The Elephant in YOUR Project – Part 2 Complexity

In Part 1, we discussed the research and statistics of project success or lack thereof.  For decades projects or change have repeatedly been challenged and over half do not meet all of their expectations or are failures.  My experience indicates one of the primary reasons, or The Elephant in Your Project, for these continued poor results is the lack of formal project complexity assessment and aggressive project risk management – the responsibility of the project sponsor and project manager(s).

In Part 2, we expand on a project’s complexity and how it affects the ultimate outcome of your projects.  In review, a project is a process or series of processes.  A process’s complexity – defines, qualitatively and quantitatively, the relative difficulty, time consumption, resource requirements and skill requirements necessary to successfully complete.  The more complex the process or project – the more difficult, time consuming, resources intensive and more experienced skills are required.  Complex projects are rarely successful and many times are failures.  Of course, the lower the complexity, the greater chance a project meets all of its expectations.

Three major components determine a project’s complexity and can be objectively weighted and measured – (1) Operational/Technical complexity; (2) Business complexity; and (3) Organization complexity.  Within these components, complexity is primarily the result of the “4-S’s”: structure, size, scope and skills. Criteria examples include:

  1. Operational/Technical – Technology requirements, technology distribution, operations impacted
  2. Business/Process – Business units impacted, business process maturity, number of people/users impacted
  3. Organization – Project manager’s skills/experience, project duration, project team size/location, project team skills/experience

Project complexity must be assessed up front during overall project planning. Complexity components must be addressed and reduced at that time before being locked in after the project(s) begins.  Some obvious ways to reduce complexity are:

  1. Break project into smaller, more manageable efforts which reduces project team size.
  2. Reduce each project effort scope and duration, and thus people/users impacted.
  3. Staff each project effort with more highly skilled project team members and/or provide training.
  4. Staff project with highly experienced project manager(s) and team leader(s).

Increased project complexity does not create risks, but increases the severity and impacts of each risk on the project efforts.  We will further discuss project risks and risk management in Part 3.