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Success Factors, Lessons Learned and Best Practices

Success Factors

What helps a PM in delivering a successful project?

Is it enough to have a clear set of objectives such as Time, Cost, Scope, Quality, Risk, Benefits, Sustainability?

Are there other factors which influence the project’s success or failure?

While having a clearly defined set of variable objectives is of value to a PM, these alone might not be enough to ensure a project is successful.

There are many other factors that impact on the development of a project, and these may vary depending on the project’s: nature, context, size, complexity, formality and environmental factors.

However some common aspects can be found which greatly influence the outcome of projects.

For example, projects need to have clear objectives but also we must make sure that these objectives are attainable and realistic.

Other success factors include:

  •  Ownership of a project – The PM and the Project Management Team should have a clear understanding of the reasons for the project; who for and what for; as this might be a factor influencing the tailoring of the project activities to better suit the project environment. For example, is it a Government owned project or a Local Council one? Different ownership might translate in different stakeholders taking part in the decision making processes.
  • Support and participation of the major stakeholders/interested parties to ensure a controlled development of the project;
  • A clear and feasible planning of the various management stages is essential to reduce the level of risk but also to avoid scope-creep;
  •  Communication amongst all interested parties and a clearly defined hierarchy within the Project Management Team to help control the project and prevent or manage adverse events;
  • The right choice of people for the Team to ensure that the required skill set to deliver the project’s products is present;
  • Motivation of the parties involved in the project to foster better collaboration and hence a greater awareness of each other’s responsibilities.

In PM4ESD these success factors are accompanied by some sector specific aspects which deal with the principle of Sustainability. This includes the concept of a project delivering a product with the potential for long-term benefits, which continue to improve the social and economic wellbeing of communities into the future and are not limited to the lifecycle of the project. The beneficial impacts of a project product, therefore, do not end with the achievement of the project’s objectives and benefits but promote a sustainable environment where the positive impact on the environment and local culture endures in the long term, while the economy and employment opportunities for local people are improved.

Lessons Learned

Projects are unique in nature. Although the context might be the same for various projects, or the products and even the clients, the uncertainty and variable objectives that define the project environment give each individual project this characteristic of uniqueness. As a result organisations can learn from previous experiences and pass on to future projects the lessons gathered during the project’s lifecycle. Lessons such as the use of a particular technique rather than another, finding out that a particular tool is obsolete, having to change team members because of a lack of skills should be recorded, analysed and reported to help future projects plan more efficiently. For example, if a particular supplier of catering and hospitality services proves to be unreliable, it would be wise to record this and evaluate it for future events in order that the supplier is avoided and the search extended elsewhere.

Learning from Experience is a fundamental principle and Best Practice aspect of PM4SD.

Best Practices

A common definition of Best Practice is: “A process, technique or innovative use of resources that has a proven record of success in providing significant improvement in cost, schedule, quality, performance, safety, environment or other measurable factors that impact the health of an Organisation”.

It is through the continuous gathering of experience from previous successes that an Organisation can ensure the continuous improvement of its project management and therefore an increasing chance of project success.

This can enhance Organisation-wide best practice related to project management and lead eventually to the creation of Centres of Excellence which become the focal point for the application of standards and policies in the day-to-day running of projects.

An organisation which applies best practice in project management strives to deliver ever-higher standards of performance in areas such as cost, quality, timescale, benefits and overall success. The application of best practice within a continuous learning environment is advocated by PM4SD.


The PM4SD approach to Project Management in the Sustainable Tourism sector is modelled on the PRINCE2® project management method. As such PM4SD also bases its foundations on 10 principles that need to be verified and adhered to in any project.

Continuous Business Justification

A Project needs to be justified at its start and throughout its duration, and the justification needs to be documented. This justification is given by the relationship between the Cost/Benefit factors which demonstrates the balance of the purpose of the project against the investment needed for the development. This relationship will be covered in more detail in the Business Case section.

Learning from Experience

Projects are unique and challenging. Therefore, project teams should seek to learn from the experiences of others and from previous/current events. Evaluating, what has gone right/wrong within a particular activity or part of our project allows us to recreate/avoid that particular event in order to improve efficiency in current or future projects.

Roles and Responsibilities

Project Management Team members should be aware of their roles within the Organisation Structure of a project and understand what is asked of them. Also, the hierarchical structure of the team should be well defined to improve the overall performance of the work during the project. Moreover, stakeholders should be clearly represented within the Project Management Team thus improving and promoting a wider understanding and support.

Managing by Stages

Projects are divided and planned into management stages. A Stage in a PM4SD project constitutes a partition of the project characterised by management decision making.

A management stage is a collection of activities and products which are delivered as part of a milestone for which a decision point has been planned. These in turn are planned (for efficiency and to reduce the impact of risks) on a stage-by-stage basis.

While there might be a need for a global project plan covering the entire span of the project, the PM will plan manageable pieces of the project by splitting it into management stages aimed at the delivery of one or more milestones.

Management by Exception

To improve fluidity and efficiency in the daily activities of a PM, authority is delegated to him/her by the higher levels of the Organisation. This gives limited decision making power to a PM during the running of a management stage.

However this authority is limited by tolerance thresholds for cost, time, quality, scope, risk, and benefit. Should the PM forecast a deviation from any of these tolerance levels they will have to seek prior approval from the higher level of authority before any corrective action can take place.

Focus on Products

Projects are driven by the deliverables they are meant to produce. For this reason all the project management activities (including planning) should be product focused rather than work based, since it should be the required product that dictates the necessary activity and not vice versa. Moreover, the definition and understanding of a product’s specification (including its quality and/or acceptance criteria) promote a much higher understanding of what is required and improve the chances of a successful project.

Tailor to Suit the Project Environment

Every project is unique in terms of nature, context, complexity, formality, length etc. For this reason each project might be subject to a different level of application of management standards. Although the PM4SD approach is an adaptation of the PRINCE2® project management method specifically for the Sustainable Tourism sector, the PM is encouraged to evaluate each individual project during the initial stages to ascertain the level of application of the PM4SD approach needed.

Collaborative approach

Collaboration is particularly relevant to the aim of achieving competitive and sustainable tourism for two reasons:

1.Tourism as an industry sector is very fragmented. The visitor experience that constitutes the product is made up of many different elements which are supplied by a whole variety of enterprises and bodies from the private and public sector.

2.The issues associated with sustainable tourism are complex and a wide range of stakeholders are affected by its impact. This requires a holistic approach which delivers a range of outcomes.

In this context sustainable tourism requires a strong process of collaboration at policy, programme and project level, to allow collective decisions taking and jointly agreed or collective actions.

The World Tourism Organisation has identified twelve different but related motives and reasons for multi-stakeholder collaboration and their associated benefits:

  • to reflect multiple aims and agree common targets;
  • to ensure inclusiveness and equity;
  • to sharpen focus and coordinate action;
  • to raise awareness and engage those with power over outcomes;
  • to link components in the tourism value chain;
  • to strengthen long term support and commitment;
  • to pool knowledge and skills;
  •  to strengthen resources and funding;
  •  to widen contacts and strengthen communication;
  •  to add value and creativity;
  •  to share costs and risks – economies of scale;
  •  to cross boundaries

All reasons are relevant for projects in PM4SD.


Tourism projects in PM4SD environment need to be sustainable, assuring the application of sustainable tourism criteria and long term benefits. In PM4SD sustainability is at the same time a key success factor and a principle.


Projects are supportive of overarching sustainable policy objectives; they need to be consistent with the policy framework, at local, national and international level. The PM needs to analyse the policy context during the all lifecycle of the project.