A Commentary on Project Classifications


By Alan Stretton

Sydney, Australia



This commentary updates an earlier program/project classification model by the author, and discusses a recent project typology by Lehmann, and how it relates to that model.


A while ago I published a series of four articles in this journal on categorising projects and programs (Stretton 2014f,g,h,i). In particular, I distinguished between types of projects on the one hand (e.g. R&D, IT), and application sectors for projects on the other (e.g. infrastructure, education), and developed a matrix showing representative examples of each, to illustrate how various project types intersected with the many possible application areas, as follows.

The main reason for developing this matrix was that most listings of project types at the time were a mixture of project types and application sectors. However, the real world situation is that most project types are undertaken in most application areas. So, one way of describing a project is to nominate both its type, and the application sector it is being applied in – e.g. an ICT project in the Production Facilities sector.


In Stretton 2014i I added a third dimension to Figure 1, which was intended to cover categorisations based in degree of complexity and/or uncertainty relating to each program/project.

I first incorporated the four dimensions of the NTCP model of Shenhar & Dvir 2007, namely:

  • project Novelty (e.g. market uncertainty),
  • Technological uncertainty,
  • project scope Complexity, and
  • project Pace.

I then added further complexity/uncertainty dimensions to this model, which I labelled:

  • Geographic complexity,
  • Risk-related complexity,
  • Organization complexity,
  • Resources complexity, and
  • Other

The latter were relatively superficial “catch-all” dimensions, as I had not at that stage looked into the nature of project complexity in any depth.

Subsequently, I have looked at sources of project complexity in more detail, as discussed in Stretton 2017b in this journal. Contributions from eight sources were discussed, and broadly aligned against each other, including the contribution from Prieto 2015, who nominated some 66 sources of complexity on giga-programs. I then proposed the following broad groupings to cover all these contributions.


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Editor’s note: Alan Stretton, PhD (Hon), Life Fellow of AIPM (Australia), is a pioneer in the field of professional project management and one of the most widely recognized voices in the practice of program and project management.   Long retired, Alan is still tackling some of the most challenging research and writing assignments; he is a frequent contributor to the PM World Journal. See his author profile below.

About the Author

Alan Stretton, PhD

Faculty Corps, University of Management
and Technology, Arlington, VA (USA)
Life Fellow, AIPM (Australia)



Alan Stretton is one of the pioneers of modern project management. He is currently a member of the Faculty Corps for the University of Management & Technology (UMT), USA. In 2006 he retired from a position as Adjunct Professor of Project Management in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australia, which he joined in 1988 to develop and deliver a Master of Project Management program.   Prior to joining UTS, Mr. Stretton worked in the building and construction industries in Australia, New Zealand and the USA for some 38 years, which included the project management of construction, R&D, introduction of information and control systems, internal management education programs and organizational change projects. He has degrees in Civil Engineering (BE, Tasmania) and Mathematics (MA, Oxford), and an honorary PhD in strategy, programme and project management (ESC, Lille, France). Alan was Chairman of the Standards (PMBOK) Committee of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) from late 1989 to early 1992. He held a similar position with the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), and was elected a Life Fellow of AIPM in 1996. He was a member of the Core Working Group in the development of the Australian National Competency Standards for Project Management. He has published over 180 professional articles and papers. Alan can be contacted at [email protected].

To see more works by Alan Stretton, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/alan-stretton/.