Episode 276: What Does Project Success Really Mean? (Free)
This episode is sponsored by The Agile PrepCast for The PMI-ACP Exam:
David says that it's not about time, budget and scope. Successful projects are about achieving business goals. Projects are really investments meant to change something about the business, and if they don't hit that business target all the time and money are wasted.
And successful project managers should know how to lead teams to hit those business targets.
Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode # 276. This is the Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com and I am Cornelius Fichtner. And I have a great interview for you today.
David Blumhorst from Daptiv is back on the program to discuss what project success really means. David says that it's not about time, budget and scope. Successful projects are about achieving business goals. Projects are really investments meant to change something about the business and if they don’t hit that business target, then all time and money is wasted. And successful project managers like you and me should know how to lead teams to hit those business targets.
So let's jump right in. How do you define success?
Female voice: The Project Management Podcast’s feature Interview: Today with David Blumhorst, Vice President of Solutions and Services at Daptiv.
Cornelius Fichtner:Hello David and welcome back to The Project Management Podcast™!
David Blumhorst: Good morning, Cornelius. Nice to be back!
Cornelius Fichtner: I'm excited to have you back. We spoke to you about a year ago and we talked about Agile and Project Portfolio Management. And today, we're taking a slightly different look at this. We're talking about portfolio management and what does project success really mean.
So when measuring project success, the competing project constraints, they are often brought up. Is that really it --- time, budget, scope --- those constraints?
David Blumhorst: So we picked the topic that is obviously a passion of mine because I've been talking about this one for a long time and writing blogs for a long time and I come to conclude that the best way to look at this is time, budget and scope have nothing to do with project success.
Cornelius Fichtner: Okay.
David Blumhorst: Those are measures of project performance. You know, how are we doing performing in this project? Are we getting under budget? Are we going to be on time? Are we hitting the scope lines we had? They are measure of performance. Measures of success have to do with: Are we hitting the business outcomes that we anticipated when we launched this project? If I'm looking to get some ROI out of putting the pieces to mend, maybe I want to, on the order management side, reduce order defects or something like that. Did we reduce the order defects? Right? That's why we did this.
Another great example I had is a project that started up to upgrade payroll. I started asking about what the reason for upgrading the payroll was and real objective of it. They are talking about: "Well, you know we have the modules sunsetting, always nice technical factors." The executive voice stood up and said: "We need to do this because if we don’t, come January 1, 160,000 people won't get paid. We need to make sure they are getting paid." Very good business target to go after. So what we're really talking about with projects are business goals.
Cornelius Fichtner: Right…
David Blumhorst: The measure of success should be whether or not you hit that business target.
Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah and taking a step back here, the business goals are really the reason why we actually do our projects, right?
David Blumhorst: Exactly, exactly. And if you think about that, anytime we're doing a project, we're trying to change something about the business. We're spending money. We're spending time. We're making an investment and making a change in the business.
When PPM is done right, when the portfolio management part of PPM is done right, all projects, we'll work that as investments in a portfolio rather than just projects that have a start and end date and have a certain time, budget and scope. And you got competing priorities coming in to that set of investments much like when you are managing your own portfolio of say equities or stocks or anything else. You got a finite amount of resource you're putting against, seems unlimited number of choices, which ones are you going to do? Well, you're going to do the ones that are going to benefit the business most. So you're making investments to improve the business and then the business case is what it's all about. Are we reducing errors? Are we opening up new web channel to increase sales.? They are very business goals to go after and we want to make sure we're hitting that business target.
As I sometimes put up a note for the business target versus the time, budget and scope, I joked about time, budget and scope have nothing to do success. Obviously if you are going after, say, a 10-million revenue increase, it will cost 15 million to get there, the investment isn’t worth it. So it really is about the investment and the change: 'Is the investment worth that?' and then going after the investments that are worth it. If all you do is look at time, budget and scope, if you missed the target at the end of the day, you’re throwing away the investment. You're throwing away all your time and money.
Cornelius Fichtner: If we look at project success under that light, what then is the job of the project manager in regards to leading the project and project success?