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Creating Project Classifications: Why do it?

Created on 11 August 2008 Written by Dennis Bolles
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A project management methodology should add value to the process of managing projects rather than only providing administrative functions. It isn’t practical or necessary to require all projects, regardless of size, complexity, duration, etc. to the use all 39 core and facilitating processes identified in the PMBOK® Guide, a publication of the Project Management Institute. Use of project management processes should be “scaled” to fit the need for ensuring adequate controls are in place.

In some cases, it may make sense to modify certain process requirements and / or tools. For example, the scope statement or capital authorization request (CAR) may be adjusted for specific projects to ensure that requirements are scaled to add value and not unnecessary paperwork. These decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis. A classification system should establish guidelines to help define the minimum requirements for projects that meet different criteria and to ensure that the scaling of requirements is done on a consistent basis.



Project Classification Factors

Budget Amount

Duration (Months)







< $20,000




$20 - $100,000


IT cross-functional


$100,000 - $250,000




> $250,000



The table above shows a system created for an information technology center of excellence that classifies all projects into one of five levels based on three primary factors: project budget, project duration, and project boundaries. The first and third factors have more weight in determining classification than the project duration. These factors will be used as general classification guidelines; however, other factors like the project’s importance (strategic status) to the organization may influence a project’s assignment to a higher classification level.

The Project Classification Matrix table (above) illustrates how some simple factors that can be used to determine the minimum requirements for projects in the five classifications.

Take small steps at the beginning and don’t expect everyone to understand or appreciate the value of this new approach to managing projects. This is especially true if a formalized approach to managing projects is nonexistent. In this case, it is very important to focus on introducing minimum requirements at the start; otherwise efforts to get people to embrace the methodology will be viewed as unnecessary administrative tasks adding more management controls that increase an already overwhelming workload. I do not suggest that the methodology contents be reduced, but rather initial requirements be limited until it is determined that the organization is ready to begin using more of the processes.

About the author:

Dennis Bolles has more than 30 years experience with business and project management in multiple industries. His primary focus over the past 15 years has been advising organizations on methodology development, governance and corporate strategy. He led a virtual project team of 300 volunteers world-wide to a successful completion and on-time delivery of the PMI ANSI Standard PMBOK® Guide Third Edition in 2004. He is a published author of many project management articles, seminars, and two books entitled "Building Project Management Centers of Excellence" and "The Power of Enterprise-Wide Project Management". See his full profile on LinkedIn and invite him to join your network. 
Last Updated on Tuesday, 31 July 2012 23:20
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