The research on project management has been studied for decades. Many scholars and managers put great efforts into finding out what can influence project success. Through their continuing work and precious experiences, what factors dominate the success of projects is well documented in literature. The use of these guide texts can help project managers to deal with difficult tasks. Moreover, it is unanimous consensus that project critical success factors are necessary for management team to achieve project objectives and ensure success.
If they are well considered and addressed, then it is more likely that a project would have more successful outcomes. On the other hand, if these factors are not rigorously taken into account, then may lead to the failure of a project. However, it is sophisticated to implement all success factors which usually involved in a broad aspect of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques. Furthermore, during the whole project life cycle, the key factor determining success or failure often varies in different project phases.
In real practice, different elements contributing to the project success interact with each other. They are integrated rather than segregated. Therefore, managing a project is a challenge. Even though the approach of managing a successful project is well documented, it is extremely hard to apply in practice. In addition, there are many other elements can affect the success. When working on a project, social, economic and environmental effects should be considered. This discussion paper aims to distinguish the differences between project and project management success and find out their relationship.
In addition, why the success factors often ignored in practice and other social impacts which may influence project success will be discussed. Definition of project and project management In order to discuss what factors can affect the project being successful, we have to understand what a project is and what the project management is. In A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (POMBOK Guide, 2000), a project is defined as “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.
The purpose of the project is to attain its objective and then terminate. ” Temporary and unique are the standard features of projects. Temporary does not mean a short period of time. Some projects may last several years. It can be comprehended as every project has a beginning and will be terminated when it meets objectives. Each project is unique because it is a creative activity which has not been done. For example, the construction of a stadium is a project. Though there are thousands of stadiums in the world, each of them has different location, design and owner etc.
The POMBOK Guide (2000) defines the project management as “the application of knowledge, skills tools, and techniques to project activities to meet project requirement. ” The management involves a wide range of work including scope, time, cost, quality, human resource, communications, and risk management. Munns and Bjeirmi (1996) mention some differences between project and project management. Project can be simply defined as a task which can benefit a company. In contrast, project management focus on planning and controlling the process to accomplish the task on time, within budget and high quality. Project and project management success
Defining project success is complex, because projects feature in unique, every project success is measured in different ways. Wit (1998) makes a definition that “the project is considered an overall success if the project meets the technical performance specification and/or mission to be performed, and if there is a high level of satisfaction concerning the project outcome among key people in the parent organization, key people in the project team and key users or clientele of the project effort. ” This means the type of a project determines the most important factor which affects project success at the most extent.
For instance, if a project is urgent, like the Beijing National Stadium which must be completed before 2008 Olympic Games, the critical factor is considered to be time. In this case, the increase of cost can be slightly overlooked. Measuring the success of project management has many success criteria. Atkinson states that the early definition of project management success is mainly determined by achieving “The Iron Triangle” including cost, time and quality, which used by Oisen from the 1950’ and continue to be used today (Atkinson, as cited in Oisen, 2009).
Atkinson also mentions that using “The Iron Triangle” to measure the success of project management as a discipline has not changed in almost 50 years. Even if project managements meet the success criteria, cost, time and quality, there are many projects continue to be failed. The author suggests using the “Square Route” instead of the “Iron Triangle”. That is because the “Iron Triangle” only takes the limited measurement into consideration but ignores the effects on the stakeholders. This means a successful project has to balance the benefits of organizations and the satisfaction of stakeholders.
As suggested in the “Square Route”, different groups of people who can receive benefits from the projects are engaged in the measurement of success (Atkinson, 2009). Why project critical success factors often ignored in practice? What factors can influence project success is ubiquitously documented in literatures. However, when using it, one may find out it is difficult. For one thing, it is important to distinguish the differences between project and project management success. That is because sometimes they differ in objectives. A success project may accompany by successful management. However, they are not necessarily directly related.
According to Wit (1998), although being managed on time, within budget and quality are the primary objectives in literature, many projects which have not be completed on time and within budget are still deem to be successful. In some case, well-organized management can make a contribution rather than ensure the project success. Some projects failed caused by confounding the success of project and project management. For another, to measure the success of project, the most important criteria are achieving the project objectives. In different types of projects, project managers have to make a first decision to identify the main goal.
However, there are plenty of objectives involve in a project. In spite of cost, time and quality, all stakeholders should be considered. Therefore, it is a challenge to find out the most valued goal. Furthermore, each project has a distinguishing feature which cannot be easily identified by using literatures. In other words, there are no universal principles using in practice. Normally, managers should make some changes to find out more flexible and reasonable work when applying theoretical knowledge to real uses. Finally, the primary goals often vary during the whole project life cycle.
Wit (1998) gives an example, an oil-field development project, to demonstrate the changes. In the exploitation stage, the primary objective is to find a site having a lot of oil reserves can be practically exploited. Then developing the oil-field in a cost efficient way becomes the key point. In the last place, improving productivity plays a significant role. The change of main goals will affect the critical success factors in different project phases. The most important factor is not set in stone. It is essential for the project management team to be well aware of these variations and make the appropriate adjustments.
Other effects on project success Despite the interaction between successful management and project, social impacts, to a certain extent, influences the success project and management. As the increasing growth of international cooperation, the project management frequently engages in western and eastern cultures. Better understanding different cultural background will contribute to improve the likelihood of project and management success. Culture is defined as “the beliefs, way of life, art, and customs that are shared and accepted by people in a particular society” (Longman Dictionary, 2009).
People living in different civilization hold a different psychological perception of wealth, time and social life etc. Those values can lead to a project management fail if they are not well-considered in managing a cross-culture project. It is obviously that language barrier is one of the significant difficulties in cross-culture project management. Nevertheless, social and political activities play an important role. Ballow (2005) state that “understanding international socio-culture issues encountered in business is essentially at the heart of the issues companies will encounter in globalizing operations.
For instance, China with the rapid growth of economy becomes a huge market that many international companies intend to invest in. However, the new market requests a higher demand, the understanding of Chinese style of management. According to Pheng and Leong (2000), in contrast with western cultures, Asian people prioritize personal relationships with their business partners. They tend to avoid speaking problems out directly, in order to keep harmonious atmosphere during negotiation. Pheng and Leong (2000) mention that project managers working on international operations have to develop effective communication and interpersonal skills.
What is more, they need flexibility and adaptability to work with others who behave in diverse cultures. Many international organizations ignoring cultural differences have paid the price. With the increasing international cooperation, a project manager needs to understand the cultures of their project stakeholders. Conclusion It is safe to draw a conclusion that there is not a universal approach to measure project success. Key success factors are depended on project itself because each project is unique. Project critical success factors are well documented in literature, however it is too complex to implement and balance all of them.
Successfully managing a project can improve the likelihood of project success but it is not necessarily directly related. Nevertheless the key factor often changes through the whole project lifecycle. In addition, social environment affects project success in a certain degree and sometimes it plays an important role. Consequently, critical success factors are often ignored in practice these difficulties. Having flexibility and adaptability is crucial for managers to make adjustment in doing practical project.