Types of Business Projects

project-managementProjects come with different requirements related to scope, timing, cost, number of disciplines involved, various priority lists, and other variables depending on the organization’s purposes. Every project within academia, government, industry, and not-for-profit organizations will have specific requirements. A product or process research project extending over many years will have different requirements than a marketing project designed to affect next year’s performance. A project to provide prescription drugs through a national health program would obviously be a major project (aside from the political implications).

What kind of project are you dealing with? Any department may have projects that range from several hours to thousands of hours. Some projects may take many hours to complete, but may not require developing any new knowledge. Others could be relatively small but include many unknowns that need to be resolved. If all projects were managed with the same rigor, the output of the group could come to a standstill. However, all projects regardless of type should be tracked to prevent some minor detail from falling through the cracks because of a lack of attention to detail. You also need to keep in mind that most projects are made up of many subprojects managed by teams. So you need to develop a tracking system that fits the organization’s needs.

Below, you may see some possible ways of classifying projects.

Group 1Group 2Group 3Group 4
  • Small to large
  • Simple to complex
  • System
  • Macrosystem
  • Single discipline
  • Multiple disciplines
  • Improvement
  • Routine or creative
  • New to organization
  • Breakthrough
  • Scouting
  • New game
  • New business

– Group 1 focuses on size, and uses classifications such as small to large, simple to complex, system, and macrosystem projects. A system project might include bringing a new product to market, and will involve practically all functional groups within an organization. It might include not only building a new roadway but also solving traffic congestion. Putting a man on the moon and returning him safely was a macrosystem project. Some corporate mergers would also fit the macro class. You need to define these terms in the context of your group’s and organization’s purposes and objectives. What may be small or simple in one department may be large and complex in another setting.

– Group 2 divides projects by single and multiple disciplines. Chances are that most single-discipline projects will require minimum effort, so that several of them may be consolidated into a single class and reported as one project. As an example, there could be a project X that collects all projects that are scheduled to take less than a certain number of hours. These projects are too small to report on individually. The multidiscipline projects usually have a much larger scope and involve significant effort.

– Group 3 distinguishes projects by scope and organizational benefit. These projects usually require high levels of innovation. Process and product improvements continue to be high-priority projects in most organizations. Those improvement projects can either be routine or require high levels of creativity. Asking a group to take on the responsibility for a new-to-the-organization project usually requires some reorganization and reallocation of priorities. The breakthrough project challenges the manager to bring all the resources to bear on the project without neglecting other activities.

Group 4 projects turn attention to the future. Scouting for new or leading edge knowledge cannot be left to chance. If you consider game as the metaphor for business, you need to ask whether you are in the right game and have the right players. Those potential new business opportunities cannot be disregarded. They don’t happen unless they’re on the organization’s agenda.

All classification systems leave something to be desired. Any project can include aspects of the individual types in Groups 1 to 4. It’s possible to have a macrosystem project in Group 1 also fit into the breakthrough class in Group 3. A small project in Group 1 can also be a new-to-the-organization project in Group 3, or be the beginning of a new business in Group 4. Use your imagination and assemble any combination among the four groups or change the classification to fit your organization.

There is nothing sacred about the way projects are classified. Just make sure that you differentiate among all of them because each imposes different conditions on the group. The purpose of the classification above is to demonstrate the issues that must be considered in understanding the requirements to develop the project’s purposes, objectives, and strategies. As an example, a system project will most likely be multidisciplinary, require some level of creativity, and involve some scouting. Changing the name of the business game or in your case the total operation for which you are responsible could include many selections from the groups. Such projects would be managed with much more rigor than a small single-discipline project related to some scouting activity. Every project cannot be managed in the same way. Apply the method that meets the requirements and no more.

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