Adapted from a paper originally presented to an International Project/Program Management Workshop ESC Lille - Lille Graduate School of Management, Lille, France, © 2005.

Introduction | Different Strokes for Different Folks
Ad Hoc versus Systematic Project Categorization
Proposed Matrix for Systematic Categorization of Projects | PART 2

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Categorization versus Classification of Projects

Some dictionaries use these terms interchangeably, but to avoid potential semantic confusion the term categorization is used consistently in this paper to identify a set of items with similar characteristics or properties. An item may be placed in more than one category; in other words, categories are not mutually exclusive. A class is often used more rigorously to denote a set of items that can only be placed within a given class; classes are therefore mutually exclusive, when used in this sense. In this paper it is suggested that projects be classified within categories using specific classification criteria.

De Facto Project Categorization or Specialization

Today, in August of 2005, within the PM practices of large and small organizations and within some of the recognized PM bodies of knowledge and standards, we can see de facto categorization of projects for various purposes. The production of various standards in recent years within both the Project Management Institute ("PMI") and some of the 36 national associations that are members of the International Project Management Association ("IPMA") demonstrates the movement in this direction. For example, PMI has produced both a government and a construction extension or adaptation of the PMI "Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge," and is working on an automotive extension at this time.

The PM body of knowledge produced by GPM, the German national association member of IPMA, distinguishes between investment projects (construction and systems engineering), research and development/innovation projects, and organizational projects. Many, if not most, of the PMI Special Interest Groups/SIGs, as shown in Figure 1, are named for and dedicated to specific project categories of one kind or another. The top five areas of PM application/industries represented by the present 165,000 members of PMI in 120 countries are "computers/software/data processing, information technology, telecommunications, business management, and financial services" (PMI Corporate Council Update March 2003, p 3), even though the construction and aerospace/defense industries are the most mature PM areas of application (Archibald 2004, p 2.)

Aerospace & Defense

Automation Systems


Design-procurement-construction (across all economic sectors)

Dispute Management


Environmental Management (pollution remediation and prevention)

Financial Services (banking, investment)


Healthcare Project Management

Hospitality Management (major events, such as the Olympic Games)

Information Systems (software)

Information Technology and Telecommunications

International Development (infrastructure, agriculture, education, health, etc., in developing countries)


Marketing and Sales

New Product Development




Service and Outsourcing

Urban Development (potential SIG)

Utility industry (generation and distribution of electric power, water and gas)


Figure 1: The specific interest groups (SIGs) within PMI® that relate to project categories and specific areas of application of project management.
For a complete directory of project management Specific Interest Groups go to:

International Development Projects

Giammalvo (2005) gives further indication of the specialization of bodies of PM knowledge for specific categories of projects in "Announcing the 'Soft Launch' of the International Development Project Management Manual of Practice and Glossary Program." See

Organization Structures Often Categorize Projects

Many PM practitioners report that: "Our organization does not categorize our projects in any formal way." However, the structure of their organization itself usually creates de facto categorization. For example, it is common for one company, or one division of a larger company, to be devoted only to IT hardware and/or software projects that are in fact important project categories. The larger engineering/constructor companies often create operating divisions devoted to sub-categories of projects such as energy plants, commercial structures, and transportation (highways, bridges, etc.) Many companies or government agencies are devoted to only one or a few categories of projects.

Consultants Focus on Specific Project Categories

Although some useful benefits can be derived from "jack-of-all-trades" project management consultants, many of the highly qualified and experienced consultants have developed specialized practices that focus on specific categories of projects. For example, one large PM consulting organization describes their practice thus:

"Nationwide, PMA has provided consulting and expert services on architectural, infrastructure, transportation, airport, health care, institutional, water/wastewater, environmental, power, and manufacturing/process projects exceeding $80 billion. Our experts expedite complex interrelated tasks on tight time frames in a way that minimizes disruption of normal functions and delivers the expected results."
(PMA Consultants at

Another example can be seen in this statement:

"IT and IS Specific Services
  • Business Analysis and Joint Application Design - BMC will provide knowledgeable facilitators and business analysts to design an cross-functional solution or to help a team design it's own cross-functional solution
  • Independent Verification and Validation - all aspects from development of validation plans through verification activities and reports
  • Quality Assurance and Quality Control of process and products (final and interim products) - design reviews, document reviews, process reviews
  • System and Software Development Methodology Support- process development, documentation, review, and auditing
  • User Manuals, On-line Help, and User Training - development, documentation, and delivery of user manuals, on-line help, and training; text, audio, on-line/web based, self-paced, instructor lead - all formats"
    (Business Management Consultants at
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