My, What Big Projects You Have!

Michael R. Wood is a Business Process Improvement & IT Strategist Independent Consultant. He is creator of the business process-improvement methodology called HELIX and founder of The Natural Intelligence Group, a strategy, process improvement and technology consulting company. He is also a CPA, has served as an Adjunct Professor in Pepperdine's Management MBA program, an Associate Professor at California Lutheran University, and on the boards of numerous professional organizations. Mr. Wood is a sought after presenter of HELIX workshops and seminars in both the U.S. and Europe.

While there is no technical definition of what constitutes a big project, I am pretty sure that for most PMs, big projects are those that require the organization to stretch its capabilities, where failure has enterprise survival implications and/or where logistics, communications and coordination are complex. For me, the biggest project I ever led was related to opening the Sydney Harbor Casino (now the Star). My job was to lead the IT portion of the project, which had over a $6 million dollar budget, was mission critical to the successful opening of the casino and spanned about 18 months in duration. For some, this would be a small project; for others, humongous. So, “big” is somewhat defined in the eyes of the beholder.

Beyond sheer size and mass, what makes big projects so daunting? Certainly as a project grows in size and scope, a number of things increase along with it--each adding complexity and risk to the effort. Obvious ones include:

  • Number of Stakeholders: increasing the need for more communications planning
  • Number of project team members: increasing the need for more oversight, resource planning and supervision
  • Number of tasks: increasing the need for formal tracking tools and project administration
  • Duration: increasing the chances for change in scope, resources, stakeholders, priorities and more

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"If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?"

- Albert Einstein