What does success look like?

Head of Strategy

Sales figures, customer satisfaction, retweets, return on investment… the list of ways to measure the success of a project is endless. What the list isn’t always though, is actually used.

Regardless of the scope of a project, the benefits of determining, and agreeing upon, the measurement of success beforehand should be obvious, right?

Often, production of a requested output is taken as the de facto measurement of success with an assumption on both sides that the actual objectives will be met as long as this achieved.
The question is: how can all stakeholders be one hundred percent confident that the path being trodden is the right one and that it’s worth treading — unless the measurements of success are known?

I’ve recently been considering the benefits of knowing ‘what success looks like’ along with why, and how, agreed measurements, or lack of, can affect the three main stages of a project for both an agency and their client.


Pre-project/Briefing stage

It’s often the case that clients have a fairly well-rounded idea of the solution (or output) they’re looking for before they approach an agency with a brief. Given the amount of research, understanding of their market and customers, and personal effort that goes into creating a brief, it’s fair to say at least a basic understanding, or desire, of the output has also been considered.

However, it’s beneficial to both client and agency to first take a step back to examine the desired achievement, or project objective, rather than jumping headfirst into the process of commissioning and designing outputs.

By first defining ‘what success looks like, how that success will be measured, and then working towards meeting the agreed objectives; a solution that all stakeholders can be confident in can be uncovered.

The process of agreeing upon these factors can even uncover a more appropriate solution than the original idea, but at the very least it will ensure the true goal of the project is met.
After all, how can a solution be judged truly successful without a measure of success to rate it against?

So, how does defining success help the process?


Concepts/Design development

Creativity flourishes within constraints. Agreed parameters for success not only set a specific challenge but also make it easier to discard elements or suggestions that don’t quite fit.

There are also benefits in terms of project management; parameters help to keep the project on the track to achieving the outlined objectives and serve to ensure there isn’t a drift in the project scope.

The defined measurements should also make the review and approval process smoother for all involved, providing all stakeholders were involved during the defining of ‘what success looks like’.



It’s at this stage that the measurements of success really come into their own:
Providing the project is a success, the results can be used by all involved to demonstrate how well the project succeeded.

Clients can show stakeholders actual proof that what was set out to be done has been achieved. Agencies can demonstrate the added value to their clients — and have evidence to back up their claims when talking to prospects and peers.

Should the project not go to plan, the agreed parameters will not only demonstrate the missed targets but help all involved to analyse why it wasn’t a success, providing insights into the market and how to improve next time.


Final thoughts

Regardless of the scope, budget or timeframe of a project; setting measurable parameters from the outset is the only way to guide, develop and deliver a project that can be judged as truly successful. Measurable results provide both client and agency the evidence needed to demonstrate how the goals of the project were achieved.

In addition to the previously mentioned standard measurement of project success; delivery of a requested output, doesn’t it make sense for all stakeholders to have the benefit of hard-proof that the project was a success?


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