When is a project not a project?

Not a project

One of the questions that we’re often asked here in Project Services is “when is a project not a project?” or to be more specific “when is it worth treating a piece of work as a project & when isn’t it?”.

Sometimes the answer is fairly obvious – if it’s a small and simple piece of work, taking just a few days, and involving just one or two people, then it probably makes sense to just treat this as a routine task.

But not all answers are as clear as that: –

  • What if it’s a bigger piece of work?  At what size should it become a Project? 10 days? 25 days? 100 days?
  • What if it’s a small project but is more complex and affects multiple areas of the University?  Or has inter-dependencies with other work?
  • What if it has financial or timeline implications that need to be managed?

Any of these factors could potentially mean that it would benefit from having the control and rigour that project management processes bring.

So in reality there’s no one single measure that clearly differentiates between what could be simply treated as a routine task and what is worth treating as a project.  The simple answer is “it depends”.

So how can you decide?  We recently undertook an exercise with colleagues from MVM to help them answer this question.  Together we created a decision tree (shown below) that helps them to quickly and easily evaluate each new piece of work and to determine whether to treat is at a project or not.

What do you think would be the key factors for a decision tree in your area?

CMVM project decision tree - image


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