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6 March 2007

Marketing Projects: Success is a slippery thing; a temporary definition

Everybody knows plenty of projects fail but what can be done to improve their hit rate? My proposition in this series of posts is that applying marketing principles could improve project success rates.

I have looked at a couple of areas where projects do use marketing; specifically in projects that are building end user/customer products. Even there is seems that marketing has become more strategic than mere product development.

I have also looked at where marketing sits in organisations these days (high up in the strategisphere) and how projects are used in fulfilling marketing strategies.

Moving past the obvious point that product development needs to consider marketing principles I want to look at how marketing principles can assist projects like CRM, Data Warehouse and similar operations projects. I chose these types of projects as they are less likely in the normal course of managing projects to consider marketing as a tool to help them achieve success. You should be able to retrofit any principles I come up with to dealing with the customers.

Success is a slippery thing in the world of corporate projects, so before I go on I want to spend a moment talking about what project success is.

For a start project scope is often poorly or, at best, loosely defined at the inception of a project. Without a period of intensive analysis there is rarely an opportunity to know how complex and challenging the project will be compared to the often simplistic vision of what the end product will be.

Projects are iterative.
They are constantly reviewing the problem and revising the solution. Sometimes you won’t really know what success looks like until you’re in sight of the end of the project.

Corporate projects have many stakeholders.
They all have a say in what will be done, how it will be done and whether you did it well enough, not to mention conflicting corporate objectives and personal agenda. You can write down what success is in a document or contract and measure against what you have written. That will help a little, but still doesn’t get you a stable and satisfying definition of success. In these complex and uncertain environments you can ask many people what success is and they will all give you different answers, and probably different answers at different times.

Success changes over time.
What would be considered success at the beginning of a project may not cut the grade by the time you end. This reflects the problem of business requirements changing over time while the project continues to work from the baselined plan and is the rational behind quality compromising software developments such as Agile and Rapid.

Defining success a very complex topic and one that I am not able to deal with here except to offer a temporary and simple definition that suits the purpose of these posts: Success is making your customers happy enough to pay your bills and come back for more.

So having called out our definition of success I can now talk about whether marketing for projects can help us get there in my next post.

Sidebar: There are plenty of posts on this blog about quality. If you are interested in the ideas around managing quality in projects you can search, browse or follow this link and read more.