Critical Success Factors in Project Management

A Comprehensive Review



By Viktoriya Abylova and Leila Salykova, PhD

Satbayev Kazakh National Research Technical University

Almaty, Kazakhstan




There is an increasing interest in project management studies since more companies become project-oriented and apply project management principles in building their strategic business models. Project management is a broad subject with different knowledge areas that embrace variety of issues a project manager, a team, organizations and experts have to deal with to succeed in project implementation. When we talk about concept of project success, primarily there are two project success concepts: project success and project management success. Many researchers and professionals try to define the correct meaning of project success and project management success, yet it is challenging to make a strong difference between them due to their mutual nature. It is quite interesting to observe how the concept of project success have been developed through history, what kind of models were emerged and what methods researchers used to find the factors that lead to a project success. This research aims to provide a comprehensive literature review related to the concept of project success factors by studying different views, models, theories and approaches to gain better understanding on this issue, what methodologies are used in previous studies and what are further considerations in project success factors theories. This article provides a survey on ideas, knowledge, and principles to explain the project success by means of analyzing various techniques and to insert findings as a part of research design of PhD dissertation. It helps to get more precise and clear idea on the chosen topic and serves as a tool to proceed the work in progress at data collection stage. Apart from personal application, this review facilitates project managers to use obtained knowledge in practice in order to understand the relationship between project success and project efficiency.

Key words: project management, project success, factors, efficiency.

JEL code: O22


Probably every project manager wishes of successful implementation of projects. Usually literature differentiates between project success and project management success. Since these two concepts have mutual nature, there are still some similarities as well as differences.

In general, project success delivers established goals or objectives of the project while project management success is evaluated based on the traditional approach of project triangle namely cost, time and budget.

Over the years of studying success concept and project performance several extensions were brought to the traditional understanding. Success criteria evolved and developed according to project’s perception and perspective of key stakeholders. Previous works on project success or project management success were not limited only by traditional approach but examined different aspects of success as human factors, knowledge transfer, stakeholders and perception concept, communication and advanced considerations.

This article aims to contribute to knowledge and practices of project success concept and provide a broad overview on this topic by analyzing different views, theories, opinions, investigations. The paper consists of several parts: first part deals with traditional approach of project success and project management success, and then few upgrades to the traditional concepts are given followed by detailed overview on numerous aspects of success. Later detailed literature review on critical success factors is provided and conclusions on these topics are made.

This work serves as a tool to build theoretical framework for future PhD research and facilitates to form a research design according to existing trends and knowledge in project management practice.

Project success and project management success

Usually when project managers evaluate project realization, they generalize project outcome by the word “success”. However, literature usually distinguishes between two concepts: project success and project management success. De Wit (1988) was the first one who suggested this distinction. Undoubtedly, successful project management makes successful projects (Sebestyen Z.). Although poor project management still can make project successful. Munns and Bjeirmi (1996) shared similar ideas and noted that “a project can be a success despite a poor project management performance”.


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Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the 8th Scientific Conference on Project Management in the Baltic States at the University of Latvia in April 2019.  It is republished here with the permission of the author and conference organizers.

How to cite this paper: Salykova, L.; Abylova, V. (2019); Critical Success Factors in Project Management: A Comprehensive Review; presented at the 8th Scientific Conference on Project Management in the Baltic States, University of Latvia, April 2019; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. VIII, Issue V, June.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/pmwj82-Jun2019-Salykova-Abylova-critical-success-factors-in-project-management2.pdf



About the Authors

Leila Salykova, PhD

Almaty, Kazakhstan




Leila Salykova is a director of Project Management Institute at the K.I. Satpayev Kazakh National Research Technical University, Almaty, Kazakhstan. She holds a PhD degree in International Business from Robert Gordon University. She was a research fellow at Humboldt Universitaet zu Berlin, Germany and a visiting scholar at Harvard University, the USA. After many years in academia, she joined Kazakh National Research Technical University to develop and promote the high quality academic programs including international programs. Leila has more than 40 publications on problems of macroeconomics & international economic relations and socio-economic development of population including educational processes. Dr. Salykova can be contacted at salykoval@gmail.com


Viktoriya Abylova

Almaty, Kazakhstan




Viktoriya Abylova is currently pursuing a PhD in Project Management at the K.I. Satpayev Kazakh National Research Technical University, Almaty, Kazakhstan. She holds a MBA degree in Finance and Accounting, and a Bachelor of Finance from the Kazakh-British Technical University, Almaty, Kazakhstan. Her research interests include project success, critical success factors, project efficiency and firm competitiveness. She has teaching experience in financial analysis, business valuation and financial markets courses. Viktoriya can be contacted at e-mail: victoria.abylova@gmail.com