Project Complexity - Explained
What is Project Complexity?
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Table of ContentsWhat is Project Complexity?What are Complex Adaptive Systems?What are the Complexity Characteristics of a Project? What is the Darnall-Preston Complexity Index?What is a Project Profile?
What is Project Complexity?
A project can be understood as a system. Thus, system theory can be applied to understand the nature of project complexity.
Complexity is determined by the number of parts or activities, the degree of differentiation between the parts, and the structure of their connections.
- Ordered systems, the opposite of complex systems, are homogenous and redundant.
- Complex systems consist of multiple components that interact. This interaction makes the output of the system unique from the output of the individual components. .
The factors that affect complexity include:
- the number of parts,
- the degree of differentiation between parts,
- the type and strength of relationship between parts
What are Complex Adaptive Systems?
As such, the complexity of a project is measured on the same principles. Each component of a project interacts with other components and the project environment.
A project is a complex adaptive systems. It has a large number of elements (activities and resources). It is adaptive because the individual elements react and then adjust to the other elements to allow achievement of the objectives to which they relate.
The event to which the activities are dependent upon each other, (known as “interdependence”), contributes to the degree of complexity.
What are the Complexity Characteristics of a Project?
As a complex adaptive system, projects have the following characteristics:
Self-Organization - That is, project organize around the work, phases, or activities, which, in turn, reacts to the nature of the work at any given phase.
Environmental Adaptation - Projects are generally considered to be deterministic systems. This means that it will produce the same results if you start with the same conditions. The opposite would be a nonlinear, or chaotic, system. In these systems, the results may differ if the starting conditions are almost exactly the same.
Project managers use aggressive change management process to accommodate change and incorporate the change into the project planning and execution processes.
What is the Darnall-Preston Complexity Index?
TheDarnall-Preston Complexity Index (DPCI™) assesses complexity of a project based upon the following attributes of the project:
- External -These include the characteristic attributes of the project (size, duration, and resources availability)
- Internal - This concerns all internal attributes of the project, including clarity of objectives, project scope, organizational structure, and stakeholder expectations and agreement.
- Technology - Familiarity and proficiency of the team with the necessary technology.
- Environment- This concerns the non-project-related external environment (political, legal, cultural, economic, systemic, and ecological).
The DPCI was developed around four assumptions:
- Projects are unique
- They have common characteristics.
- Characteristics can be grouped together to create a project profile.
- Optimum execution relates to the optimum set of skills and experience for the project manager and team.
What is a Project Profile?
A project profile is a simplified description of an eventual project. It includes all of the elements identified in the project definition, but it goes further to illustrate the various components that go into each element.
This project profile is generally used by a firm that is considering undertaking a project.
The project profile generally includes:
- Introduction: This section includes general information about the purpose of the project, the project applicants, the location, the characteristics, of the project, a summary of the objectives, and a justification for the investment,
- Investment. This lists the resources necessary for the project and how they will be acquired. It include a breakdown of the financial requirements and the sources of the financing.
- Operating Costs and Income per Activity: This encompasses the economic effects of the project. That is, what income and expenses (costs) will be generated by the output of the project. It will also attempt to identify any variations attributable to the scale of the project and outputs realized.
- General and Maintenance Costs: These are additional expenses or costs generated by the project that do not directly relate to the project output. These may include such expenses as: hiring a manager or other employee; operating a vehicle; local land or property taxes; or office expenses, the costs of maintaining (but not replacing) equipment and other goods purchased or built at the investment stage.
Because the project is early in the concept phase, the project profile is based upon estimates. That is, all activities cannot yet be identified. All costs associated with activities and resources will be inexact estimates based upon assumptions.
The project profile is essential in the planning process. It aids the following:
- It presents the major elements of the project to all stakeholders and participants.
- It makes the planning process more efficient by identifying objectives, necessary activities, and constraints.
- It allows for group input and serves the functions of gaining buy-in from stakeholders.
- It provides a framework for implementation, and is normally the first step toward a detailed project design.