Ideas, suggestions and general thoughts about project management for development.

Project Management for Development

Definition of Project Success

b2ap3_thumbnail_definition.pngProject success has been historically defined as a project that meets its objectives under budget and under schedule. This evaluation criterion has remained as the most common measure in many industries. But for a development project, success goes beyond meeting schedule and budget goals, it includes delivering the benefits and meeting expectations of beneficiaries, stakeholders, donors or funding agencies. But defining these dimensions of success is more difficult and some can only be evaluated years after the project has been completed, and for many organizations these types of evaluations are difficult to do due to lack of funding.

To help organizations make an assessment of success a distinction must be made between project success and project management success. Project success can be measured as a level of effectiveness, were the project deliverables are measured in terms of benefits and stakeholder satisfaction, in other words the extent to which the project ultimate objectives are attained. Project management success is defined by the level of efficiency the project achieved to reach the project objectives. Efficiency is related to how the project manages its limited resources to meet the goals while building good relationships with internal and external stakeholders. On the other side there are many ways a project can fail, a project can fail in meeting the budget, schedule and scope goals, but be a success in meeting the development objectives, likewise, a project can meet the budget, schedule and scope goals and fail in meeting the final development objectives.

A project can only be successful if the success criteria were defined from the start. When initiating  a project, it's essential to define success across three levels:

·Level 1: Project completion success:  this level details the criteria by which the process of delivering the project outputs is successful. This criteria addresses the four project constraints, scope, schedule, budget and quality. The criteria is limited to the duration of the project and success can be measured during the life of the project and as soon as the project is officially completed. This measures the efficiency of how the project used its resources to deliver the project outputs.

·Level 2: Results success: this is about defining the criteria by which the product or service delivered is deemed successful (e.g. service is used by all beneficiaries in scope, students attending school, water systems operational, certified teachers, etc.). These criteria need to be measured once the product/service is implemented and over a defined period.

·Level 3: Development success: this is about defining the criteria by which the product/service delivered brings value to the beneficiaries, and how it contributes to their well being (economic, health, social, etc).Examples include income increase by 50%, disease reduction by 25%, etc.

The worst type of failure occurs when the project fails to meet the development objectives. Organizations that are able to meet the criteria of success are characterized by the use and application of a consistent, repeatable and predictable methodology that supports the planning and implementation of development projects and make project management a key competency supported by an environment that nurtures learning.


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Characteristics of Development Projects

b2ap3_thumbnail_Development-projects.pngDevelopment organizations vary in size and orientation, most share the common goal of helping people and benefiting society. There are the large development projects financed by governments and institutions such as the World Bank that focus on infrastructure and improvements in the education, health and justice systems, and international humanitarian organizations and national NGOs that support development activities ranging from community organization, welfare support, health, education, small-financial loans and protection of the environment.

NGOs typically are private, voluntary, non-profit and service-oriented organizations dedicated to helping improve people's welfare and quality of life.

The goal of all development projects is to help improve people's lives through skills training and other livelihood programs. Development organizations prepare and implement development projects and work to strengthen the capabilities of local institutional and promote community self-reliance through sustainable strategies. Funding for projects comes through private and public donations, government assistance and a variety of other sources. Development projects may consist of a single, transformative project to address a specific problem or a series of projects targeted at addressing several problems.

Although, development projects make significant contributions to a community’s socioeconomic development, they also have limitations. A larger number of national NGOs are small in both size and scope of operations and their impact sometimes is limited. NGOs can suffer from financial and technical constraints, often focused on a specific concern or a specific location; many lack a broader economic and social perspective. They are loosely structured and may have limited accountability and their management and planning methods may be weak or too flexible.

One of the key success factors of development projects is when their planning involves people who will benefit or be affected by the project. Beneficiaries need to play a larger role in the planning and implementation of development efforts that will reshape their lives. This is one of the reasons why development projects are gradually is moving away from traditional projects that rely on delivering direct services, and toward projects that include the participation of local organizations to deliver the services that will benefit the poor and other intended beneficiaries more directly.

Involvement of beneficiaries also increases the likelihood of development efforts realizing their intended benefits and can help avoid implementation problems. The concept of participation is concerned with ensuring that the intended beneficiaries of development projects are involved in the planning and implementation of those projects. This is considered important as it empowers the recipients of development projects to influence and manage their own development and helps remove any type of dependency after the project is completed. Beneficiary participation is widely considered to be one of the most important concepts in modern development theory.


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