Atkinson, 1999) of Time, Cost and Quality were the key success criteria for any project. This triangle was reduced to just time and budget by Wright (1997) however Turner (1993), Morris (1987), Wateridge (1998), deWit (1988), McCoy (1987), Pinto and Slevin (1988), Saarinen (1990), and Ballantine (1996) all agree that the Iron Triangle should be used albeit not exclusively. Temporary use of criteria can be used during certain parts of the project to ascertain whether or not a project is going to plan. An example of temporary criteria that was used by Meyer (1994) was the earned value method. The Earned value method in a project can demonstrate it the project is on track, specifically when earned value (what the project is worth at that time) is less than actual costs it means the project is over budget. This is countered however by deWitt (1988) that states when costs are used as a control they manage progress rather than project success. Atkinson (1999) adds that some projects may need to be bound by time; he uses a Millennium project (e.g. a computer system with a potential year 2000, Y2K, bug) as an example, if the project doesn’t meet the time constraint it could have catastrophic consequences.


Alter (1996) considers process and organisational goals as another measure,

utilising the concept of ‘did they do it right’ and ‘did they get it right’; this gives rise to the concept of measuring success both during and after the project. Atkinson (1999) reflects this concept by the introduction of the ‘Square Root,’ which proposes three additional criteria to the Iron Triangle. The three additional criteria for determining project success are: the technical strength of the resultant system, the benefits to the

resultant organisation (direct benefits) and the benefits to the wider stakeholder community (indirect benefits). A detailed breakdown of the Square Root is explained in table 1.








(stakeholder community)



Improved efficiency,

Satisfied users, Social and



Improved effectiveness,

Environmental impact.



Increased profits,

Personal development,


Strategic goals,

Professional learning, and

quality use


contractors’ profits....

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