10 Ingredients for Successful Projects

by Guest Author

Editor's Note: We're re-publishing this popular post in which guest blogger, IT/Project Management consultant, and author Brad Egeland shares the ten components of winning projects.

Repeatable Actions and Processes to Ensure Success

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 Smartsheet, 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.

Success Versus 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.


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2. Practice Excellent and Efficient Communication

Team collaborating on a project

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

Project manager managing project schedule

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

Man on mobile phone

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.


[Free Template Set] Project Tracking and Rollup 

7. Deliver as Expected

Happy business person in chair

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

Typing on laptop

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


How Siloed Teams Can Make Collaboration a Habit

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

The Three Most Important Dashboards for Executive Visibility

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.


The 3 Most Important Dashboards for Executive Visibility


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?

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