Top 10 Critical Success Factors for project success

As project managers we all look for that secret recipe which will make our projects successful. What are the few key items that we need to be aware and take care of proactively. We look for those elusive Critical Success Factors that can be managed to create an atmosphere conducive for the success of the project. There are scores of lists on the web and dozens of books on this topic but CHAOS success factors (the Standish Group, 2009) stands out among all of them distinctively.

The CHAOS reports (2009) lists the following Success Factors

  1. User Involvement
  2. Executive Support
  3. Clear Business Objectives
  4. Emotional Maturity
  5. Optimization
  6. Agile Process
  7. Project Management Expertise
  8. Skilled Resources
  9. Execution
  10. Tools and Infrastructure.

It is interesting to note that this recent list of Success Factors from the Standish Group is quite different is many ways from their 1995 report.

The CHAOS reports (1995) had the following Success Factors:

  1. User Involvement
  2. Executive Management Support
  3. Clear Statement of Requirements
  4. Proper Planning
  5. Realistic Expectations
  6. Small Project Milestones
  7. Competent Staff
  8. Ownership
  9. Clear Vision and Objectives
  10. Hard working Focused Staff.

While some remained the same, some are no longer in the top ten (clear statement of requirements, realistic expectations, ownership, hard-working focused staff). At the same time new factors have moved into the top ten (emotional maturity, optimization, Agile process, project management expertise, execution, tools and infrastructure).

The identification of Project Management Expertise as a Critical Success Factor responsible for influencing the final outcome of a project is definitely positive news for project management discipline to continue receiving attention and executive sponsorship.
Also the mention of “Execution” is important since time and again it has been shown that well laid plans are of no use if they cannot be executed well. So the focus on Execution is of utmost importance.

Project Managers need to keep this list in mind during the various phases of the project and translate it into specific and actionable items for their own projects based on the relevance and importance of each of the success factor.

There cannot be one single list of top 10 success factors for all projects since projects by definition are unique. But the CHAOS reports definitely provide a good reference point to start identifying what are the top 10 critical success factors for your project.

Hrishikesh Karekar

Hrishikesh is an enterprise agile coach with interests in varied disciplines. Frequently writing on Agile and Lean related topics, he also occasionally ventures into other stuff like Artificial Intelligence as well..