Early in the project planning
stages, the project leadership team should analyse the factors of complexity in
each of the dimensions. This section discusses the development of 5DPM
complexity maps, which help project teams to understand and define the
dimensions of their project complexity and in resource allocation and tool
selection. The team scores each dimension of complexity on a scale from 0 to
Figure 4.1. Scale for scoring project
complexity by dimension
Note it is much less
important for the team to agree on absolute scores than on relative scores. In
other words, the relative order of the scores (from 0 to 100) should match the
rank order of dimensions from least- to most-constrained. Once this is
achieved, project complexity can be mapped.
The project dimension that
represents the highest combination of complexity and constraint most likely
presents the greatest challenges on the project and therefore requires the most
management attention. In addition, because complexity is created frequently by
the interaction between dimensional factors, creativity and innovation in the
least-complex/least-constrained dimensions can be used to minimize the impact
of the most-constrained and most-complex dimensions. To map project complexity,
create a spreadsheet with two columns as shown in Figure 4.2.
Figure 4.2. Complexity mapping spreadsheet
The first column
in the spreadsheet contains the names of each of the five complexity dimensions
and the second column contains the complexity score for each of the dimensions (0
to 100) for the project. The scores for each dimension are then charted, using
the Radar Chart feature in Excel, for example as shown in Figure 4.3.
Figure 4.3. Example of resulting radar complexity
map for the five dimensions
The resulting pentagon
provides a visual depiction of both the overall complexity of the project and
the specific nature of the complexity. This Guidebook shows how complex
projects need to be managed from concept through execution. The dynamic
interaction of the dimensions, methods, and tools can cause changes in the
complexity map. Managing complexity never stops during the project and requires
continual monitoring and iterations
Iterative Project Mapping
Project complexity is active
rather than static and the relative complexity of each dimension changes as the
project matures. Once a given element of complexity is handled effectively, the
complex project manager needs to shift attention and resources to the next
critical factor of complexity. Therefore, the mapping process needs to be
revisited periodically during the project as a tool for refocusing the project
team toward the factors most in need of resourcing to continue progress toward
achieving project objectives.
The complexity map can be
used as a visual project-control metric. Because of the dynamic nature of
project complexity, the area of the resulting pentagon can be used as a means
to measure current project complexity. In theory, as the project progresses
toward successful completion, complexity eventually shrinks/is reduced.
Fig 4.4 shows how a hypothetical complex
project’s complexity map changes over time. The initial map was created at the
project concept stage and shows that Financing is the most complex dimension
followed by Context and Schedule.
Figure 4.4. Sample project complexity map changes
The 2nd complexity map is
made at project authorization. It shows that, in the intervening period, the
project team had successfully addressed the Financing Dimension, making Context
the most complex dimension.
The 3rd map illustrates the
complexity at the point where design and construction can begin. By this time,
most of the Context factors had been dealt with, leaving Technical and Schedule
as the remaining dimensions that must be resourced to achieve a successful
project. Note that the area of the resultant pentagon was reduced by roughly
half due to the endeavours of the project team to address complexity in the
One final point
deals with the changing composition of the project team. While the project
manager and other key individuals should remain with the project throughout its
lifecycle, the next layer of personnel will probably change as the project
moves from planning to design to construction.
has its own unique view of project complexity that is a function of their
expertise and ability to understand other disciplines’ roles in the project.
Therefore, as the project complexity map is revised over time, it remains
important for project team leaders to consistently score current complexity in
each dimension based on input from the other team members who are engaged
decisively in the current project requirements.
Table 4.1 shows the project team’s complexity
scores at each stage of the project.
Table 4.1. Progressive complexity scores for sample
the mapping of the project as it develops is important. New or different
factors will have more impact as the project develops.
complexity maps can be compared across projects to identify the nature of
complexity and make appropriate resource allocations as discussed in the next
4.3 Allocating Resources to Complex Projects
Project complexity maps are useful (and powerful)
tools for organizational leaders in assigning internal team members, developing
effective procurement plans, advocating for project needs to state legislators
and policy makers, and allocating financial resources in the most effective
manner. Fundamentally, complexity maps elevate the visibility of the most
critical dimensions at the earliest opportunity, so the project manager can
identify and resource possible complexity solutions.
The primary objective is to do as much early
planning as required, rather than waiting for a particular phase of project
development to identify and resolve issues.
Another angle on early resource allocation, based
on complexity mapping, occurs when an agency has more than one complex project
to deliver. By mapping each project’s complexity, the program manager can
directly compare one project to another and develop project teams based on
assigning the most-experienced personnel to a project, where the highest degree
of complexity occurs in a dimension that lines up with their expertise. This report’s
foundational research clearly demonstrates that complex project success is tied
directly to timely allocation of required resources to service the most
critical dimensions of complexity.