The Secret Of Success

I should be a bit more specific here. I am not about to reveal a wonderful secret of success that will transform your life, although it could help you transform a few things. I am, however, about to explain the most important factor that explains why IT projects and software implementations either succeed or fail. However, this simple message can be used in so many ways in our lives, so go ahead and adapt it wherever you think suitable. (Other lifestyle gurus are available!)

Some may say the secret is choosing the right software solution. Perhaps it is making sure you select the implementation partner/team that will compliment your own skills. Or how about making sure you have a good project plan? I advocate all of those things, because without getting those things right, you don’t have much chance of success. But even with all of that, you will fail unless you do the following one thing. Define success!

There. I said it. The cat is out of the bag, the magician has produced the bunny out of the hat while sawing their assistant in half. But the audience is silent. No applause, no cries of bravo or encore. Define success. Was that it?

Before you consign me to your digital waste bin, let me explain. Many, if not all scoping documents, contain the aims for the project.  But they are rarely a definition of success. They are usually tucked away about 20% into your scope, and so bland and banal as if they demand to be read once and instantly forgotten. The often talk of “replacing” such and such a system or process. They mention timeframes and budgets. They list all of the ingredients that a definition of success needs, but when mixed together, make an unappetising meal.

Now read the following:

Our definition of success

When our new planning system allows:

  • – All of the management team to review their budgets and forecasts in real time, making changes as and when they need to
  • – Automatic real time consolidation whenever a manager saves a change
  • – Helpful graphical representation of our information
  • – Exception reports when variances are over set variance % or amounts
  • – Simple workflow process so we can see who has completed which tasks and allows senior managers to review and sign-off managers inputs
  • – Ready to go live on 1st May
  • – Within our agreed budget of £28,500
  • – Then I will deem the project to have been a great success.

The Chief Financial Officer               .

The most important factor to take in from the above statement is that it is owned by the CFO. Other senior executives are available, so don’t be afraid to quote the CTO, the COO, the FD or even the CEO. But do not, under any circumstances, allow this statement to be owned by the project manager or a middle manager. If you are working on the project, then it should be at least your boss, but wherever possible, it should be a Board level executive and certainly the person who signed off the money for the project. Ask why they signed it off, and then ask them to sign up to the success statement.


Then the next important thing to note is how this statement needs to be used. It needs putting on page 1 of the scoping document, Page 1 of the project plan and page one of 1 of any other documents that are used in the project. It should be read every time there is a decision to be made on this project. And the question that will be asked before you make that decision is simply “Does this help us achieve our success?” That way, all of the decisions will move you towards success and away from failure.

And at the end of the project, you will stand in from of the CFO, or whoever signed the statement, and ask “Do you think this project was a success?” and long before they answer, you will know the answer.

The way that this simple secret can serve you in anything you do is this. Understand what success looks like. That way you will spot it when you see it. Sometimes, in life, success may be staring you in the face, but you don’t recognise it.