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Key Success Factors: Who Needs Them?
By Demian Entrekin

Most of us have heard the concept of Key Success Factors thrown around as if it were a clear and identifiable list of items, like a shopping list or a Christmas wish list. We believe that we can identify the Key Success Factors and use them to better understand what we need to do be successful. Right?

Some folks are so comfortable with this term that they jump straight to the KSF acronym. “What are the KSF’s for this project?” asks the project manager.

“The what?” some intrepid soul asks.

“The KSFs! You know – Key Success Factors!”

“Oh, right. I knew that. The Key Success Factors,” says intrepid.

But then the smart guy from the PMO speaks up. “Aren’t those captured in the methodology? Don’t we define the risks as the first phase of the project? If not, maybe we should just add a step to capture them.”

“Well,” the project manager considers, “there are some things we need to figure out before we even start the project in the first place. If we cannot meet the key success factors, then we shouldn’t even start the project.”

The PMO guy speaks again: “But aren’t those questions covered in the project proposal process? Shouldn’t the key success factors be defined in the request form prior to project approval?”

Intrepid: “Ummmm.”

Anyway. You get the idea. Should Key Success Factors exist as part of your project lifecycle or not? Should they simply get folded into our structured methodology? And what they heck are they really good for after all?

I say “yes” but the question still exists: what exactly are they for? Here’s my take: Key Success Factors anticipate the gaps and gotchas between the project goals and the project plan. It’s probably true that they exist at every stage of the project.

The key is to figure out what works for you. What will your people actually adopt?

Demian is the CTO of Innotas. As founder and CEO, Entrekin oversaw marketing, product development, sales and services for the company. Today, he focuses on strategic product direction. Prior to Innotas, Entrekin co-founded Convoy Corporation and was Chief Architect of its initial products. In that role, Entrekin helped the company lead the middleware market with an annual growth rate of 670 percent and played an instrumental role in Convoy’s subsequent acquisition by New Era Networks in 1999. A recognized thought leader in Project Portfolio Management, Entrekin has published numerous papers on PPM and his blog (PPM Today) explores current issues related to successful PPM implementation. During his 18 year career, Demian has assumed leadership roles as a consultant and as an entrepreneur, delivering commercial and corporate database applications. Demian holds a B.A. in English from UCLA and an M.A. in English from San Francisco State University.

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