How To Measure a Project's Success in 6 Steps

Updated September 27, 2023

There are many ways a project manager can measure the success of a project. Reviewing a project's successes and failures can encourage companies to determine what they might improve on when managing projects, such as creating new processes, developing new products or delivering services. Learning how to measure project success in different ways can help you decide which metrics you might use to improve your project's performance. In this article, we discuss the ways to measure project success along with tips and skills that can help you when managing project success measurements.

Related: 8 Organization Strategies for Project Success

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How to measure project success

Projects often have different measurements for success. Depending on a client's needs and your internal resources, you might strive for success in different areas, like completing your project under budget and within a schedule. Here are six ways you can measure success:

1. Gather customer feedback

When managing projects for other people, receiving feedback from a customer can be a clear way to measure the success of a project. Customers may be external clients, departments or individuals whose projects you manage. Gathering feedback can allow you to have conversations with customers about what you've improved or how the project matches their expectations. You might also consider requesting feedback through a formal survey using numerical values to gain quantitative data. Consider setting a minimum score you hope to achieve and review the surveys and any comments to determine if your project is successful.

Related: What Is Customer Satisfaction and Why Is It Important?

2. Review project specifications

Project specifications are formal documents that outline the details and goals of a project. They might include things like resources needed, budget or deadlines. To measure a project's success, you can review the project scope to confirm if you've met all the expected results. For example, if your goal is to develop software for a new company, one objective might be to apply the company's design to the software. At the end of the project, you and the client might review the software design to determine if you've successfully met this objective.

Related: 7 Steps for Defining a Project's Scope

3. Ensure budget compliance

One important factor in managing projects is staying within or under budget. Companies often allocate certain amounts to project managers for resources and tools. When establishing a budget, you might estimate specific costs, like equipment and wages, to set a general budget for the entire project. If you spend less than your budget, you might consider the project a success. Sometimes, you can set a stretch budget, which is an amount higher than the target budget. You might consider spending higher than the target budget but lower than the stretch budget a partial success.

4. Meet schedule requirements

Similar to budget compliance, meeting schedule requirements can be a measure of success for projects. Schedules with deadlines, assignees and milestones often appear on a project brief along with scope and budget information. One way to determine if a project is successful is to see if you've completed a project by the requested end date. For a more detailed review of schedule adherence, you might compare the projected completion of each project task against the actual dates of completion.

5. Review team satisfaction

In addition to client satisfaction, you can measure your internal team's satisfaction with a project to determine its success. Teams are often familiar with the details, challenges and successes faced when managing a specific project. For example, if there's an unexpected expense or delay, one team member may propose alternative recommendations that can ensure quality delivery. You might consider the team's ability to adapt and creatively solve problems to mean a project's success.

6. Determine quality measurements

Quality measurements can reveal how well a product, process or service works upon delivery. For example, if you manufacture new equipment outside of schedule expectations without defects, this can be a success. Quality assurance might test delivery to ensure a project works as designed, requires few updates or fixes and is easy for a client to use or learn. Consider setting quality benchmarks, such as a 95% success rate, to determine if a project's quality meets the success criteria.

Related: What Is Quality Assurance? (And How To Improve Your Process)

Tips for managing project success

Here are several tips to consider when measuring project success:

  • Set clear goals: It's important at the start of a project to set clear objectives so you can compare the results to your project scope. This can involve determining what measurements of success you might use, like schedule or budget compliance, and deciding what you'll consider successful.

  • Understand the requirements: Especially when working with clients, ask questions to ensure you understand the project scope and requirements. For example, if you configure a new program, learn the design, functionality and user interface requirements to ensure quality and customer satisfaction.

  • Define specific measurements: For each measurement, try to define numeric values that can help you measure the success of a project. Durations, ratios and percentages can all help you determine what the threshold is for a successful project.

  • Try different combinations: Many projects require multiple project success measurements. Consider combining several measurements to determine an overall success score and find specific metrics to learn how you might improve for future projects.

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Skills for managing project success

When managing and measuring project success, you may use specific skills. Some of these might include:

  • Time management: With project management, knowing how long it might take to complete tasks and how delays might affect the schedule is a key skill. It's important to schedule these promptly as well to gain accurate results with success measures, like quality metrics and customer satisfaction surveys.

  • Risk management: Risk management is the ability to predict and respond to potential risks throughout a project. Understanding risks can help you determine if a project is successful, such as going over budget to provide higher quality services.

  • Creativity: Each project may require different success measurements, so being creative can help you decide which measurement is the most important to capture. For example, you may measure success in team satisfaction or growth if managing new aspects of projects is a company objective.

  • Communication: Communicating with teams and sometimes clients about what success measurements you define can help ensure everyone is striving for the same results. Consider discussing expected measurements early and clearly write them in a project brief.

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