What is a “Complex Project”


I have just been chatting to a very nice “executive head hunter”. He asked me an interesting question, what is meant by the term “complex project”?

The recruiter appeared very familiar with the concept in terms of size and monetary value. His perspective, the larger the project budget the more complex the project. A common faux pas I explained, theses are only the tip of the proverbial “ice berg”.

Typically projects are defined as being complex according to one or more of the following factors, often these factors interact together to compound the project challenge: 

  • Size
  • Monetary value
  • Undefined or uncertain scope
  • Undefined or uncertain requirements
  • Undefined or uncertain deliverables
  • Complex interactions, especially with multiple stakeholders, third party deliverables and outsourcing
  • Uncertain credentials of resources delivering the project, either direct (own staff) or indirect (third parties, vendors)
  • Uncertain or untried technologies
  • Geographical division, especially across multiple time zones

There are others, but I would deem these as the most common for projects.

Ramp it up a notch if we are addressing a “complex programme”, where multiple projects are being delivered with the above challenges. Frequently the projects within a programme have multiple interdependencies, which, in my experience, compound the challenge numerous times.

I hope this helps the next person who asks.

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