A paper presented to the Project Management Symposium on PM: Project Manager Role Evolution, Rome, Italy, 2004.

Updated 7/3/04

"PMI" and "PMBOK" are the registered trademarks of the Project Management Institute.
Published here July 2004.

Introduction | Characteristics of Project Management
Projects, Programs, and Project Portfolios | Defining Project Categories and Sub-Categories  
Classifying Projects within Categories and Sub-Categories | Project Portfolios
Organizational Capabilities and Maturity in Project Management | PART 2

Projects, Programs, and Project Portfolios

Projects – with different size, shape, degree of risk and complexity, and widely varying products or results – are the common denominator for project management. Having a practical scheme for categorizing projects would be useful to all organizations for a number of reasons, but a widely accepted project classification system does not exist at present. Two efforts are currently under way to develop and test such a scheme (see Archibald and Voropaev 2003, Crawford et al 2002, and the PMI research project on "potential classification systems for projects" at http://www.pmi.org/info/PP_ResearchCurrentProjects.asp). Table 1 shows the list of categories and sub-categories presently being tested by the survey at http://www.ipmaglobalsurvey.com.

Project Categories:
Each having similar life cycle phases and a unique project management process
1. Aerospace/Defense Projects
1.1 Defense systems
1.2 Space
1.3 Military operations

New weapon system; major system upgrade.
Satellite development/launch; space station mod.
Task force invasion
2. Business & Organization Change Projects
2.1 Acquisition/Merger
2.2 Management process improvement
2.3 New business venture
2.4 Organization re-structuring
2.5 Legal proceeding

Acquire and integrate competing company.
Major improvement in project management.
Form and launch new company.
Consolidate divisions and downsize company.
Major litigation case.
3. Communication Systems Projects
3.1 Network communications systems
3.2 Switching communications systems

Microwave communications network.
3rd generation wireless communication system.
4. Event Projects
4.1 International events
4.2 National events

2004 Summer Olympics; 2006 World Cup Match.
2005 U. S. Super Bowl; 2004 Political Conventions.
5. Facilities Projects
5.1 Facility decommissioning
5.2 Facility demolition
5.3 Facility maintenance and modification
5.4 Facility design/procurement/construction
      High rise

Closure of nuclear power station.
Demolition of high-rise building.
Process plant maintenance turnaround.
Conversion of plant for new products/markets.
Flood control dam; highway interchange.
New gas-fired power generation plant; pipeline.
Chemical waste cleanup.
40 story office building.
New manufacturing plant.
New shopping center; office building.
New housing sub-division.
New tanker, container, or passenger ship
6. Information Systems (Software) Projects
New project management information system. (Information system hardware is considered to be in the product development category.)
7. International Development Projects
7.1 Agriculture/rural development
7.2 Education
7.3 Health
7.4 Nutrition
7.5 Population
7.6 Small-scale enterprise
7.7 Infrastructure: energy (oil, gas, coal, power generation and distribution), industrial, telecommunications, transportation, urbanization, water supply and sewage, irrigation)

People and process intensive projects in developing countries funded by The World Bank, regional development banks, US AID, UNIDO, other UN, and government agencies; and Capital/civil works intensive projects – often somewhat different from 5. Facility Projects as they may include, as part of the project, creating an organizational entity to operate and maintain the facility, and lending agencies impose their project life cycle and reporting requirements.
8. Media & Entertainment Projects
8.1 Motion picture
8.2 TV segment
8.2 Live play or music event

New motion picture (film or digital).
New TV episode.
New opera premiere.
9. Product and Service Development Projects
9.1 Information technology hardware
9.2 Industrial product/process
9.3 Consumer product/process
9.4 Pharmaceutical product/process
9.5 Service (financial, other)

New desktop computer.
New earth-moving machine.
New automobile, new food product.
New cholesterol-lowering drug.
New life insurance/annuity offering.
10. Research and Development Projects
10.1 Environmental
10.2 Industrial
10.3 Economic development
10.4 Medical
10.5 Scientific

Measure changes in the ozone layer.
How to reduce pollutant emission.
Determine best crop for sub-Sahara Africa.
Test new treatment for breast cancer.
Determine the possibility of life on Mars.
11. Other Categories?  
Table 1: Proposed project categories/sub-categories.
Each category or subcategory has similar project life cycle phases and one unique process management process [Adapted from Archibald 2003, Fig. 2.3, p.35]. Page 4 of 28

Projects within these different categories and often within the sub-categories:

  • Typically exhibit or require very different life cycle models
  • Require different planning and control methods, systems, and tools
  • Use different terminologies
  • Demand different knowledge, skills and experience of the project managers and project team members
  • Place differing emphases on the detailed aspects of planning, scheduling, cost estimating, reporting, controlling, executing and closing.

This is becoming recognized more widely today, as indicated by PMI's Government Extension to a Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge/PMBOK® Guide (October 2002), for projects under government contracts within the U. S., and PMI's Construction Extension to the PMBOK® Guide (2003). Current standards projects are in progress by PMI to create two additional extensions to the PMBOK® Guide, one for the U. S. Department of Defense projects, and one for automotive projects (see 'Standards' at http://www.pmi.org). In addition, new standards for Program/Portfolio Management, Configuration Management, Scheduling, and Work Breakdown Structures are under development by PMI (PMI Today, October 2003 Supplement). PMI members can download all PMI standards at no cost.

Software/Information Systems/IS Projects: To illustrate the wide differences in the results of one project category compared with another, compare a facilities design/procure/construct project with an information system/IS project. The products of IS projects are inherently invisible until they produce displays of the information they handle on computer screens. A skilled, successful IS project manager would likely fail if placed in charge of a power plant design/construction project, and vice versa. Bullock (2003) presents a useful description of "The Top 10 Ways Software Projects are Different."

Characteristics of Project Management  Characteristics of Project Management

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