Project Management 101 – How to Profile Project Complexity


One of the crucial tasks of a project manager is to handle project complexity. The task of evaluating project complexity should start during the planning stage. The complexity of the project should be re-validated and profiled before commencement of the project.

Early profiling of project complexity helps in efficient allocation of resources. In this project post, you will learn how to effectively profile project complexity and make important project management decisions.

How to Measure Project Complexity for Improved Decision Making?

Project managers need to determine project complexity to ensure efficient decision-making and attaining project goals. The most important factor in measure project complexity is not accuracy, but consistency.

Here are the steps that can help in calculating project complexity.

Step 1: Project Requirements

The fest step in evaluating the complexity of a project is to determine the project requirements. Find out the estimated time and cost to complete the project. The higher the cost and time required to complete a project, the more complex is the project.

Step 2: Categorize Projects

The next step is to categorize projects based on their complexity. You can divide projects into three categories based on the required resources: Simple, Moderately Complex, and Highly Complex.

  • Simple — Projects that are less than three months duration and consists of three to four members.
  • Moderately Complex — Projects that are between three to six months duration and require five to ten team members.
  • Highly Complex — Projects that are more than one-year duration and requires more than 10 team members.

Step 3: Determine the Selection Criterion

Next, you should prioritize projects based on the selection criterion. According to project management experts Remington and Pollack, there are four types of complexity that determine the selection of projects. These include structural, technical, temporal, and directional complexity.

  • Structural Complexity — This type of complexity refers to difficulty in managing interconnected activities. Examples of projects with high structural complexity include engineering, construction, and defense projects.
  • Technical Complexity —  This type of project complexity refers to challenges in project design and technical details. The complexity is associated with new projects about which sufficient technical details are not available.
  • Temporal Complexity — Temporal complexity refers to projects that with an uncertain environment. The uncertain factors include unexpected legislative changes, environmental impacts, and the like.
  • Directional Complexity — This type of complexity refers to challenges in determining project goals and objectives. The goals are generally shared with hidden agendas and vague project requirements.

The above steps can help in effective profiling of complex projects. Project managers should use the right project management tools and work management software that will help in effective management of projects. They also need to avoid falling into the estimation fallacy and make decisions based on a narrative fallacy or personal opinions instead of facts obtained through detailed data analysis.