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Can you share some of your tips and tricks on how to pull out the information from stakeholders in order to write good CSF? What questions do you ask to get to the heart of the project? Can you provide some templates for CSF?

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Critical success factors (CSFs) are, as the name implies, a set of conditions that must be met or a set of things that must be done to be successful. Thus, to define good CSFs, we first need to understand the goal we're trying to achieve. After that, we can define a set of things that will cause the goal to be achieved. There is a possibilty of a cause and effect relationship between these causes, so we need to be careful and only identify the direct causes and leave out the indirect ones. Once we've finished identifying all the direct causes for a goal to be achieved, we can use them as our CSFs.

In my opinion, the key point in defining good CSFs is to understand the goal of the project. To do this, we need to find the key stakeholders. These are the people who really understand what the expected result of the project. In this sense, the project owner is the first person we need to go to. Asking for an overview of the purpose of the project and how that relates to the organization's goal might give us a good start at understanding the goal of the project.

Regarding the identification of the causes, I can't share much. There are times when Fishbone diagram is sufficient, but there are times when a more specific approach is worth using. For example, in a typical software development project, I put the goal on top of a pyramid and work my way down by defining the features required, then the information required to support those features, then data required to support those information, and in the end, the things we need to do to provide those data. In this case, I define the CSFs based on the information required (not the features).

The above is purely based on my experience. It is far from being comprehensive, but hopefully stil useful in answering this question. One thing to remember that defining CSFs is a bit tedious, so you definitely should consider something practical to do that.

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A simple approach is to

  1. define milestones for your project to the level that you can handle and control all the milestones (if you provide type of project, I would be able to suggest milestones)
  2. define milestone owners
  3. share responsibility to each milestone owner and set up checkpoints to ensure completion
  4. Maintain checklist for each milestone (if you provide type of project, I would be able to provide checklist for each milestone)

Project
S.No Milestone Description Milestone Owner Completion Date Status Comments

CSF - can use this formula for continuous tracking of CSF.

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The key for writing effective critical success factors, can be to fully understand the mission and objectives of your project and see which areas of the business need attention so that they can be achieved.

It is always better to get the inputs from key stakeholders about the mission and objectives of projects, so that CSFs can be better prepared.

Once the mission and objectives of your project are clear and aligned with all key stakeholder, we can start brainstorming about what the Critical Success Factors might be, for each Objectives of your project.

Refer this article for sample CSFs template.

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