Project objectives are brief statements of what a project is to achieve. They give a project a purpose and clear focus and help to set project boundaries (needed as part of defining the scope of work). Project objectives may be expressed in terms of time, cost, quality or function.
Project objectives should be set early on during the project, so that the expected aims of the project can be seen and understood from the start. It is important that key project stakeholders agree to them in writing.
Defining project objectives
Project objectives are not necessarily project deliverables (see the ‘Project deliverables’ topic). That is, it may be a project objective to produce a comprehensive report. In this case, that report is also a deliverable. But, more usually — especially with large, complex projects — project objectives are more abstract. For example, one objective for a large hospital project might be to upgrade its transport access. The deliverables needed to meet this objective might include, for instance, a new rail network, additional bus routes and a new road link. And within each of these, there may be interim deliverables (e.g. excavating a site) during the project’s life cycle.
In general, more clearly project objectives are defined, the easier it will be to achieve them, as the project team better understands what they are working towards.
Measuring achievement of project objectives
Some means to measure the achievement of project objectives is normally needed, so as to gauge whether a project has been successful or not. The acronym SMART is useful to remember when planners are developing project objectives: they should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-sensitive.
The measures developed to assess the success of a project should also specify the performance parameters (quantitative and/or qualitative) by which a project will have been deemed to be successful.
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