Defining project/program success

The traditional definition of success correlates directly to delivery on time, within budget, and within scope. These traditional success factors do not account for benefits realization and quality.  What value is a project/program that was delivered on time, within scope, and within budget if people are not satisfied with or refuse to use the deliverable(s)? 

For this reason, the success (or performance) of project/program  will be based upon success criteria proposed in the charter and finalized during execution in the management plan according to the following:

Category

Projects

Programs Owner of success component
Success of product

Did the project deliver what was asked for?

Did the program deliver what was asked for? Team
  Criteria should consider scope, requirements, quality, functionality Criteria should consider scope, quality, results of program components  
Success of outcome

Are people willing to use the project's end deliverable and does it provide benefit to them when they use it?

Are people willing to use the program's end deliverables and does it provide benefit to them according to the program vision?

Sponsor
  Criteria should consider realization of benefits, objectives Criteria should consider benefits, objectives, vision  
Success of process

Was the project management process successful? 

Was the program management process successful?

Project/Program manager
  Criteria should consider how the project was managed with respect to considerations such as budget management, resource management, schedule management, project team satisfaction, change management, communication, transition to operations, sponsor satisfaction, procurement management, et cetera Criteria should consider how the program was managed with respect to considerations such as oversight of program components, resource management, budget management, schedule management, team satisfaction, change management, communication, benefits management, transition to operations, sponsor satisfaction, procurement management, et cetera  

Every project/program is unique, therefore the success criteria will be different based on constraints, benefits, and objectives.  The success criteria should reflect all benefits and objectives.

Success criteria must be specific, measurable, and approved or agreed upon by stakeholders (especially the sponsor) at the beginning. Acceptable variances or contingencies for costs, schedule, and quality should  be included in the success criteria (for example, “The budget must not exceed $500,000 with a 2% contingency” or “the deliverable must result in a reduction of ‘x’ by ‘y%’”).

To ensure benefits are realized, project/program managers must execute effective change management with their project/program.

Some success criteria pertaining to benefits realized may have to be measured after project closure.  This should be documented in the closure report (DOCX), and transitioned to the functional manager responsible for operations of deliverable(s) to follow up on.