Correlating Success with the Classification System
To test the proposition that project success varies with the type
of project, a qualitative study was conducted. Sixteen projects
were selected from the available database, three of them Established
Technology; four Mostly Established Technology; seven High-Tech;
and two Super-High-Tech. The study showed that almost all projects
seemed to meet performance requirements.
Meeting resource constraints in the established technology projects
was better than in the high-tech projects. In fact, overruns were
almost intolerable in the established technology projects as this
was perceived as critical to success. This did not mean that such
projects did not suffer from overruns. Overruns in these projects
were attributed to factors beyond the control of project management.
For example, this occurred in a University Construction project.
The project suffered from a 20% schedule overrun due to a government-imposed
restriction on the importation of construction workers. In contrast,
in the high- and super-high-tech projects, overruns reached a much
higher level, and in two cases almost 100%. Such overruns were always
as a result of technical difficulties. They were, however, much
more tolerated than in the lower technology types. Indeed, they
were even perceived as most likely to happen in the super-high-tech
A notable case was a new electronic and computing module. In this
advanced project, the module was based on a concept that had not
been tried before, as well as on several new technologies which
had to be developed during the course of the project. The project
took almost twice the time originally planned for, and it went through
two cycles of resource planning and replanning. Yet, both management
and customer representatives felt that "the price was right"
and that the benefit gained from the final result justified the
time and budget overruns.
The nature of other success dimensions also varied with project
type. The benefits customers gained from different types of project
tend to increase with the technology uncertainty. However, the risk
of shortcomings, or even failure, also increases.
To illustrate, established-technology projects (Type A) use existing
means and well-practiced technology as in standard construction
work. Usually, there are many contractors that can do the work and
competition for the work is high. What the customer is interested
in is an acceptable product to be used for traditional purposes.
Study examples included the building of a regional office for a
large utility company, and the addition of a swimming pool to an
existing resort. What the customers wanted in these cases was to
have their requirements met through standard solutions at relatively
minimal cost. In the case of a new university social sciences department
building, the contractor's profit was marginal but the contractor
did gain access to subsequent work.
Mostly-established-technology projects (Type B) provide more than
the standard solution for customers. These involve some element
of novelty, modifications or improvement to an existing product,
or some new product in an established technological field. The study
included the development of a new type of battery, the building
of a special protective cabin for a heavy piece of equipment, and
the building of a new semiconductor plant. In each case the project
was designed to solve a customer's problem to make life easier,
more safe, or more efficient. In the improvement, overhaul and reorganization
of an air fleet project, the sponsor was seeking to diversify its
portfolio. All the customers in this category were looking for more
than just a standard solution. The solution had to be functional,
meeting their needs, and provide some added benefit.
High-tech projects (Type C) usually involve the development of
new products based on a collection of new technologies. Such projects
provide completely new solutions to previous problems, or address
new needs for new customers. The development of a new command and
control system for a military vehicle, the development of a new
software package, the development of a new radar, and the development
of a new multiplexing fiber-optic system for a large communication
network, are all examples of high-tech projects examined in the
study. Customers of these projects, in striving for substantial
advantages and unique solutions, were ready to accept higher risks
as well as higher costs. Indeed, in improving and upgrading an existing
weapon system for naval use, the contractor contemplated an initial
loss in order to gain access to a unique product line. In the case
of the new multiplexing fiber-optic system, its development almost
lead the organization into bankruptcy. Nevertheless, these projects
provided substantially increased capabilities, effectiveness or
Super-high-tech projects (Type D) are those designed to meet very
advanced needs for which no technology or previous solution readily
exists. The development of the new electronic module based on a
new concept, mentioned earlier, and the development of a receiving
and processing system for a hostile and complex electromagnetic
environment, both fall into the super-high-tech category. Such projects
are obviously the most complicated and risky of all. When these
projects are successful, they provide a quantum leap in effectiveness
and enormous advantages for their customers.
Table 2 summarizes some of the quantitative
findings of the research for different types of project. It shows
typical characteristics for each of the four types of project identified
and how these relate to each of the four success categories.
Internal Project Objectives
Overruns most likely
Functional product with added value
Significantly improved capabilities
leap in effectiveness
Return on investment
High, but may
come much later.
New product line.
core and future technologies
Table 2: Success Characteristics of Various Types
Figure 3 shows a conceptual relationship between
the relative importance of a given success category and the type
of project. It reflects the findings that for traditional technology
projects, meeting project objectives of time and cost and satisfying
the customer in the short to medium term are the most important
considerations. At the other end of the scale, long term future
opportunity plays a much larger role.
Figure 3: Success-Project Relationships
(Time-based success criteria are project dependent)
Additional research is required to ascertain to what extent the
complexity of the program/project management inherent in the project
has on the selection and consequent success of each project type.