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

Common Characteristics of the Major Types of Projects

Let us now look at the attributes or characteristics that are common to each of the nine basic types of project listed above.

  1. Administrative: Administrative projects involve intellectual workers. The scope may change as the project proceeds.
  2. Construction: Construction is a contract business where the scope is laid out in detail before the project starts and the level of risk is relatively small for the size of investment. The workers are almost entirely craft or blue collar. In most cases time pressures are moderate and cost is a very important variable. The processes of construction are typically well known and the foremen very experienced.
  3. Computer Software Development: Software projects are notorious for having the scope change radically during the project. Often they are pushing the state of the art which introduces high risk. Programmers are famous for individualistic behavior.
  4. Design of Plans: The design of any kind of plan is an intellectual endeavor. By the nature of the exploratory nature of design the scope may not be well defined at the beginning because the client may not have yet decided just what they want. Quality is of a higher priority than either time or cost.
  5. Equipment or System Installation: Scope is well defined and speed is essential. Risk should be low if the project was well planned.
  6. Event: This is a one of a kind project where scope may change during the project and uncertainty is high. Time is critical to meet a specific date. It is probably a complex project.
  7. Maintenance of Process Industries: Turnarounds and outages are short perhaps nine week projects in which down time can cost as much as a million dollars per day and speed is critical. Uncertainty is high because the scope is not fully known until the plant is disassembled. A large number of different craft workers are involved. They often work three shifts per day and plans are detailed in hours.
  8. New Product Development: Developing a new product is a risky business. By definition you are pushing the state of the art. Time to market is much more important than cost of the project. Quality is also critical and the scope may change up or down during the project.
  9. Research: Research projects are usually long term where quality takes precedence over time. It is an intellectual process where scope may not be defined at all in the beginning.
Types of Projects  Types of Projects

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