Do you remember the first time you went to buy a car with your parents? You scouted the lot, found a great car and the salesperson came to see how he could help. You may have chatted for a few minutes outside and then went into the dreaded showroom. You go back and forth a bit and your mother or father threatens to walk out. On cue, the salesperson steps away for a moment and out comes the sales manager to close the deal. After a few more iterations, you purchased your first car.
You walked away with the keys to brand new car with air conditioning and an FM radio and got exactly what you wanted with a $250 monthly payment for four years. You purchased your new car under invoice price and had the salesperson sweating. Did you make a successful purchase?
Prior to closing the deal, the salesperson kept trying to finagle some deal that did not match your criteria. After several times of getting up and starting to walk to the door, you finally tell him your success criteria and within 15 minutes, you have a deal. Was it a successful transaction for you? If your success criteria was to obtain a new car with air conditioning and an FM radio for no more than $250 per month for 48 months, you were successful. If your criteria was to purchase this car for $10,000, you did not meet your success criteria. In any case, you could have saved quite a bit of frustration and unnecessary negotiating time by discussing your success criteria up front.
Just like the buyers in the example above, IT stakeholders need to be clear on project success criteria at project initiation. Stakeholders need to agree on the project constraints: cost, schedule, scope, and quality. For example, if cost is a key constraint, all stakeholders need to be aware that this will influence feature implementation. Stakeholders must document success criteria in the project initiation or charter document. Perhaps more important than documenting initially is the practice of referencing the success criteria throughout your project during stakeholder meetings. Constant communication, both face-to-face and electronic, ensures that stakeholders remain aligned on success criteria and provide ample opportunity to reset when or if an event changes success criteria.