Defining and Achieving Project Success




Defining and Achieving Project Success

Posted By: Ben McCoy
Posted In: Branding, Email Marketing, Internet Marketing, SEO, Social Media, Web + Interactive Solutions

Image of an A+ grade on an exam.Success is managed. That’s why it’s so important to clearly define (and agree upon) a project’s goals and how they will be measured before you begin a project. Without this definition, it’s nearly impossible to keep a project on track and within scope. And it’s even harder to hold project stakeholders – including the clients and other team members – accountable to making sure that tactical decisions are in line with project objectives. But most importantly, it instills confidence. If everybody knows what success looks like, it becomes much easier for all parties to achieve success.




Types of Success Metrics

When it comes to defining success, it’s important to understand that some of these definitions are subjective, while others are objective.

Subjective metrics are often perception-based and difficult to measure. Objective metrics, by contrast, can be measured using key indicators – like website visits, for example. Therefore, it is generally recommended that project be defined using objective metrics because they provide the most neutral means for tracking response rates, determining ROI, and informing future changes.


Subjective Success Metrics

Subjective success metrics include …

  • Client Satisfaction – A client’s personal impression of (or satisfaction with) the end result can be a hard nut to crack as it generally takes the focus off of the actual needs of their target audience. Additionally, this metric often makes it hard to maintain a timeline or budget if a client lacks focus, discipline, or simply doesn’t have a clear vision of their needs.
  • Customer / User Satisfaction – Direct customer (or user) feedback is also tricky. Survey tools provide a mechanism for collecting this sort of data, but the results are often and easily skewed by the type of questions asked, how they are asked, and the responses they encourage. There is also the argument that the people that actually take the time to fill in surveys are not necessarily representative of your audience at large.


Objective Success Metrics

Objective success metrics include …

  • Statistics – Statistical tracking tools can provide hard and fast numbers related to various factors. Increased sales and/or and uptick in the number of inquiries a business receives are not only goals, but also metrics. And Web stats tracking tools like Google Analytics, for example, can measure traffic on your website, blog, and more to help you identify user trends, as well as incorporation conversion triggers to help track specific user actions.
  • Time, Price, and Quality / Scope – The variables of time, price, and quality / scope are what we call the Tri-force of Project Cost Factors. These variables underlie all projects and learning how they interrelate can be challenging because you can only choose to control 2 of them. And this means establishing priorities. But once that understanding is in place, they provide great levers for managing stakeholder expectations and helping to drive decision.


Additional Management Tools

Even though metrics can help us determine whether or not a project is successful, it’s also important to have some other management tactics to draw upon.

  • Phases – A phased approach to Web development, specifically, is also a great way to manage success. Knowing that new content and functionality can be added later is a great way to help projects on time, on budget, and within the agreed scope.
  • Communication – The best tool in any project manager’s arsenal is good communication. The ability to clearly and concisely share ideas, ask questions, and build consensus in a way that all project stakeholder feel like they’re being kept well informed and up to speed can make all the difference. And it’s this skill that will help any project traverse bumps in the road and address other unexpected challenges.



Without properly defining project objectives, it’s difficult to ensure that a project will succeed. And allowing any stakeholder to subjectively define success often leaves other stakeholders at their mercy. Therefore, we recommend defining project success by using objective metrics that can be tracked and measured. Not only will this set a practical (and pragmatic) bar to reach, but it can also provide a more neutral mechanism for informing future changes and determining next steps.


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Bicycle Theory is a brand marketing company located in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, MN. Bicycle Theory provides strategic and tactical brand marketing services, including Web design and development, Internet marketing, brand strategy, and identity building.

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