Standard project success criteria

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Project success is critical to every organisation. Delivering successful projects lead the organisational growth. But what is the project success? How do you define success? What are the success criteria? These are always questions that rise and that need to be clarified.

In past few years so many researches tried to answer these questions by conducting different researches in various IT projects. Most of them suggested that meeting budget, time and appropriate user specifications can be used to define the success of an IT project. However in later stages it has been found that apart from these basic criteria there are many more factors that also affect the IT project success. According to Shenhar et al (2002 p. 699), some of those factors are project efficiency, impact on customer, impact on business and organisational success, future modifications and many more. Moreover it has been found by Wetbridge (1997 p.59) that these project success factors also changes depending upon the cost, functionality and quality of the IT project.

In case of IT projects success criteria and definition need to be developed before starting the project itself to avoid the chaos in the later stages. Undefined project success criteria might cause project failure. Study mentioned in the Wetbridge (1995 p. 169) suggested that in case of IT project there are less number of successful project than the successful ones. As we can see here the need of strong success definition is required badly. The aim of this literature based report is to discuss different success criteria and develop the own success definition based on success factors.

Discussion over standard project success criteria

Before defining the project success, it is necessary discuss what success criteria includes in case of IT projects and what are the factors that affect the project success.

As mentioned in the introduction most of the researchers have defined three major criteria for a successful project. These three are on time, on budget and customer satisfaction. According to Freeman and Beale (1992 p. 8) the project is considered as a successful project if it has completed on time and within the provided budget. Supporting this success criteria Turner (cited by Wetbridge 1997 P.59) also defines the project success definitions based on time delivery and budget constraints. Adding to these two success factors Cooke-Davies (2001) includes quality of the project that leads to the customer satisfaction into is project success definition.

Above mentioned articles have a strong agreement with each other in defining the success of the IT project. But many of the current researchers found that these three IT project success criteria have a very broad view and should be narrowed down. In this direction an argument was mentioned by Shenar el al (2002 p. 700) by giving the Microsoft windows success example. According to the authors of this article when Microsoft launched first windows they ran over budget and due to the lack to available resources they ran over time also. But still it was a successful project. Supporting this example Baker el al (cited by Wetbridge 1997) also suggests that although most of the IT project considered as a failure project if not satisfying the time and budgeting criteria but still some of them have seen as successful projects.

Considering these argument over success and failure definitions it is clear that in current situation it is hard to define the project success only based on these three success criteria. Current research has suggested that there is a strong need to take an account of other criteria also. The next section of this report will discuss the extended criteria that lead to the successful IT projects. It will also discuss the definitions of the IT project success based on those criteria.

Broadening the success criteria

Previous section has discussed about the basic success criteria and concluded that these criteria need to be broadened. According to the Wetridge (1997) time, budget and customer satisfaction defines the project success without considering the quality and the overall goal of the IT project. This rise a question that if the project completed in time and in budget and doesn't achieve the goal and also it shows a poor quality then will it be a successful project? The answer is no. These factors are also very important. So the factors under these criteria should also be taken under consideration while defining the project success. Procaccino et al (2005, cited by Pereira el at 2007, p. 898) mentioned some major criteria under which the IT project success should be defined. Other then time, budget and user satisfaction these are area are management, team and estimation.

Moreover there are other project success definitions given which take the account of the success factors related to the stakeholders, business and technical prospects. According to Thomas and Ferna´ndez (2008 p. 736) there are sponsor satisfaction, business continuity, project team satisfaction, and steering group satisfaction are often missed out while defining the success of the project, but in the real sense they also contributes to the success of the project. Also this article has presented a table which suggest the judging success criteria with respect to project team, technology and business prospective (P. 736).

Apart from above mentioned articles Morris and Hough (cited by Wetbridge 1995) founds the importance of broadening the success criteria and have mentioned that project success should be defined in two views. First the User satisfaction view. This view must define the success as measure of delivered functionality and profitability to the user. Second is project manager's view. This view must define the successful IT project as measure of purpose achievement, benefit to the owner, meets required objectives and also the satisfaction of the project team itself.

As mentioned in the different articles stated above, it is clear that apart from basic success factors such as time, budget and user satisfaction the IT project success definition should also include stakeholders, business and technical prospects. Taking this into the consideration the next part of this report tries to build its own IT project success definition.

Definition for IT project success

There are many success criteria for an IT project. Moreover under those criteria different success factors contributes towards the success of the IT project. But these criteria and factors varies for different areas of the IT project such as project team, business, technology, consumer and stakeholders. For each of those areas the success means different. It is not wise to define the IT project success in a way which includes all these area. So project success definition should be given for each of these areas individually. In this section report tries to define success in the views of each of these areas.

Project team:

In the project teams point of view IT project success can be defined as “The project that finishes in scheduled time, within the allocated budgets and which satisfies the customer requirements, is considered to be a successful IT project.” Supporting this definition Shenhar et al (2001 p.702) has mentioned that most of the project manager defines the project success by concluding it within the guidelines given. Turner (cited by Wetbridge 1997 P.59) also supports this definition and mentioned that project success in project team's view is based on time delivery and budget constraints.


Business prospects are bit different from the project team prospects. So in business point of view this definition can be given slightly different. “The projects that satisfy the time, budget and user satisfaction criteria but which also have business continuity, which met the business objectives and also which delivers the benefit to the business considered as a successful IT project.” This view of business for the successful IT project has mentioned by Thomas and Ferna´ndez (2008 p.736). There studies show that apart from basic criteria business people judge the success in the other three criteria also and so their definition includes them.


In the technology point to view the project has different objectives and so its success has different definition from the other area. “IT project which derives the modern technology with its uniqueness, simple user interface, less complexity and also which resolves the problems of its previous technology is considered to be a successful project.” This definition has a little support of an article written by Westerveld (2002 p. 412). The article discuss about the technology and project success dependencies.


In consumer's view point “The successful IT project should satisfy their business requirements, delivers full required functionality, provides user satisfaction within the allocated time and budget can be considered the successful IT project.” Wateridge (1995 p.163) has studied different resources and derives the conclusion regarding the IT/IS success criteria. His concluded points bolster the above definition upto certain extent.


Stakeholders look the project in different aspect compare to the other actors relating to the project. In their view the definition can be given as “Successful IT project should satisfy the basic success criteria. Other then this project should also satisfy business goals, it should deliver the quality and reliable product. Apart from this it should have low cost maintainability.” The studies of Procaccino and Verner (2002) describe the stakeholder's perception of the success, which actually justify the above definition.


This literature based report has explored the different criteria and factors of the IT project success and based on that it also have discussed the definitions for IT project success given by different researchers in the past. In the beginning of the project management most of the articles defines the project success based on three basic guidelines time, budget and user satisfaction. But later researches founds it is not necessary that IT project gets success if its only satisfies these basic criteria. This situation leads the need of the other factors that also have a big impact on IT project success hence some new definitions of it. This report discusses these success criteria and founds that it is hard to define the project success in one view and should be categories in different actor's views. In the end the project should be considered as successful if it justifies the definitions of most of these actors.