Towards Project Complexity Evaluation: A Structural Perspective

Christos Ellinas, Neil D Allan, Anders F Johansson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
334 Downloads (Pure)


Complexity is often quoted as an independent variable that challenges the utility of traditional project management tools and techniques. A large body of work has been devoted in exposing its numerous aspects, yet means for quantitatively assessing it have been scarce. Part of the challenge lies in the absence of hard evidence supporting the hypothesis that projects can be considered as complex systems, where techniques for measuring such complexity are better established. In response, this study uses empirical activity networks to account for the technological aspect of five projects. By doing so, the contribution of this study is twofold. First, a procedure for the quantitative assessment of an aspect of project complexity is presented; namely, structural complexity. Second, results of the analysis are used to highlight qualitatively similar behavior with a well-known complex system, the Internet. As such, it suggests a transition from the current, metaphorical view of projects being complex systems to a literal one.From a practical point of view, this study uses readily captured and widely used data, enabling practitioners to evaluate the structural complexity of their projects to explore system pathologies and, hence, improve the decision-making process around project bidding, resource allocation, and risk management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-239
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Systems Journal
Issue number1
Early online date1 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


  • Complex networks
  • complex systems engineering
  • project engineering
  • project management
  • risk analysis


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