Project Ubiquity

Project methods have been extended to now solving most business problems, and unfortunately this ubiquity has diluted its impact. 5 min read.

What is a Project?

The word ‘project’ means different things to different people. Consequently, no agreed definition exists that suits every possible situation, however, the ISO 8402 definition is a good starting point,

A project is a unique process, consisting of a set of coordinated and controlled activities with start and finish dates, undertaken to achieve an objective conforming to specific requirements including constraints of cost, time and resources.

What are the Attributes of a Project?

In general, a project has the following attributes,

  • Goal: Realisation of a defined end output or result that is defined in terms of cost, quality, and timing.
  • Lifecycle: A project passes through a lifecycle of different phases to deliver the desired outcome.
  • Temporary: Defined start and finish dates requiring dedicated resources for a period of time.
  • Complexity: Reflects structural, technical, directional and temporal complexity.
  • Uniqueness: Usually, a once-off activity and not a repetitive BAU undertaking.
  • Uncertainty: Project’s are planned before they commence, and inherently involve risk.

Process Classification

Regardless of your organisation’s business, all have one thing in common the transformation of an input into a tangible deliverable that delivers value to a customer. Common process classifications include,


  • Projects: This process generally produces one output.
  • Job Shops: This process produces small batches of many different products.
  • Batch Shops: This process produces periodic batches of the same product.
  • Assembly Lines: This process produces discrete parts flowing at controlled rates for final assembly.
  • Continuous Flow: This process produces items continuously, usually in a highly automated process.


  • Professional Services: This process generally provides bespoke services for one customer.
  • Service Shop: This process provides a range of services for a variety of customers.
  • Mass Service: This process provides a limited range of services for a specific group of customers.

Four V’s Process Overview

Each of these processes is characterised by the following,

  1. Variety: How many different types of products or services are made by the process?
  2. Volume: How many products or services are made by the process?
  3. Variation: How much does the level of demand change over time?
  4. Visibility: How much of the operations internal working is ‘exposed’ to customers?

Consequently, different process have different ‘variety – volume‘ characteristics,

variety vs volume process characteristics.PNG

Four V’s Process Mapping

By mapping individual processes on the following diagram, it is possible to determine how similar or different they are to one another, which allows consideration and determination of an appropriate lifecycle to deliver process outputs in the most economical and timely manner.

Four Vs Process Map.PNG


Mapping process characteristics using the Four V’s  Process Map, it is possible to recognise the inherent differences between the different processes employed in your organisation. Project’s are distinct from other methods, and as such each method should be treated differently and be delivered using it is own lifecycle. Conversely, using projects to solve an ill of business problems means other more appropriate processes are overlooked, which inadvertently tarnishes the reputation of project methods.

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