Critical Success Factors For Project Managers (Part 1)

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Recently, I introduced a research exercise to my Project Management Implementation class called critical success factor category (CSFC) analysis. We used the basic tenets of this technique as a method for brainstorming activities that lead to the success of a project from the perspective of the project manager. While there are other categories typically associated with this method, I chose six categories to explore that included Global Factors, External Influences, Internal Influences, Risk Reduction, Performance, and Cultural Influences.Below are descriptions of each category and answers to one simple question for each: What are four or five activities/factors that must go right for the project to be successful?

Global Factors

Activities essential to any project manager regardless of the size of the project or industry.Global factors that the students mentioned included following and understanding industry standards, paying close attention to resource allocation in the planning phase, and developing a strong support system through your project sponsor. Included in building this relationship is making sure that you and your project sponsor share the same goals and assumptions about the project. Effective communication (downward to direct reports, sideways to counterparts, and upwards to leadership) is also key for project success in any project environment.

External Influences

Factors that can significantly influence the success of the project but over which the project manager has no control. External factors noted by the class included current economic conditions, local laws/customs, planning work around the environment, and advances in technology. Just think about how fast the computer industry (hardware and software) generates new processors or operating systems; and it is easy to imagine how advances in technology can serve as a predictor of project success. Your product deliverable could be outdated before you complete the project!

Internal Influences

Factors that can significantly influence project success over which the project manager has some measure of control. Internal influences included pay/rewards for team members, operational standards for the work, the physical location/environment, and the communication plan. Knowing that project managers can spend upwards of 90% of their time using soft skills like communicating to stakeholders, it is not surprising that communication emerged as a theme.

Stay tuned for part 2 where I cover the CSFCs of Risk Reduction, Performance, and Cultural Influences.

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