Jodi Sorensen

- Apr 1, 2013

Guest blogger, IT/Project Management consultant and author Brad Egeland, shares ten components of winning projects.

10 Ingredients for Successful Projects

I wish I could say that any list of 10 concepts to follow would guarantee project success. But we all know that’s not the case, no matter how well you adhere to it. Too many risks, too many variables – differences from project to project and organization to organization.  However, there are steps you can take towards successful projects. My advice? Follow repeatable actions and processes, like using Smartsheeet, on a regular basis that have worked in the past – your proven ‘best practices’ if you will – to set your teams up for the best chance of regular project success.

Project Success is a JourneySuccess vs Failure

What is project success? How is it defined? Does it differ from project to project or customer to customer?

Some ways you would know, without question, that your project has experienced failure to some degree are:


  • Customer satisfaction is very low
  • The project was canceled before deployment
  • Budget overrun is a major issue
  • Requirements are changing well into deep phases of the project
  • Project team members – or the project manager – have been replaced due to leadership or performance issues
  • The timeline has shifted out of control

Some ways you know that the project can generally be considered a success:

  • Customer satisfaction is high
  • The customer has initiated change orders requesting more work
  • Major project milestones and deliverables are being approved without delays
  • The project budget is on target
  • Project milestones and deliverable deadlines have been regularly met
  • Executive management is getting positive feedback from the customer
10 Keys to Success

I’d like to present my own personal ’10 steps’ for achieving regular project success. As you read through these, I encourage you to think about your own processes and share your thoughts on what your ten steps or series of steps might be that work well for you or others in your organization.

1. Have a strong, centralized PMO.

A strong PMO allows for the utilization of knowledge sharing and post-project lessons learned sessions. Staff it with a good PMO Director as leader and focus on experienced PMs, not just certified PMs.

2. Practice excellent and efficient communication.

Excellent communication of priorities and expectations to delivery team members will increase their understanding of what’s expected of them and increase their likelihood of on time task completion.

3. Manage the schedule with an iron fist.

Manage the schedule tightly and the best way to keep it on track is to make sure everyone knows it and what’s expected of them. Never let it get too far out of date.

4. Manage scope just as tightly.

Manage all change closely – scope, potential risks, change orders. Scope creep is ok if it’s covered by a change order. Then it’s not negatively impacting the schedule and the budget. Track, track, and track some more.

5. Co-manage with the customer.

A cohesive, co-management situation with the project customer organization with fast dissemination of any alert or critical information keeps the customer engaged and informed. Always be upfront and honest with the customer – it’s their money and it’s their project you’re managing.

6. Go with repeatable PM practices.

Reusable and repeatable processes and templates are key to building a solid PMO that will help ensure ongoing project successes. Without these, you’re basing regular project success on luck or chance, and that won’t fly.

7. Deliver as expected.

Consistent delivery of expected material and information – status reports, updated project budget status, issues/risks lists – makes for a very satisfied customer.

8. Engage in frequent communication with all stakeholders.

Frequent formal and adhoc communications – delivery team calls, customer status calls, email alerts and updates – keeps everyone equally engaged.

9. Find and retain the right resources.

Retention of skilled and necessary project resources is critical. Figure out the right skill set, get the resources, and fight like crazy to keep them when other critical projects come calling.

10. Keep exec management informed and engaged.

Invite senior management to a customer meeting. Be sure to include them on critical project status information – or possibly every status report. What they don’t want, they won’t look at. They’ll always have the chance to be informed and they’ll remember your project – so you can use them to knock down a roadblock, if necessary.


No long list of elements or ingredients can ever guarantee project success, no matter how closely it is followed. Bumps will happen, projects vary, risks exist, issues arise and things will hit the project that you never imagined could happen. That's why using an application like Smartsheet, with its scheduling and collaboration features, will help to keep you organized and minimize headaches.

I’ve found that by sticking to the 10 ingredients detailed in this article, I’ve given both myself and my team a good chance at achieving project success on a regular basis.

What about you? What other items would you add to the list that work best for you?


Great article! In addition to all these I feel it is super important to keep the *team* together and focused - dev, test, business, sales - every person should be marching to the same beat with the same end goal in mind. Because, after all, technology is only as good as the people who put it to use. :) ~Varada

Good article.

this was a wonderful article. I think Scope Creep is one of the biggest factors in most of our projects. One lesson we had to learn is that it is extremely important to document this.

Very insightful!

Very substantial! Nice article. :)

As a new entrepreneur , wow very good artical and very exciting with real guide lines for people like me

These make strong business practices and approach. Agree Communication and strong business acumen are key to delivering successful projects

Mark Pendolino chose a term that can be hard to desribe sometimes. It is always a pleasure when you have an opportunity to work on a team that is pulling together all the time. Unfortunately, personal agendas, politics, petty fiefdoms to name a few, seem to always creep in. It is these systemic issues that can often short circuit the best laid plans. I haven't had the opportunity to completely work my way through your blog, so there might be some more information on this topic. If there isn't, it might be one to explore further. Good article!

How comforting to have the essential components of PM confirmed so clearly and their importance emphasised. You can get quite "down" when you're fighting against creative - and other - teams who don't understand the importance of effective PM and how they themselves need to be on board. A PM now needs to pull out her/his sales skills and get these 10 points across to the whole team - softly softly or a hammer? ("Scope creep" - great term! Not heard that before.)

There are many good items noted, but I would hope the average practicing PM would know them. I really find the interesting aspects in HOW something is done in such a way as to not mis-align customer, project resources, and management in such a way that everyone continually tries to do their own thing, "Gold Plate", or in some way avoid the PM office. It can be done, expectations need to be set early (on each project / every time) and you need to stick to your individual style of what make you successful in the past. There is not really a right or wrong, but rather what the culture and your honest results are and have been.

Thank you for the article. In the fast paced globally connected world we work in, partnership and collaboration is more important than ever. It is however difficult to develop team members that share the vision and passion to drive projects to success.

Over the past 5 -10 years large organizations have substantially increased their use of contract employees. As a project manager (I am a contractor) maintaining a knowledge project team has become is a major challenge ( issue/risk). In my last assignment, I had 75+ team members. Every week a team member would roll of the project because they had reached their limit of time allowed for contact employment (typically 18 months). Several times during the life cycle of the project, I was assigned team members with less than a month or two. I quickly learned that I needed to conduct an interview with newly assigned team members to and avoid the issue.

Great tip, discipline will lead alignemnt

Great post, I find that procedures we tend to do the most are the ones that we feel do not need to record. Not only at work but in life as well. I think the reason for this phenomenon is that we are bombarded with so many new ways of achieving these cultural tasks, that they become diluted in the process. We spend more time figuring how to achieve what we could achieve with a simple No.:2 pencil and paper pad in the latest hand held digital phone/tablet/camera/scanner/calculator/version 5 gadget than addressing these very important procedures to remember. So, thank you for the reminder. tony

Very informative article!

Really a great article and I found some valuable stuff over here regarding successful tips. In most of the occasion we are using different protocols and options to get success. And from this article we can taste different ingredients for successful projects; I would like to pick some of the data from here to get better success in different sectors.

Wow!!! this is awesome and very helpful in many ways. Thank you so much for sharing this information that is so kind of you. This will help me sharpen my project management skills

Great article and helpful too.. after working with an IT firm getting team members to work together is a challenge. It seems like some want to do their own thing. People should communicate with one another to have a successful project! Thanks

Very good article and very informative

At first glance this looks like great tips, but this kind of rigid process will lead you to a mediocre product, which is good enough for most managers.

Very clear and accurate

Very true especially on customer satisfaction and feedback.

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