Published here May 2019


Musings Index

Differentiating the Management of Different Types of Projects

These days, with the large amount of discussion, promotion, and advertising about project management, there is no doubt that there are a lot of people "managing" initiatives that we call projects. That means there are a lot of people leading them that, in effect, are project managers (PMs) — whether they are called that or not. Some time ago,[1] there was a constructive exchange on LinkedIn concerning how much do project managers really know about the art and science of fully effective project management?

As a part of that discussion, I made the following contribution:[2]

"We are gradually seeing greater recognition that managing the 'project' and managing the technology of the product are not the same thing and that these need different considerations or systems that nevertheless must be integrated. The former, project management, really requires a consistent and predetermined project life span (cycle?) designed for purposes of control. However, the latter, the technology management, requires far more flexibility depending on the nature of the product's technology, its environment, urgency, politics, and so on."

To this, Larry Moore responded in the same discussion thread:[3]

"Reading your comment, I am not certain what you mean by 'managing the technology of the product.' One of my beliefs is that PMs do not manage the product of a project; rather, they manage the project itself (more specifically the work involved in completing the project). We are not Product Managers; that is a separate endeavor. From comments posted in our discussion, I get the idea that many PMs would disagree with this, or would not even understand my point."

I have given a lot of thought to this and, looking back, obviously I did not make myself clear in referring to "managing the technology of the product." Elsewhere I had referred to "Product Manager" and Larry was correct in stating that this is a separate endeavor. What I should have called it is something like "Product Development Manager".

I still think that there is a benefit in distinguished between the two. What I am trying to say is that the job of a project manager is to mind the business of establishing and tracking stuff like scope, quality (grade), time and cost, while the job of a "technical" manager is to bring together the manpower, materials, goods and components of the desired "deliverables" or outputs in a risk environment. Indeed, in the construction industry,[4] it is an accepted part of the organizational setup to have a project manager and a construction manager. It is equally accepted that the two jobs are different.

So if that is true, why is the same principle not applied to other types of project? That is not to say that there should be two such people in the management of every project outcome, but at least recognize that there are two different roles to be played. Hence in doing so, we can say that managing a project (aka project management of a single project) is very similar across all projects. In fact, that is what official project management associations[5] rely on. At the same time, it is possible to group projects into several categories where the actual production of the deliverables is very different in each case.

That is why, in my studies of a large variety of projects, I have concluded that a simple set of categories of project types can be established. The major type of production work and outcome involved in each case is probable the best way of identifying these different groupings. The results of these studies are shown in the following table where the product sectors range from low-tech (construction) to hi-tech (IT):[6]

Group Category

Product Sector Name

Major Type of Outcome and Work Involved

Examples of Project Domains




Agriculture, construction, mining, retail, utilities


Healthcare & Administration


Administration, healthcare, communications




Defense, entertainment, transport


Info Technology & Hi Tech


Finance, information-technology, tourism

1. In fact, six years ago in December 2013.
2. Reference
3. Reference
4. Most of what we know about project management today originated from experience in the "Engineer, Procure and Construct" (EPC) industry.
5. Such as the Project Management Institute, USA.
6. See:
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