A successful project is defined as a project that meets its goals, and whose output is of value to the client. It seems, then, that the success or failure of any given project is primarily a function of its goals. Therefore, a clear definition of those goals and an objective way to measure whether or not these goals have been met are crucial for measuring the success of the project.
The sad reality is that, statistically speaking, the vast majority of projects—regardless of the field of expertise—fail to meet their content, time and budget targets, and are therefore failures. However, in order to understand what this failure means, it is important to distinguish between the project and its output.
The most common scenario is that the project fails to meet the objectives set out in the Triangle (scope, time, and cost), but that the output itself is successful, so we forgive ourselves since “the bottom line is”, or “at the end of the day”, or “when put to the test”, we achieved the value we set out to achieve. The question is did we achieve the value through a good investment of resources or would it have been better to invest these resources in a different project that might have yielded a higher value?
Ask any Australian whether the Opera House in Sydney is a national treasure and a great success, and chances are he will tell you it is. As a project that came in at many hundreds of times above the allotted budget and far behind the originally planned schedule, can this project be considered a success? The answer is yes.