Original version of this paper presented at The Project Management Institute 1999 Conference in Philadelphia, Pa.
Revised February 2002.
Published here April 2002.

Abstract | Introduction | Types of Projects | Common Characteristics
Approach | Variables | Conclusions | References | Appendix


Robert Youker, Retired, World Bank
Robert Youker is an independent trainer and consultant with more than 35 years experience in Project Management. He is retired from the World Bank where he developed and presented six week project management training courses for the managers of major projects in many different countries. His project management experience includes new product development at Xerox Corporation and project management consulting for many other companies. He is currently consulting with the Economic Development Institute of the World Bank to develop a CD ROM version of an instructors resource kit for project management training.
E-mail: bobyouker@worldnet.att.net

As the Project Management profession moves into the 21st century we are going to have to move to a new level in the project management body of knowledge and develop extensions that define the differences in requirements and approach for different kinds of projects such as construction, new product development, and information systems. This paper attempts a start to define the unique characteristics of different types of projects as well as establish a typology or taxonomy of different kinds of projects. The classification is based on the product or deliverable of a project. The Appendix displays a list of characteristics that define the difference between projects. For example:

  • Degree of uncertainty and risk (construction vs. new product development)
  • Level of sophistication of workers (construction vs. information systems)
  • Level of detail in plans (days or hours for maintenance vs. months for research)
  • Degree of new technology involved (research vs. administrative projects)
  • Degree of time pressure (maintenance or big event vs. construction)

The paper then defines the essential characteristics of the basic differences between types of projects and outlines how the project management approach must vary for each different project type. This will serve as a starting point for developing more specific bodies of project management knowledge, especially how the project management approach must differ for the different project types. Filling out this taxonomy should be a high priority for the profession, hopefully working together to share knowledge and come up with an agreed structure.


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