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The seven project constraints to measure success.

Many projects are undertaken in the public and private sector to deliver various deliverables/outputs which enable outcomes and measurable benefits realised by key stakeholders.

Some projects are classified as simple, some are complicated and complex. The project seven constraints which need to be managed include: budget, project scope; quality, risk, benefits, schedule and customer satisfaction. The costs involved in projects need to be managed recouped by the delivered measurable benefits in order to rank the project as being success.

Projects are vehicles we use to deliver change and consequently benefits. Benefits are always associated to positive measurable outcomes and which maybe tangible or intangible. The aim of this week’s article is to discuss what constitutes project success considering the seven constraints we have just mentioned. Reviewing and aligning to project management best practice we can safely say delivering a successful project entails on schedule, on budget and in full may imply that the following constraints cost, time, scope, quality, risk, benefits and customer satisfaction have been met.

The project sponsor is accountable for the success of the project and project manager is responsible for delivering the project deliverables within agreed baseline costs, time, scope, quality, risk, and benefit and customer satisfaction.  Therefore what this means is that project initial objectives need to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-phased (SMART) enough to enable measurement of success factors. This is one of the reasons all projects need to be chartered. I will try to elaborate a little bit more on common scenarios regarding project success or failure measurement.

Projects which fail to satisfy the seven constraints are deemed to have failed or challenged. When the project initial budget is 2.5 million and it is consequently delivered at 4 million with an additional extra 1.5 million funding. This actually means that the project had a budget overrun on the cost and in other words the project failed to meet initially agreed budget. They are many reasons which would cause this undesirable situation to happen and of course one of them is lack of proper project governance from inception to delivery. Tobe specific this points to either initial poor project budget estimates or lack of monitoring and control in project execution.

 A project will have incurred a time overrun if it is delivered later than the initial planned closure date, for example a 90 calendar day project to be delivered on 30th January is delivered 6 months later on 30th of July. This also constitutes project failure on time overrun.

A project delivered on time and on budget but with product defects and of poor quality is deemed to have failed also as the deliverable do not meet quality standards and metric or customer expectations. For example a building infrastructure built recently in the country had support columns cracking and failing. These defects are catastrophic because they either point to a huge technical debt incurred and surely poor project management methodology or lack of it.

The same goes to projects delivered on time, on budget, with quality deliverables but with a high risk of deliverables or products being obsolete in the market with no use is deemed a failed project.

The need for risk management cannot be over emphasized in projects. Ideally, there should never be shocks in projects. Well managed risks in projects increases the benefits realized and conversely poorly managed risks will definitely have adverse effect on project objectives and success factors.

Customer or user satisfaction also forms an integral part of project success measurement and efforts and actions need to be in place to ensure that customer or user satisfaction is measured and ascertained as a project success criteria.

Scope creep is also a major contributor to project failures, where by additions to the project scope of objectives are not properly monitored and managed and consequently have an adverse impact on time and cost and may include quality as well. Scope changes should always be managed through a formalised scope change control strategy involving all change requests impacting on the project business case.

Final thoughts: We have many projects which are failing or continue failing not because of technical reasons but project management reasons. Therefore it is important to make sure that project methodology and approach is chosen in the early stages of project chartering. In the absence of project methodology there is always a risk that project deliverables will fail to meet customer or user expectations. One of the most popular and respected project methodologies is PRINCE2 which stands for Projects in Controlled Environment. For complex high-tech projects PRINCE2 Agile can be the solution. PRINCE2 Agile combines the flexibility and responsiveness of agile with the clearly defined framework of PRINCE2®. PRINCE2 Agile covers a wide range of agile concepts, including SCRUM, Kanban and Lean Start-up. As with PRINCE2, PRINCE2 Agile can be applied to any type of project within any industry sector. PRINCE2 Agile is a new extension module tailored for forward thinking organisations and individuals already benefiting from PRINCE2 that would like further guidance on how to apply agile methods to the world’s most recognized project management method.

This article was written by Dr Laban Mwansa, MSP®, PMP®, PRINCE2® Practitioner, P2Agile®, COBIT®, ITIL®. Laban is a consultant and trainer in project management and specifically trainer/coach in Agile, PMP®, PRINCE2® Practitioner, PRINCE2 Agile® in Zambia, South Africa and Europe for many years. He is also the managing partner of Betaways Innovation Systems and can be reached at: or WhatsApp +27817029669.

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