Project Success Criteria: How to Define, Measure with Examples

Editorial Team

Project Success Criteria

Project success criteria determine how a project is judged at completion. The success of your project heavily relies on you choosing the right criteria. This will also help you evaluate and determine the working practices you need to continue working on and improve in the future.

Everyone has their perception and definition of success, and therefore, it might not always be a straightforward concept to put across. However, you need to have qualitative and quantitative ways of determining whether your project was successful or not.  

Whether implementing a professional project you are working on, a project success criterion will be very useful. Therefore, you must learn to define, measure, and document success. To grasp this important concept better, let’s take a deeper look at all you need to know about project success criteria, how they will apply, and their relevance to your projects/workplace.

We will also look at 10 examples of project success criteria to further your understanding.

What are Project Success Criteria?

Project success criteria vary depending on your company’s industry, the company itself, and what you plan to achieve. However, they can be said to be the measurable terms or factors that are needed for the successful completion of a project.   Project success criteria are derived from the project deliverables and the project benefits.

How to Define Project Success Criteria

Before undertaking any project, you need to examine and think about its goals carefully. Remember to keep them realistic, as this will make it easier for you to define project success criteria. Since this can be challenging, some aspects help simplify it for you. These are the scope, cost, and time. If you undertake your project within the designated time and stick to the budget while meeting your deliverables, the project is deemed a success.

There is the possibility of cost and time overruns – but as long as these are managed effectively, there should be no reasons why a project cannot complete successfully. However, if you plan your project to be finished in a certain timeframe, meeting your project schedule is fundamental.

When defining your criteria, it is important to be very specific to ensure that you can stick to the budget and offer the business value for money, which is important in the long run. Also, while it is essential to meet your deadlines, there is no point rushing the project and doing a shoddy job if handing it in a few days or weeks later would have guaranteed better results.

Define your project success criteria straightforwardly and understandably to be measured and demonstrated clearly.

You should also ensure that while developing and defining the project success criteria, the stakeholders have a chance to offer their input to the project, challenge any existing assumptions and even provide authority and negotiate. This is essential since the stakeholders and clients may have very specific expectations.

Therefore, it is safe to say that coming up with project success criteria goes beyond meeting the allocated schedule and budget goals. It includes making a proper offer, delivering on the set objectives, and meeting the expectations of the project beneficiaries, donors, financiers, and stakeholders. It is important to note that these dimensions of success are difficult to define, and in some projects, it can take years after completion to evaluate.

As mentioned before, the success of any project can be enhanced by having the project success criteria defined from the very beginning. You can define your success across three levels for easier evaluation.

Level 1: The Project Completion Success

This level is based on the success of the project and the process of meeting your deliverables. If you can stick to the scope, schedule, and allocated budget while offering quality, then the project will be considered to be a success. Here, the criterion is defined and limited to the period the project is running.

Level 2: Result Success

This criterion will base the project’s success on how successful the end product and service are.

Level 3: Development Success

Here, you will define the success based on how much value the product/service brings to the beneficiaries and how much it will contribute to their well-being.

Your project success criterion should have the following crucial aspects that will give you a smooth time while working:

  • Regular tracking meetings with leaders of each team.
  • Ensuring that stakeholders sign off all milestones achieved.
  • Weekly team meeting on project update.
  • Monthly budget review.

How to Measure Project Success Criteria

Finding the balance between evaluating the performance of a project and keeping the project and work in motion can be difficult. You do not want to spend too much doing one and neglecting the other as they are both crucial. This is why you should ensure that you are measuring the right things.

Several things can help you point out if a project is succeeding. However, the big question is, how do you evaluate and measure a project this is ongoing? You should break down your project into phases and each phase with set goals at the end. You can then measure and evaluate each phase at the end informally. A formal evaluation would only be necessary after the whole project.

Measuring a project’s success upon completion is a valuable practice as it offers a learning opportunity to the company/organization. It will also guide you on how to undertake projects in the future by examining the effectiveness of the project. Below are some of the ways you can measure project success criteria.

1.    Scope

This refers to the goals set for the project and the results it is expected to offer upon completion. You have to examine and determine whether the project met the objectives within the allocated time to conclude whether the success criteria worked or if it was a failure.

2.      Schedule

This is a simple and easy way to measure success. All you need to ask yourself is if the deliverables were met in time. If it was handed in late, how far behind schedule was it completed?

3.      Budget

Here, the project success is based on the ability to meet the project deliverables and deliver the project within the allocated budget. It would be best if you evaluate how your project is performing financially. To go about this, compare how much you had budgeted for the project against what you have spent so far.  You must also be able to explain any variances if there are any.

If you can tell by the end of a few phases of the project that your spending is a bit too much, you will have surpassed the budget at the end of the entire project. Therefore, ensure that you evaluate your spending as the project progresses.

4.      Team Satisfaction

Get feedback from your team and find out if they were happy with the project, how they conducted it, and pleased with the result. They have a better insight into the project than anyone else since they were working on it hands-on. How they feel about the project will also determine and affect their motivation to undertake the next. Remember, completing one project is not the end of the world.

You can also find out from the team what they could have done differently to impact the project. If the team seems detached from the project and does not show much support, a good move would be to engage them throughout the project in different phases. However, make sure that you do that regularly as it could help change their behavior and attitude toward the project.

5.      Client Satisfaction

Feedback from the customers or clients on how they feel about the results is also important. You can also try and track their feedback and satisfaction throughout the entire process until delivery.

6.      Quality

The project should also aim to exceed the set expectations and not just meet the deliverables. You should offer the best quality and even go the extra mile of making adjustments where necessary.  The quality of your management practices can also be used to measure the project’s success.

How to Document Project Success Criteria

Once you have defined what project success criteria mean to you and have started undertaking your project, you should document your criteria at every phase. Ensure that it is as detailed as possible to benefit your company at length.

Before beginning your project,  decide how you will document the project success criteria. This will help you develop and cultivate your working practices and get the most out of documentation.

You need to emphasize the need and importance of documentation to all the team members and ensure that they understand. This ensures that every phase and crucial aspect of the project is fully examined.

It would help if you created a spreadsheet containing all the details of the project you are undertaking. You can use a project management tool like nTask to help you round up all the information. This way, you will be able to keep track of all the achievements and milestones covered.

The Relevance of Having Project Success Criteria

If you have no idea what you are working towards or what project success looks like, it becomes difficult to know or say when you have achieved your goal. This is because the end goal is blurry, and you cannot be sure whether you are there yet.

Having a clearly defined project success criterion is relevant to your project because it enables you to achieve that level of success that you set for yourself. Achieving the results not only leaves you feeling satisfied but also satisfies the clients and meets their needs.

However, this does not mean you should set project success criteria on a stone. Once you have defined them before starting a given project, you should be aware that they can change and evolve as the project progresses. Therefore, do not be rigid. Allow yourself to revise and make necessary adjustments as you go along. This way, it will be easier for them to stay applicable and relevant to the project.

Project Success Criteria Examples

  • Completing the project within the scheduled time.
  • Completing the project within the allocated budget.
  • Planned training is being conducted successfully with the appropriate teams.
  • Achieving the customer/client satisfaction target.
  • Effectively raising customer and team awareness about the project to the appropriate level.
  • The project meets all internal appropriator information security policies and other available policies.
  • Project handover to the operational team was well documented and completed in the required manner.
  • The project meets all commercial objectives for profit and revenue.
  • The project delivers all deliverables within the agreed scope.
  • The quality targets of the project are meeting quality metrics according to Quality Management Plan.


Project success criteria are a very crucial and critical part of project management. Without them, any team would be working blindly without knowing what the end goals are. Therefore, before beginning your project, identify and define your success criterion to guide you as the project progresses. Remember to be specific and simple. You do not want to keep on explaining your criteria to the team members and stakeholders.

It would also be best to keep in mind that the project success criterion will determine how successful your project is. Therefore,  document your success criteria at the end of every project phase and keep it as detailed as possible. This will evaluate every phase and aspect easily. Remember also to measure the success of your project to enable you to know the effectiveness of the success criterion you chose.

I hope this article has been insightful and will help you navigate your way through project management well equipped with the best project success criteria.