Aaron J. Shenhar, Professor of Technology Management, James J. Renier Visiting Chair, Center for the Development of Technological Leadership, University of Minnesota, MN and R. Max Wideman

This paper is the first of a series of six papers describing the search for a best practices linkage from project classification through management style to project success. It represent part of the research conducted between 1992 and 1998. This paper was presented to an INFORMS Conference in Washington, DC, in May, 1996, and briefly reviews the genesis of modern project management and its scope in today's business and technical environment.

Published here December, 2001.

Background  | Genesis | Scope | Typology | Classification | Linking | Conclusion

Linking Scope-Technology Classification with Project Management Processes

The research cited earlier, and illustrated conceptually in Figure 2, examined the linkage between selected projects placed in the classification system and established project management processes. Project management through the various project phases involved linking two different, but not disjointed, sets of activities. The first involved those that led to the assembly of pieces of technological knowledge to create and shape the characteristics of the final product, i.e. the project's scope and work breakdown structure. The second involved the managerial activities necessary to allocate, use and monitor resources, coordinate the various parties, manage integration through communication, and support the technical activities through decision making and data management.

The conceptualization and planning or development of a project is typically an iterative effort. Plans need to be developed, tested and re-worked On the other hand, the implementation and finishing of a project should seek to maximize productivity through logical and uninterrupted execution. However, as technology content advanced, the later that firm planning decisions were evidently taken. These were often delayed well into the implementation phases, as reflected by progressively later 'design freezes' and consequent impact on the on-going progress of work.

Similarly, as the program/project scope increased, the project management processes became more intense and more detailed. Hence the need for more and careful project management planning, more extensive coordination, closer control and attention to project configuration. The result was a tighter and more formal management form as projects progressed up the scale.

When moving along both dimensions simultaneously, new challenges and concerns arose. Higher scope higher tech projects involved producing large multi-disciplinary systems which involved many subsystems and components based on new technologies. Such projects required even more replanning activities more frequently. Similarly, systems engineering activities were also more intensive and were required to harmonize and optimize the collection of subsystems and components.

System integration was another challenge. In higher scope higher tech projects, the successful production of the separate subunits was one thing. Integrating them into one working piece was quite another. Typical problems of interfacing often required a long a tedious process of assembly, numerous testing and interface trade-offs and, in some cases, more than one design cycle for the entire system.

Configuration management, specification and documentation were also prominent problem areas, especially at the super high-tech end, and special software was required to track all the decisions and changes. Finally, there was the special need for risk management. While all projects involve some degree of risk, the higher scope higher tech projects were more sensitive to the difficulties of risk management and the need for risk analysis.

As might be expected, the studies indicated that the level of technological uncertainty was more associated with engineering and design-related variables such as design cycles, design freeze points, and systems engineering. The scope dimension, on the other hand, was more associated with administrative and managerial variables such as the number of activities, use of the work breakdown structure, planning and contracting strategies.

Proposed Project Classification System  Proposed Project Classification System

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