How to Define Project Success

You’ve spent weeks, months even, with your head against the grindstone, toiling away. And, you’ve finally made it! But – made it where?

Too many projects kick-off without defined success metrics, and according to KPMG, 60% of companies don’t even measure the ROI on projects.

Measuring success

In order to measure success, we need to manage the project effectively. To do this, you need to understand exactly what success looks like, outline your objectives and set goals. The Project Management Institute state that success should be measured and broken down as follows:

  • 20% Satisfied stakeholders
  • 19% Delivered on time
  • 18% Delivered within budget
  • 17% of Achieves target benefits
  • 15% Produces high-quality deliverables
  • 9% Achieves acceptable ROI
  • 2% Other


We all like to believe we’re smart, yet often we don’t work SMART. Every project must have specific criteria against which we evaluate success, as these are integral to refine our approach as we progress.

Specific | Measurable | Attainable | Relevant | Timely

With a set of well-defined objectives, there is more clarity around the goals that we hope to achieve, the ‘how’, and the ‘by when’, maximising our chance of hitting such lofty ambitions.

Once you know what you must do, it’s time to set your goals in stone. Agree which factors are integral to your business, and define what achievement looks like in each context:


Projects should have an end-date: establish your schedule, make sure it reflects the contents of the project plan and be ambitious (without killing yourself, or your team, hopefully); then, try and hit it!


You established your ‘must-haves’, you included some ‘should-haves’, but there wasn’t scope for any ‘could-haves’. It’s imperative you review whether you attained your project goals [link to project goals article] to establish if there is any unfinished business, or if everything was on the money.


The project manager’s nemesis, but vital to determine project success. Check your estimated spend and review against actual spending. Don’t forget to include unexpected costs, exorbitant electricity bills, resources required, training and every little detail you can think of. It may not be pretty, but we all need to learn, so it needs to be accurate.

Team Feedback

This is about your employees as much as your business, has the upgrade improved efficiencies, reduced the time it takes them to do certain tasks, added a layer of analysis that they never had before.

Circulate a survey to measure team happiness. Consider both a pre-project and post-project version for measurability and establish if your efforts really have put a smile on your colleague’s faces.

Key questions to ask:

  1. Has X increased your productivity in any way?
  2. Do you feel the benefits of X were communicated to you clearly? How could we have improved this?
  3. Did you have sufficient training?

Customer Feedback

Let’s be honest, it isn’t just about your team; it’s also about efficiencies. So, are you able to process orders quicker? Or, are you receiving fewer problems as a result of the implementation project? Is it enabling your customer service team to resolve issues more effectively? If the project has a direct effect on customers, ask them whether they’ve experienced improved communication and customer satisfaction.


The focus of many projects is improving output. Have employees become more productive, reduced travel spend or shortened the sales cycle? We hope so, and accounting will be able to pinpoint any gains. Plus, if you’ve calculated your ROI effectively, you should be able to see the difference quite clearly.

How SMART are you?

46% of companies admit to not fully understanding the value of project management, even though understanding boosts the success rate of strategic initiatives by 16%. To increase the success rates of projects, it’s vital to understand your goals and objectives, along with the ROI of a project.

  • Start by setting out SMART objectives for your project.
  • On completion of any project, be sure to readdress your objectives and analyse their success to obtain and overall ROI.
  • Communicate any successes to your team – they will welcome a pat on the back.

Did you know 30% of project managers break up large projects into smaller segments, with deliverables and evaluations at the end of each segment, which has been proven to increase success? Read our blog on how to win with a goal-based system here >