SD PEOPLE & PROJECTS (quoting newsletter from http://www.sdmagazine.com)
April 2004: Knowing When Your Project Is Successful
KNOWING WHEN YOUR PROJECT IS SUCCESSFUL
Think back to your last successful project. Was it successful because you finished on time? Because you finished under budget? Because the application didn't crash after it was deployed in a live environment? While these are certainly good things, there's one overarching element of success that you may have overlooked: Did the application adequately address the problem that it was supposed to solve?
Similarly, in the case of a sales force automation application, true success would be allowing your company's sales force to close some specifically larger number of sales each year. In an online banking application, it would be reducing the number of customer visits to the bank.
In other words, your project isn't completed simply because you send it out the door. It's not a success simply because you met your budget and deadline. A project is a success because it does what it intended -- and that means knowing the project's true goals before you begin, defining what metric you'll use to measure the project's success, and identifying who will take responsibility for those measurements.
Ironically, when projects don't have conditions of success outlined for them like this, it's all too easy for them to be labeled as failures. Take, for instance, the CAN-SPAM Act. If the amount of spam on the Internet stays the same or rises over the next year, the Act will no doubt be considered a failure. However, it's quite possible that the Act might actually reduce spam slightly while other forces increase spam even more. In such a case, the CAN-SPAM Act itself might have been successful -- but we would never know for sure.