Does Happy Customer = Successful Project?

3D-Women-Shake-Hand-01-512pxWhat's your take?  If you have a happy customer who is satisfied with the end result of the project, have you essentially run a successful project?  I know the customer is always supposed to be right, but in your opinion does their feelings about a project drive the successful vs. unsuccessful determination?  If you've kept them happy, does that mean you won?  And what about your organization?  Where is customer satisfaction on the success scale for your executives?  Is it all about a happy customer or is there more to it?

This is a tough question, because so many factors can and often do go into determining whether or not a project was a success.  And some organizations really don’t perform any post-deployment evaluation of project success.  I’ve had projects that weren’t really successful.  They were deployed, but I know that – due to many requirements changes and cost overruns – the customer was less than satisfied.  Or the timeline wasn’t met.  Were these successful?  Well, my management was ok with them…deployed, paid for, done.  What more could you ask for?  But in the end, did I feel – as a project manager who considers myself service oriented and customer focused – fulfilled or satisfied that the project was successful?  No, not really.  In one case a major airline wasn’t even using the system I deployed for them more than two years after we rolled it out.  That certainly didn’t make me feel good – even though the project was paid for, considered over with, and my management was happy with the end result.

It’s often subjective

The bottom line is this…project success is not straightforward, it’s somewhat subjective – if not always so in many organizations, and it means different things to different people.  It’s not just about on time delivery, on budget delivery and customer satisfaction.  You can have one or two but not all three and still be successful.  Sometimes you can have all three and still not be successful…if you’ve missed some goal within your own organization.  And you can miss the mark on all three and still be deemed a success by your management.

Focus on the customer

However, if you want to realize success more times than not, then focus on the customer.  That’s always been my key to project management success.  A customer who is confident in the project manager and project team and understands that the PM always has their best interests in mind, is going to be more comfortable, more satisfied, and more willing to stick with the project during good times and bad.

Where does your organization stand?

How about our readers?  Does your organization have any official yardstick for determining project success?  Is there an official end of project evaluation that takes place?  Is it about on time delivery?  Customer satisfaction?  Meeting the budget?  Please share your own thoughts and experiences on how objective or subjective project success is determined in your organization and by your project customers.


Brad-bio66Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 9, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s site at

Add comment