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Defining Project Management Success with Application to Innovation Project Management Practices

By Harold Kerzner, Ph.D. & Khaled Ahmed Hamdy, Ph.D., PMP


Project managers believe that they are being paid to manage and produce deliverables. This notion is correct and most likely will not change. But what is changing now is how we measure the success of the deliverables produced.

Simply because a deliverable has been created does not mean that the right deliverable exists. Any company can design a product that will not work correctly. Any company can manufacture a product that no one will purchase. Any company can build an attraction that people will not attend. Any company can produce a deliverable, perhaps based solely upon the whims of management, that adds no value to the business.

All of these deliverables could have been produced within time, cost and scope, but are they really successes?

Defining success is often treated in the same context as beauty; it is defined through the eye of the beholder. Success cannot be defined in a few words nor with just a couple of metrics. The timing of the success measurement is also critical. The definition of success is complicated and can involve the interaction of several metrics. The definition can become even more complex based upon the industry or the type of project.

As an example, in this paper we will consider the definition of success on innovation projects which may very well be the most difficult projects in which to measure true success.


  • Introduction
  • Defining Success: The Early Years
  • Defining Success: The 21st Century
  • The Present: Understanding Innovation Success
  • Innovation Project Success and Core Competencies
  • Innovation Project Success and Timing
  • Innovation Project Success and Business Models
  • Fostering Innovation in Project Management
  • Conclusions

About the Author:

Dr. Harold Kerzner
Harold Kerzner (M.S., Ph.D., Engineering, and M.B.A) is IIL’s Senior Executive Director for Project Management and a globally respected expert on project management and strategic planning. He is the author of many best-selling textbooks including Project Management 2.0, Project Management Best Practices: Achieving Global Excellence, and, most recently, Innovation Project Management. Dr. Kerzner has previously taught project management and business administration at Baldwin-Wallace University, engineering at the University of Illinois and business administration at Utah State University. He obtained his industrial experience at Thiokol Corporation where he held both program management and project engineering responsibilities on a variety of NASA, Air Force, Army, Navy, and internal R&D programs.