4 minutes

With so many tasks going on simultaneously during a project’s lifecycle, it can be quite difficult identifying the critical success factors in project management. While it’s a given that certain tasks would certainly leverage others to come to fruition while other tasks are also necessary for the overall execution of the project, it can be quite overwhelming getting team members to focus on the key result areas (KRAs) in a project. These KRAs can also be referred to as the critical success factors for project management.

To throw some more light on this, we would be closely examining two concepts, success criteria and then critical success factors.

Project Management Success Criteria and Critical Success Factors

Success factors are components of the project that have to be put in place to ensure the completion of the project. In simple terms, they create an enabling environment for the project to exist in the first place. In this case, we are looking at the metrics for measuring the success of the project at the end of its lifecycle.

John F. Rockart, in 1979 defines critical success factors as: “key areas in which satisfactory results would ensure the successful competitive performance for the organization.” He also defined CSFs as “…key areas where things must go right for the business to flourish.”  

Having broken them down, let’s move on to…

Major Reasons Why Projects Fail

To correctly identify project management success factors, we would start by identifying the 5 major reasons why projects fail.

  1. Projects fail when there is no support or commitment from top-level management who are supposed to provide oversight functions to the project team.
  1. Projects also fail when risk identification and risk management is ignored. In an earlier post on project management risk assessment, the need for proper risk assessment was identified as a prerequisite to reducing the odds of a negative event occurring and to help minimize the scale on which it occurs.Uncertainties mark every phase of project management and a good risk management plan good help cushion the effects of a negative turn out.
  1. An absence of a statement of work and a poorly defined project scope. The scope is a technical description of the work to be carried out, covering major issues such as development, quality assurance, and maintenance. Failure to create a properly defined scope could lead to inconsistencies in the project deliverables.
  1. An absence of commitment and ownership from project team members; a necessity for collaborative atmosphere in project management. Collaborative project management emphasizes the systematic planning, coordination, and monitoring of complex projects with a view to encouraging synergy and collaboration amongst team members. Where there is no ownership of tasks, it could be said that the project manager is practicing a “directive” style of project management as opposed to being facilitators.
  1.  Non-practical schedules and non-feasible budgets – sometimes project managers are forced to work with unrealistic budgets and timeline maybe as a result of not looking at financial reports from similar projects completed in the past.

Top Project Management Success Factors

Sequel to defining CSFs, Rockhart also proposed that the identified areas of activity that were crucial to the success of the project, be given “constant and careful attention from management”. It’s usually best if a project team identifies no more than five(5) key areas to ensure that they have the maximum attention possible. These critical factors usually vary from project to project. For example, a critical factor for a computer software development could be skilled personnel while a critical factor for a project that has a large number of geographically dispersed team members could be communication and the use of collaborative tools.

For example, a critical factor for a computer software development could be skilled personnel while a critical factor for a project that has a large number of geographically dispersed team members could be communication and the use of collaborative tools.


Here Are 8 Critical Success Factors in Project Management

  1.  A project manager should endeavor to elicit commitment from the team members, clients, top management and all stakeholders. Executive sponsorship for a project is key because top level management are the ones deciding on organizational and project strategy as well as performing goal setting functions within the organization.
  2.  A project manager should ensure that project goals and deliverables are specific, measurable, attainable, Relevant and time-bound (SMART).
  3.  There should be an agreed upon process for the quick identification and resolution of conflicts.
  4.  Good project leadership should be established
  5.  Best practices should be applied at every phase of the project
  6.  Proper risk management policies ought to be established from the onset.
  7.  Proper project planning – Without a plan, we plan to fail. Planning is what keeps us organized, a good project  plan is the first step to successful executing a project. You can find out more about project planning right here.
  8. Communication – This plays an important role in every project. An effective project manager must be an effective communicator. Communication is the only way via which tasks are assigned and monitored, project issues are escalated and the medium via which goals, performance, and feedback are passed across.

What Are The Steps To Identifying Critical Success Factors?

  1. Coming together to agree on project goals – there has to be consensus, amongst the stakeholders, clients, and the project team.
  2. The next step is to perform a cross examination of your project’s individual goals; the purpose of this is to enable you to identify what goals are actually crucial to the project and which ones perform a “supporting” role.
  3. Prune the list of nominated goals to the very critical 5
  4. Decide on how the metrics for measuring the progress of the critical goals and how they would be monitored.
  5. Be sure to communicate this with all members and stakeholders of the project to ensure that everyone is on the same page and knows what tasks have priority over others.
  6. Finally, critical success factors for each recorded and documented so they could be referred to in subsequent similar projects. This will aid a successor project manager easily identify the CFS in current project projects.