What is Success?

In my last blog, I introduced the concept of planning for project success, not just project planning. The difference may seem subtle, and if you're not a word-smith, you might find the subtleness annoying... however, the impact of the underlying differences will most certainly hit your bottom line (even if your bottom line isn't financial).

What is success?

Success is a strange creature. I'm sure you can think of a myriad of examples where one person thought something was successful, and another thought it was a failure. As a parent, I've bought many a Christmas present for a teenager - planning to bask in their adulation, as I knew I would have loved that present when I was their age - only to be shot down with the realisation that times have changed, and that radio-controlled gadget is not the triumph I hoped for. Similarly, I've been in projects where the sponsor has been replaced mid-project, and instantly, the great ideas of the last sponsor are now disregarded and plans need to change.

There is a disheartening fluidity to success, and - if not well managed - this fluidity can be (and has often been) the death-knell of many a project. There is of course the traditional method of determining project success via the 'iron triangle'. This is where a project sponsor is asked to trade-off between fixing Budget, Time, or Scope. Generally, we all agree that attempting to fix all of these three aspects makes a project brittle and very likely to fail (and why would we plan to fail?). A more modern approach was to add "Quality" to the iron triangle - an attempt to suggest that if we are willing to reduce quality to a low enough level, we can achieve an objective of meeting Budget, Time AND Scope - but we have to ask: is a very low quality product really a success?

How can we define achievable success? 

At Room9, we run 'RAP' (an acronym for Rapid Planning) sessions for our clients, which are a method of quickly and accurately solidifying the charter of a project, while gaining stakeholder alignment of thought. In a RAP session we challenge the traditional ('iron triangle') method of success definition, and instead, we address the needs of the stakeholders, the team, and most importantly – the added value and benefits expected of the project. Our agile project management approach takes project success to a more complex and relevant definition of success – meeting client expectations.

 This innovative - and oftentimes convention-challenging - method of defining project success provides a solid platform upon which all stakeholders in a project team have a clear understanding of how we will measure success. It will be referred to throughout the project lifecycle - giving a project team a definitive method to use when needing to trade elements of a project to ensure it is successful. No longer would we simply state that budget cannot change, or the deadline must be met - despite the realisation that we could have a far better outcome if we extended a little. Now, the sponsor can articulate that 'Adding Value to the Business' is more important than 'Budget' - thus, if an innovation is discovered during the project, the sponsor has every right to adjust the budget to allow the project to achieve greater Value.

If you want to know more about RAP sessions, or if you want to expedite your next IT project with thorough planning and development, call Room9’s marvellously talented team on 021 137 9384 or visit