How to tell if your IT project was a success

As a project comes to a close, it’s important to look back at the project life cycle and determine its level of success. By doing so, you can create valuable lessons learned, identify processes that need to be improved, and verify areas of opportunities for the next projects.

What some project managers struggle with, is how to measure the success of an IT project. Project success is usually measured by the three main axes of the project management triangle of scope namely Cost, Quality and Time, but there are other measures which are as important.

Let us take a look at these 8 items you should be evaluating:

  1. Cost: Gartner® research has proved that world-class organisations manage their projects to within 10% of cost and schedule estimates. Perfection is not possible, instead, strive to be world-class. A project baseline is vital to enable you to evaluate Cost performance.
  2. Quality: The project has delivered a product that meets the requirements of the customer, is reliable and easy to use. It may not meet the full requirements, or it may even have exceeded them, but the customer must be satisfied with the outcomes if the project is to be considered successful. You can use the fault log or trouble tickets generated during the project to determine this
  3. Time: Again, world-class organisations manage their projects to within 10% of schedule estimates according to Gartner®. A project never meets the original estimations perfectly, it will either be early or late, anything else is suspect – life doesn’t work like that! Again, the baseline is critical to enable you to measure this.
  4. Customer Satisfaction: A customer is satisfied when they receive the quality, they were led to expect, within an acceptable timeframe and at a reasonable cost. This doesn’t mean that your project delivered 100% quality, absolutely on time and under the budget, but that the customer has walked the journey with you and understands that what they have received meets their needs, within a reasonable timeframe and that they didn’t overpay for what they received. A customer satisfaction survey would guide you here.
  5. Team satisfaction: It doesn’t help if you have delivered your customer’s project to their satisfaction but left a trial of broken and bruised team members in your wake. If you did, you can be sure that they will never want to work with you again. A team satisfaction survey would help here.
  6. Community satisfaction: It also doesn’t help if you have delivered your customer’s project to their satisfaction but left a community disenfranchised and angry with the customer. The needs and perceptions of the community in which the project outcomes are going to be used must be considered throughout the project and the customer must be advised of any particular risk posed. Once again, a survey will be the key.
  7. Comprehensive documentation: Any project manager worth their salt will produce a trail of project documentation which will satisfy the harshest audit. Project Managers need to document their projects as if they must defend it in court one day, anything less exposes their customer to potential loss. A deliverable and governance log will do this and provide valuable information for any future audit.
  8. Alignment with strategy: A successful project is one which contributes to the well-being of the organisation and helps to move it forward. Therefore, every project must have a strategic imperative behind it before it sees the light of day, and the project manager has to ensure this is the case, otherwise the project may be abandoned after spending time and money on a meaningless objective. Measurement of achievement of strategic specific business objectives (e.g. Improve profitability by 5%, or reduce customer churn by 10%) can only be measured after the project has gone live and forms part of portfolio management.

The Golden Thread through all these success criteria is diligence from the Project Manager and maintaining open and honest communication throughout the project.

By setting expectations correctly, defining the scope of activities to the best of your abilities, compiling a comprehensive schedule, and calculating costs as accurately as possible, is the starting point to any project.

You will then need to manage any changes to the scope of the project with your customer, let them know well in advance if there are challenges with quality, cost, or time so that surprises can be avoided.

Managing a project can be a big undertaking, measuring its success after project close is another. However, with the right project management partner to assist you every step of the way, you can improve your odds of a successful project. Contact McManus today at +27 (0) 10 140 1056 or email us at and start your project off on the right foot.