Original version of this paper presented at
The Project Management Institute
1999 Conference in Philadelphia, Pa.
Revised February 2002.
Published here April 2002.
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.
- Administrative: Administrative projects involve intellectual workers.
The scope may change as the project proceeds.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- Equipment or System Installation: Scope is well defined and speed
is essential. Risk should be low if the project was well planned.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.