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Differences Between Project Success Criteria, KPIs Etc

Paul Naybour Paul Naybour

Published: 16th March 2013

This question in different formats comes up all the time. Before having a go it might be worth watching this short video we recorded some time back.

  1. Student says:

    Hi Paul,
    I thought I’d have a quick go as well since I arrived in the office early!

    Project Success Criteria
    The definition of what the project is required to deliver. The criteria will be established in the early stages of the project to inform the business case, and will be specified by the project stakeholders. These could be identifying a time limit by which the outputs should be delivered, or specifying the quality of those outputs.

    The measurable improvements that will result at the end of the project from the successful achievement of the project, of value to the organisation and in support of its strategic objectives. These are owned by the Project Sponsor, and will be identified at the outset of the project; progress towards realising them measured during the project; and actual realisation of the benefits measured and ideally optimised following completion of the project. Benefits could be tangible or in-tangible, and in financial or non-financial terms. Examples could be the savings in operating expenditure through the completion of a business progress re-engineering project, or increasing the number of days staff work annually as a result of completing a project improving the safety of a manufacturing process.

    Measures that can track progress towards meeting the success criteria and hence the process of realising the benefits. In a house building project, this could include the number of individual contracts that have been successfully completed to required cost & quality expectations within the time expected, or the achievement of milestones such as receiving planning permission, issuing of contracts or the number of rooms painted.

    Project Success Factors
    The things which are required in order for the project to be successful. Examples could be senior management commitment, the availability of resources (e.g. staff with particular skills or specific equipment) to deliver activities within the project, or the engagement of key stakeholder groups throughout a project.

    Critical Success Factors
    These will typically build upon the Project Success Factors, but are differentiated in that they represent things without which the project would fail. In the context of a house building project with a set timescale, this could be that planning permission is received by a deadline, or that a loan covering a funding gap is provided.

    All suggestions on how to improve are much appreciated!



  2. Student says:


    A fantastic answer, it’s clear that you understand the differences between them. In the exam you might be asked to give examples of each and many time people write a good answer but get confused between factors and criteria.

  3. Student says:

    Hi Paul,
    Here’s my answer – time taken 18 mins.

    Project Success Criteria are those things identified and agreed by stakeholders which need to be achieved in order that the project is considered a success. The success criteria will be measurable and will be regularly reviewed to ensure that it is still achievable. The PM will be responsible for managing the Time, Cost & Quality element of the success criteria during the project but it will ultimately be the stakeholders who use the criteria in the Handover and Closeout phase to establish whether the project was a success. An example of success criteria in a new Train Line project would be that the project was completed for the agreed budget and on-time.

    Success Factors are those factors in the project most conducive to the project team achieving a successful project. The factors will be identified and managed by the PM, and are typically not related to the Time, Cost & Quality elements used in the Success Criteria. Typical factors would be support from management, a competent workforce and defined business requirements. An example of factors in the new Train Line project would be the availability of track laying equipment and the contractors to use it.

    Benefits are quantifiable and offer a measured improvement resulting from completion of deliverables, as perceived in a positive way by stakeholders. These are identified and agreed by stakeholders, at the start of the project and will be reviewed at Gate Reviews to ensure they are still achievable. The benefits will normally not be realised by the PM; it will be the sponsor who will typically oversee the benefits realisation. An example of these in the Train Line Project would be that the train journey between city X and City Y is reduced from 60 mins to 20 mins.

    Key Performance Indicators are measures of success used throughout the project to ensure it is progressing towards a successful conclusion. KPIs will be devised by the PM as a method of tracking progress. The PM will periodically evaluate the KPIs to ascertain progress and then use this information at reviews and to help in the rectification of deviations. An example in the Train Line project would be a KPI tracking the number of miles of train track laid per day.

    Critical Success Factors are those factors which when absent from the project environment will cause the project to fail. Much like success factors, these are identified, defined and managed by the PM. Typically, these will be the factors which the whole basis of the project is founded. Ideally, when a critical success factor is identified as possible failing, the project should be suspended whilst the issue is escalated to the next level of authority. An example of a critical success factor in the Train Line project would be the gaining of planning permission and the purchase of the surrounding land – without these, the project will fail.

    Any comments much appreciated.


  4. Magdoulin says:

    That was thoughtful. I am still a bit confused between these 2 terms; succeds criteria and deliverables, any insights perhaps?

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