Aaron J. Shenhar, Institute Professor of Management, Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, NJ and R. Max Wideman

The original of this paper first published on the PMForum web site, September, 2000. (Updated presentation, April, 2002.) Presented here as the fifth in a series linking project type through management style to project success.

Published here April, 2002.

Introduction | Project Management | Success | Nature | Content
Project Work | Style | Types of Leader | All Together | Conclusions

Technological Content

Type A — Low-tech (Established Technology). These projects rely on existing and well-established base technologies to which all industry players have equal access. They can be very large in scale, but essentially no new technology is employed at any stage.

Examples - standard building construction, utility projects.

Type B — Medium-tech (Mostly Established Technology). These are similar to Type A, but involve some new technology or feature. While the majority of the work has relatively low uncertainty, the new feature provides market advantage but also a higher degree of uncertainty.

Examples — new models in established product lines (autos, appliances), concrete construction using advanced carbon fiber reinforcement.

Type C — High-tech (Advanced Technology). These are projects which contain technologies that have been developed prior to project initiation, but which are used together for the first time.

Examples - most defense industry projects, new computer family.

Type D — Super High-tech (Highly Advanced Technology). These are projects that call for the incorporation of technologies which are not entirely existing, are emerging or even require unknown solutions at the time of project initiation. Such projects incorporate exploratory development and non-existing technology development during project execution.

Examples — Moon landing, star wars.

Program/Project Management Scope and Complexity

Level 1 — Assembly (Simple Project). This project relates to a collection of components and modules combined into a single unit.

Example - a computer's display.

Level 2 — System (Complex Project). This is one which consists of a complex collection of interactive elements and subsystems within a single product, but which jointly perform a range of independent functions to meet a specific operational need.

Examples - a computer work station, a radar system.

Level 3 — Array (Program). Rather than a single project, this is a series of related projects designed to accomplish broad goals and to which the individual projects contribute.

Examples - a national communication network, a city.

As Figure 3 indicates, progression along the Technological Uncertainty dimension leads to the need for increased intensity in technology management. Progression up the Program/Project Management Scope axis increases the project management complexity and leads to increased intensity and use of project management tools. When both are combined together, there is a compounding effect resulting in the need for both added technology management techniques as well as more comprehensive project management techniques.

In this view of project typology, the relationship with the primary success categories discussed earlier is shown in Table 2.

Established Technology






Highly Advanced
or Exploratory

(Super Hi-Tech)

Project Efficiency



Overruns acceptable

Overruns most likely

Impact on Customer
(Short term)

Standard product

Functional product with added value

Significantly improved capabilities

leap in effectiveness

(Medium term)

Reasonable profit

Return on investment

High profits.
Market share

High, but may
come much later.
Market leader

(Long term)

Almost none

Gain additional

New product line.
New markets

Leadership in
core and future technologies

Table 2: Success Categories and Characteristics of Various Project Types
The Nature of Projects Generally  The Nature of Projects Generally

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