Critical Success Factors for the Construction Industry


by Zakari Tsiga, Michael Emes and Alan Smith

University College London
Mullard Space Science Laboratory

United Kingdom


This study aims to identify the critical success factors for projects in the construction industry. A list of factors were identified from the existing literature and grouped into categories. The authors added project risk management and requirements management to the list of categories to test the hypothesis that these should also be considered as critical success factors in the construction industry. The study identified 58 success factors classified into 11 groups, which were tested using an elicitation technique. Forty-nine responses were collected from project managers, who had an average or 15 years of project management experience and had participated in more than 15 projects. Once the data was collected, the authors adopted the use of the relative importance index to rank the categories. From the results, the top five most important are (1) Project Organization, (2) Project Manager Competence, (3) Project Risk Management, (4) Project Team Competence and (5) Requirements Management. This lead to the conclusion that both project risk management and requirements management should be considered as critical success factors. Further analysis of the data highlights the importance of scope management and soft skills in Requirements Management and Project Risk Management respectively.

Keywords: Construction Projects; Critical Success Factors; Project Risk Management; Project Success; Requirements Management.

JEL codes: D20, L10, M19


The Construction industry is one of the main sectors of the economy; it consists of the entire process from project visualization to demolition of buildings and infrastructure. As a service industry it is interlinked with various industries. The importance of the construction industry can be seen throughout history and in the development of economies. According to the World Market Intelligence (2010) the construction industry employs more people than any other single industry in the world. The report by Global Construction Perspectives and Oxford Economics (2013) suggest that the sector is globally expected to rise by $6.3 trillion or over 70 % to $15 trillion by 2025 compared to $8.7 trillion in 2012. 
The construction industry incorporates all civil engineering projects such as building projects as well as the maintenance and repair of existing constructed projects.

As the industry is constantly growing, newer and bigger projects are always undertaken (Chan & Chan, 2004). These new undertakings generally come with more complexities as boundaries are being pushed. An example of such large project currently being undertaking is the Saadiyat Island project in Abu Dhabi, UAE with an estimated budget cost of $26 billion (Ponzini, 2011).

Project success is the end deliverable of every undertaken project. Project success has been a subject of debate (Alexandrova & Ivanova, 2012). In the construction sector various efforts have been taken in other to determine these project success criteria because different stakeholders have different views and perception of a project this in itself can lead to various views on project success.

  1. Background

1.1 Project Success

In the past, research on project success focused on the achievement of the iron triangle objectives (time, cost and quality) until recently researchers have identified the need to widen the criteria for measuring project success (Atkinson, 1999; Wateridge, 1998). Researchers such as de Wit (1988) emphasize that a project is considered successful if its stakeholders are generally successful and the projects technical performance specification has been achieved. Muller (2007) states that projects differ in a variety of ways such as size, uniqueness and complexity this has lead researchers such as Westerveld (2003) to state that the criteria for measuring project success should vary from project to project and hence it would be difficult to have a unique set of criteria for all projects in all industries.

1.2 Critical Success Factors

The identification and careful consideration of critical success factors can have a positive outcome on a project. New participants in the construction industry and also established companies can use these factors to easily help themselves in better project delivery for future projects (Bullen & Rockart, 1981).


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright. This paper was originally presented at the 5th Scientific Conference on Project Management in the Baltic States, University of Latvia, April 2016. It is republished here with the permission of the author and conference organizers.


About the Author

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Zakari Danlami Tsiga

London, UK

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Zakari Danlami Tsiga
, MSc is a PhD student working at the University College London (UCL). Prior to beginning the PhD program, Zakari undertook a masters’ program at the same university, this gave him the opportunity to work on the delivery of various projects for different clients such as Microsoft and the London Clearing House. From his work he developed an interest in Technology management and the importance of successful project delivery.  Zakari Tsiga can be contacted at [email protected].


pmwj49-Aug2016-Tsiga-PHOTO2 EMES
Michael Emes, MEng, PhD, MIET, MAPM, MINCOSE

London, UK

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Michael Emes is Deputy Director of UCL Centre for Systems Engineering and Head of the Technology Management Group at UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL). He completed his first degree in Engineering, Economics and Management at St John’s College, Oxford, and a PhD at MSSL in developing cooling technologies for spacecraft. He worked as a strategy consultant for Mercer Management Consulting (now Oliver Wyman) on projects in retail, energy and transport, including a project advising the Department for Transport on how to address the problems of the rail sector in the last days of Railtrack plc. Michael now conducts teaching and research at UCL in the areas of systems engineering and technology management in domains including transport, health, defence and aerospace. He is a member of APM, INCOSE and the IET. He is Programme Manager and a lead trainer for the European Space Agency’s Project Manager Training Course and is Programme Director for UCL’s MSc in the Management of Complex Projects.


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Prof. Alan Smith, PhD

London, United Kingdom


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Alan Smith
was awarded a PhD at Leicester University in 1978 based on his X-ray study of supernova remnants. His work involved the payload development and flight of a Skylark sounding rocket from Woomera, South Australia. Between 1984 and 1990 he worked for the European Space Agency at its technology centre in the Netherlands as both an astrophysicist and as an instrument developer. His early career involved a combination of technology development (space flight hardware on European, and Russian satellites), project management and astrophysics. In 1990 he joined University College London’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory, initially as Head of Detector Physics eventually becoming Director and Head of Department (2005). In 1998 he was made a Professor of Detector Physics. While at UCL he has been Director of UCL’s Centre for Advanced Instrumentation Systems (1995-2005), a Co-Director of the Smart Optics Faraday Partnership (2002-2005) and is presently founding Director of the Centre for Systems Engineering (1998-present). Alan was appointed Vice-Dean for Enterprise for the faculty of Mathematical and Physical Sciences in 2007, helped set up UCL’s Centre for Space Medicine in 2011 and is a member of UCL’s Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction board. He is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and of the Association of Project Management.