The current business environment is challenging for any kind of organisation. Organisations need to deal with constant change and globalisation makes the landscape competitive, which puts pressure on costs and resources. This requires organisations to be flexible and responsive and makes projects and change initiatives increasingly important.
Success in the current business environment depends not only on executing projects correctly but also on choosing the right projects to start with. Initiating too many projects with limited resources is a common reason for low project success rates. Another factor that influences the project success is whether or not the project is aligned with the organisational objectives.
An organisation that is capable of initiating projects that are aligned with the strategic and business goals and is able to select the right projects at the right time, will increase its project success rate. In order to do so, implementing a project management methodology could be a good step, but will not address coordination challenges.
Project success rate
The project success rate is the percentage of projects that achieve their intended goals and outcomes, reflecting the effectiveness of the project management.
Project success is something subjective and varies with stakeholders perspectives and time. In most cases, project success refers to timely, budgeted and specification-aligned completion. But it can also refer to product success or achieving business goals.
Factors that influence the project success are project management, product development, business and strategic success as well as process success. As every project is unique, there is not one way to judge any of the above mentioned factors. It is therefore wise to define in the initiation phase of the project what would be considered a ‘project success’.
Once the project is finalised, the project management team is advised to have a retrospective meeting to define the project success and the lessons learned If the project is considered successful, this adds to the project success rate.
Source: Defining project success
Increasing the Project success rate in an organisation
If an organisation is set on increasing its project success rate, one way could be to aim to implement the P3M3 framework.
This framework is a layered set of functions, important for delivering projects, but also for coordination of projects, direction setting and aligning, selecting and prioritizing projects. The layers in this framework are project management, programme management and portfolio management. The framework focuses on structure and governance, but integrates this with important socio-cultural aspects from change management.
In larger, stable organisations, the P3 framework can be implemented through various specialised roles and offices, such as a PMO. However, in smaller or more dynamic organisations, many of these functions can be performed by individuals within project teams, granting them the authority to assume some of the responsibilities typically associated with higher management positions.
The P3 framework involves functions primarily at the project level, including detailed planning, progress reporting, defining requirements, product development, and quality assurance. These activities can be carried out by individual projects as long as the necessary resources are accessible.
Where to start improving the Project success rate
Enhancing project success within an organisation necessitates a dual approach that combines bottom-up and top-down strategies concurrently. The “bottom-up” aspect pertains to addressing the actual changes required at the project level to improve how work is executed. Simultaneously, for tackling the collaborative challenges mentioned earlier, the “top-down” approach involves implementing portfolio and program management functions at a higher level within the organisational framework. There are a couple of factors that we should take into account, when trying to do this.
- Maturity of the organisation
The initial factor to consider is organizational maturity. Ideally, the implementation of P3 management should follow an iterative approach. First, concentrate on enhancing project delivery, ensuring simplicity across all three levels, and establishing a portfolio-level overview of performance and success rates. Subsequently, based on accumulated experience through performance and feedback cycles, gradually evolve to a more advanced stage. This involves introducing additional PPM or P3 management functions, such as portfolio definition, strategic alignment, program management, and comprehensive resource management.
- Urgency to change
The second crucial factor is the urgency for change and higher management commitment. In scenarios where an organisation urgently needs significant change, like meeting new regulations or adapting to market shifts, a rapid investment in an integrated program management framework is often necessary. While effective in these urgent cases, there is a risk that once the urgency subsides or the specific program concludes, the newly introduced P3 methods might be abandoned, and old project management practices may return. In contrast, when higher-level management commits to a long-term change strategy, a more gradual and iterative implementation of P3 methods is possible. This approach begins with portfolio definition and then progresses to portfolio delivery, program, and project management. Ideally, P3 methods are systematically integrated into a structured program management approach that aligns with the transformative nature of P3 implementation itself. This approach can significantly improve long-term project success rates compared to situations driven by sudden and strong change factors.
Strategic commitment for long term Project success
To significantly increase the project success rate by working on integrating a P3M3 structure, a well-rounded approach is needed. This approach involves defining an integrated P3 maturity roadmap and implementing iterative and collaborative enhancements.
The challenge lies in the commitment paradox: When there is no sudden, strong change driver, there is often time and resources available for P3 improvements, but higher management commitment is lacking. Conversely, higher-level management tends to commit to change only in the face of a sudden, powerful change driver, but resources for P3 management are limited. Ideally, proactive higher-level management invests in and commits to P3 management before emergency situations arise, creating a balanced approach.
By following this integrated roadmap and enhancing project, program, and portfolio management collaboratively and incrementally, an organisation can achieve the most significant long-term improvement in project success rates. This, in turn, enhances the organisation’s capacity to respond to external change drivers and achieve its strategic objectives.