The definition of a successful project lies in various factors. In times past these factors were limited to what is known as the 'iron triangle': meeting cost, schedule, and scope objectives.

In other words, was the project completed within budget, on time, and according to specifications? More recently, both quality and client satisfaction are evaluated separately, as opposed to being subsumed within the scope of the project.

One of the key roles of the project manager is to understand the expectations of stakeholders, because understanding those expectations means success for the effort. It is important to get the stakeholders and the project team together at the outset to discuss each person's perception of the project objectives and expectations. This will be of enormous benefit to providing a clear understanding between all parties as to what results are expected to be attained.

A markedly important factor in the success of any project is to always establish the success criteria for your projects before you begin, not after you complete the work.

Success Criteria vs. Success Factors

Success criteria are the standards by which a project will be judged, while success factors are the facts that shape the result of a project. To summarise, early definition of success criteria can ensure an undisputed view of how the project will be judged, and early detection of success factors will be a guarantee of a safe path to delivery success.

Measuring success

The first point in determining the success of any project (be it in the construction, healthcare, pharmaceutical or other industry) is to identify what is being measured. There are two important factors in this process: the success of the project management and the success of the project itself.

The difference between these two can be summarised as follows:
Project management success = success in the implementation of the system
Project success = success with the system in operation

In other words, there are 2 major dimensions - Management and System. The management dimension covers all activities and disciplines that are crucial to successfully managing the system through its evolution. The system dimension is the evolution of the actual process that begins with an idea, and extends from there to a completed project.

In conclusion, a project's success is defined by good management that requires more than a few special tools and techniques, but is largely a human process. And, as humans we are entitled all the technological assistance we can get. There are many software options available to project managers, with Microsoft's Project 2007 being a popular choice.