Critical Success Factors for Projects


Crispin (“Kik”) Piney, B.Sc., PfMP

[email protected]

South of France


There is no lack of papers giving prioritized “shopping lists” of reasons for both success and failure of projects, such as the Standish Chaos report. These generally list many details but ignore the big picture. What is missing, therefore, is a higher-level integrated view. This article proposes to address this lack and argues that this analysis needs to be based on what will be called “Enterprise Project Management”. 


For the purpose of this article, a Critical Success Factor for Projects (CSF) is defined as a capability that must be present in order for projects to have a good chance of success. This of course begs the question as to what constitutes “success” and who should judge it.

Another point to understand is that a critical success factor does not guarantee success, but that a lack of it definitely reduces the probability of succeeding. Both David Hillson and I came up independently with the additional category of CSFs to be considered – that is “common sources of failure” –. These are not simply the result of lack of one or more critical success factors, but are specific structures, approaches and cultural artefacts that actively inhibit or undermine the path to success. Those failure-related CSFs, however, would be the topic for a different article.

There are many articles based on statistical analysis of past projects and they tend to come up with prioritized shopping lists. What is missing, however, is a higher-level, integrated view. The basis for this is presented next. 

The Successful Project Family

The first step in determining critical success factors is to understand what constitutes “success”. 

What is success?

To come back to one point raised in the introduction, we need to start by defining the criteria with respect to which success will be measured. This always reminds me of the very old English Music Hall joke: “Hello, hello, hello! How’s your wife?” to which the answer came back: “Well that depends … Compared to what?” This is certainly funny in one context but does underline a serious issue for projects. Success is variously considered to be any of the following: 


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About the Author

pmwj26-sep2014-Piney-AUTHOR IMAGECrispin (“Kik”) Pineyflag-france

South of France

After many years managing international IT projects within large corporations, Crispin (“Kik”) Piney, B.Sc., PgMP is a freelance project management consultant based in the South of France. His main areas of focus are risk management, integrated Portfolio, Program and Project management, scope management and organizational maturity, as well as time and cost control. He has developed advanced training courses on these topics, which he delivers in English and in French to international audiences from various industries. In the consultancy area, he has developed and delivered a practical project management maturity analysis and action-planning consultancy package. He has carried out work for PMI on the first Edition of the Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3™) as well as participating actively in fourth edition of the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge and was also vice-chairman of the Translation Verification Committee for the Third and the Fifth Editions.

He was a significant contributor to the second edition of both PMI’s Standard for Program Management as well as the Standard for Portfolio Management. In 2008, he was the first person in France to receive PMI’s PgMP credential; in 2014, he did the same for the PfMP. He is co-author of PMI’s Practice Standard for Risk Management. He collaborates with David Hillson (the “Risk Doctor”) by translating his monthly risk briefings into French. He has presented at a number of PMI conferences and has published formal papers. He can be contacted at [email protected].