Project Success Criteria (PSC)

Project Success Criteria (PSC)

In project constraints golden triangle, which of the criteria is more important: Time, Cost or Scope?

If your project is behind the schedule and you have an opportunity to speed up project delivery by applying extra resources to complete testing earlier, what would you do?

  • Spend extra budget to bring the project back on schedule? (Time over Cost)
  • Stay on the existing plan: be on budget but late? (Cost over Time)
  • Descope part of the project to reduce the duration of testing? (Time over Scope)
  • Take a risk to descope some test cases to reduce the duration of testing? (Time over Quality)

The answer to this question depends on how each component of the project golden triangle impacts project Benefits (financial and non-financial).

However, it is hard to make a decision as we need to compare incomparable measures: time, cost, scope, benefits and, sometimes, quality. So, what do we do?

Project Success Criteria (PSC)

Project Success Criteria
The best practice is to implement “Project Success Criteria” (PSC) – a single criterion that could connect all of these measures together and become your Safety Net.

Let’s consider this simple example:


Assume that project financial benefits are based on two outputs (sub-projects/ releases/sprints/ets). Let’s also assume that projects outcomes could be achieved in the same time when the outputs are delivered.

If the Output N1 is delayed:
• The first two months of delay will reduce benefits by X$ per month, then Y$ per month.

If the Output N2 is delayed:
• A delay within the financial year wouldn’t have any negative impact but if it slips to the next FY, the impact would be Z$ per quarter.

In this example the “Project Success Criteria” could be calculated in Dollars by linking scope, cost, time and benefits.

The PM could perform “What if” analysis and check how the “Project Success Criteria” would change.

Of course, projects may have none-financial benefits or more than one type of benefits. In that case the “Project Success Criteria” could be measured as a virtual parameter, which combines the golden triangle with all types of project benefits.

As traditional scheduling tools (Primavera and MS Project) don’t support project income and benefit integration, a schedule optimisation tool, like Spider Project, has to be applied.

Spider Project Project Success Criteria
In Spider Project, it is easy to configure a “Project Success Criteria” by using custom fields.
Custom fields support:
• Advanced formulas;
• Project Data integration;
• Project Expenses and Profit integration;

So, “Project Success Criteria” could be a simple proxy or very detailed complex parameter.

“Project Success Criteria” could be used as the main optimisation creation for project schedule calculation.


This technique allows PMs to present proposed project Optimisation options to Sponsors and Steering Committee to enable weighted and informed decisions.

Alex Lyaschenko

PMO | Portfolio Planning & Delivery | PMP | P3O Practitioner | AgilePM Practitioner | Six Sigma