The Difference between Different Types of Projects


Robert Youker

(Formerly of the World Bank Institute)  

Maryland, USA


  1. Summary

As the Project Management profession moves into working on many different types of projects we are going to have to move to a new level in the project management body of knowledge and develop extensions that define the differences in requirements and approach for different kinds of projects such as construction, new product development, and information systems. This paper attempts start to define the unique characteristics of different types of projects as well as establish a typology or taxonomy of different kinds of projects. The classification is based on the product or deliverable of a project. A list (Exhibit 1) is developed of characteristics that define the difference between projects such as:

  • Degree of uncertainty and risk (construction vs new product development)
  • Level of sophistication of workers (construction, vs information systems )
  • Level of detail in plans (days or hours for maintenance vs months for research)
  • Degree of new technology involved (research vs administrative projects)
  • Degree of time pressure (maintenance or big event vs construction)

Exhibit 1 – Project Types and Characteristics

The paper then defines the essential characteristics of the basic differences between types of projects and outlines how the project management approach must vary for each different type of project. This will serve as a start toward developing one dimension of the needed extensions for the body of knowledge (BOK). A project management professional must know something about different types of projects and how the project management approach must differ for different types of projects. Filling out this taxonomy must be a high priority for the profession. Hopefully the profession can work together to share knowledge and come up with an agreed typology.


How should we categorize different types of projects? The dictionary defines typology as the study of types as in systematic classification. It defines taxonomy as the science, laws, or principles of classification. It defines classification as the systematic grouping into categories by shared characteristics or traits. The project management profession needs a classification system for different types of projects so that we may communicate effectively across the entire world. There are many different potential purposes for a system of classification. One useful objective for a list of different types of projects is to segment the market for marketing purposes. Another is to define the different management approaches needed for different projects. The system of classification might change based on the purpose. Another purpose would be to select the right project manager based on the requirements of a specific project.


To read entire paper, click here


About the Author

Robert Youker

World Bank (retired)
Maryland, USA


Robert (Bob) Youker
is an independent trainer and consultant in Project Management with more than forty years of experience in the field. He is retired from the World Bank where he developed and presented six week project management training courses for the managers of major projects in many different countries. He served as the technical author for the bank on the Instructors Resource Kit on CD ROM for a five week training course on Managing the Implementation of Development Projects. He has written and presented more than a dozen papers at the Project Management Institute and the International Project Management Association (Europe) conferences many of which have been reprinted in the Project Management Institute publications and the International Journal of Project Management (UK).

Mr. Youker is a graduate of Colgate University, the Harvard Business School and studied for a doctorate in behavioral science at George Washington University. His project management experience includes new product development at Xerox Corporation and project management consulting for many companies as President of Planalog Management Systems from 1968 to 1975. He has taught in Project Management Courses for AMA, AMR, AED, ILI, ILO, UCLA, University of Wisconsin, George Washington University, the Asian Development Bank and many other organizations. He developed and presented the first Project Management courses in Pakistan, Turkey, China and Africa for the World Bank.

A few years ago Mr. Youker conducted Project Management training in Amman, Jordan financed by the European Union for 75 high level civil servants from Iraq who implemented the first four World Bank projects in Iraq. He is a former Director of PMI, IPMA and asapm, the USA member organization of IPMA. Most recently he has been consulting for the US Government Millennium Challenge Corporation on project management training in Africa. Bob can be contacted at [email protected]

To see more works by Bob Youker, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/robert-bob-youker/