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Critical Success Factors for Construction Project Success

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Project Management
Wordcount: 2098 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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1.0  Introduction


1.1  Project Success


The definitions of the term “Success’’ are wide ranging. Success is perceived differently by different stakeholders. When a project is completed in time, on budget and achieves the performance goals, it is considered as a successful projectShenhar et al (2001).

Lewis (2005) defines project success as meeting the required expectation of stakeholders and achieving its intended purpose. On the other hand Thirty (2006) argues that project success can only be defined if management are able to consider the contribution of the benefits and if the project was able to achieve these measures in relation to resources, and complexity within the project parameters.

According to Cleland (1986) project success only becomes significant when measured from two different vantage points: the project’s technical performance objective being accomplished on time and within budget; and the contribution the project made to the organisations strategic mission.

1.2 Project Management and Success

Project Management has been defined by Munnes & Bjeirmi (1996) as a process undertaken to control and achieve the objectives of a project by utilizing the organisational structure and resources available to manage the project by applying the tools and techniques, without causing disruption to operational routine of the company.

Gray & Larson (2006) argue that projection management is viewed as a task within an organisation in which project managers use their skills, tools and knowledge to plan control and execute a project by meeting the specification requirements of an organisation.

Most definitions of project management success refer to the three dimensions of within in budget, within the time, and according to the requirements of a project. Barracrini (1999) states that these three dimensions of specification, time and budget are not sufficient to measuring the success of the project management process, as areas such as satisfaction of the project stakeholder and quality of the project management process need to be considered.

Muller & Turner (2007) defined the two elements of project success regarding project management as the following

  • Project success factors are the components of a project that when influenced increase the like hood of success, these independent variables make the outcome of success more likely.
  • Project success criteria is evaluating the successful outcome of project; these are dependent variable factors which measure the success of a project.

One of the most uncertain concepts of project management is project success. People and groups involved in a project all have different needs and expectations, as such it is unsurprising that they will interpret the success of a project in their own way, (Cleland & Ireland 2004). 

A well know example of the different perspectives of project success is the Sydney Opera House (Thomsett 2003) which was over 16 times the original budget and took 4 times longer to complete than originally planned.

2.0  Critical Success Factors

Critical Success Factors (CSF) are the areas of a business or project that are absolutely essential to its success .Critical Success Factors have been defined by Rockart (1979) as the limited number of areas in which satisfactory results will ensure successful competitive performance for the individual department or organisation.

Communicating clear Critical Success Factors with everyone involved in a project will lead to the project achieving common aims and goals.

Critical Success Factors

  1. Project Manager Experience
  2. Support from Top Management
  3. Project Scope
  4. Client Satisfaction
  5. Programme
  6. Experienced Project Team
  7. Project Team Motivation
  8. Performance of the Budget
  9. Communication between Project Stakeholders
  10. Smart Planning
  11. Access to organisational resources
  12. Risk Management
  13. Control System
  14. Project Procurement
  15. Troubleshooting

Evaluation of five CSF


Time has always been used to evaluate a projects degree of success. However it is worth establishing the definition of Time, if we use Time to establish the date the project is to end it can be a criteria, but Time as a manageable component might be considered a factor. Cooke-Davies (2002) argues that Time is one of the most key success criteria for a project.


Client Satisfaction

Undoubtedly the satisfaction of stakeholders is critical to a successful project. Repeat business from Clients, and favourable reports from Client design teams are viewed as being key to a firm’s reputation in the industry. Collins & Baccarini (2004) view Client Satisfaction as a measurable criteria for project success.


Project Scope

The scope of the project is specific to the work required to complete the project objectives. The preparation of a detailed project scope is critical to the successful delivery of a project PMBOK (2004). Rose (2005) states that clearly defined goals and objectives within a project scope will are a dimension for project success. In the absence of having an agreement on the documented vision of a project, there is little hope in achieving a successful project.


Project Manager Experience

Having a project manager is not going to guarantee the successful delivery of a project. It is the skills of the project manager that will guide the project team to successfully delivering a project. Human resources contribute considerably to almost all project activities, in other words it is the people who deliver the project, and ultimately the success of a project. Having in place an experienced Project Manager (PM) is critical to the success of a project. The PM will need to have motivating, coordinating and planning skills. They will need to be sufficient in communication and feedback, conflict resolution skills and organisational skills, all of which are obtained through experience Neguyen et al (2004).


Support from Top Management

The willingness of senior management to provide access to organisational resources is considered a core precondition for effectively delivering a successful project. It is also critical that the top management have an understanding of the project difficulty and the stakeholder influence, Iyer et al (2005).

Three relevant success factors in today’s complex construction environment

Contractual Aspects

Fully understanding and working with the form of Contract is now a key factor to successful delivery of a project. The project team must be aware of the Contract type how it is implemented and what are the time constraints regarding claims. The Public Works Contracts are extremely onerous on claim notification times and responding to Client correspondence. Tendering and the steps/ procedures of selection of subcontractors and services must also be understood by the project team. These factors will contribute to the overall successful delivery of a project.

The External Environment

Political, Economic, Socio-Culture and Technological (PEST) in the context in which the execution of the project is carried out can have an effect on project success. Weather, fatalities in the workplace, and changes in legislation can contribute to success of the project in all of its phases. Market conditions have significant influence on procurement selection compared to other factors. Currently it is difficult to secure subcontractors in a vibrant market, staff retention is also a concern when the economy is on the rise.

Site Management

Project managers are extremely lucky if they get to choose their project team. It is usually the case of inheriting staff from various sections of the organisation or hiring people new to the company. Having experienced site managers at the workface is foremost to the success delivery of a project. On site management deal with real time issues, and these can have a major effect on the project. Confident experienced, foremen, agents and engineers all contribute towards the accomplishment of a successful project.


Previously it was believed that if a project’s programme exceeded the finish date, or the cost overran the budget, or if the end result did not satisfy the stakeholders the project was considered a failure. At present the determination of whether a project is a success or a failure is a far more complex issue.

The development of clear critical success factors can guide an organisation to achieving its goals. Their development can create a common point of reference to help direct and measure the success of a project. Identifying CSFs is vitally important as it allows firms to focus on building their potential to meet the CSFs.



  • Shenhar, Divir ,Levy, Maltz. (2001) Project Success: A Multidimensional Strategic Concept, Journal of Long Range Planning, Vol 34, issue 6, page 699-725
  • Lewis (2005). Ecological engineering for successful management and restoration of mangrove forests United State of America
  • Thiry and Deguire (2006). Recent Develipments in Project-Based Organisations. IRNOP VII Project Research Conferene, Xi’an, China
  • Cleland (1986). Project stakeholder management, Project Management Journal, 17 (4) pages 36-44
  • Munns and Bjeirmi (1996) The role of the Project Manager in achieving project success, International Journal of Project Management 14 (2), pages 81-87
  • Gray and Larson (2006). Project Management – The Managerial Process 1 Pages 22-25
  • Baccarini, D (1999). The Logical Framework Method for Defining Project Success. Project Management Journal, 30(4), Pages 25-32
  • Muller and Turner (2007). Matching the project manager’s leadership style to project type. International Journal of Project Management, 2591), pages 21-23
  • Cleland & Ireland (2004). Project Manager’s Portable Handbook, 2nd Edition, McGraw-Hill, USA page 210.
  • Thomsett (2003). Project Pathology, Causes, patterns and symptoms of project failure [online]
  • Rockart (1979). MIT’S Sloan School of Management
  • Cooke-Davies (2002). The real success factors on projects, International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 20, No. 3, pages 155-190
  • Collins & Baccarini (2004). Project Success – A Survey, Journal of Construction Research, Vol, 5, No. 2 pages 211-231
  • PMBOK (2004). Project Managers Book of Knowledge
  • Rose (2005). Project Quality Management; Why, What and How, pages 45-51
  • Nguyen, Ogunlana, & Lan (2004). A study on project success factors in large construction projects in Vietnam, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 11 N. 6 pages 404-413
  • Iyer & Jha (2005). Factors affecting cost performance, evidence from Indian construction projects, International Journal of Project Management, Vol 23 pages 283-295


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