Measuring Project Complexity and Its Impact

Project status

In progress

Start date: 09/01/12
End date: 06/30/15


Principal investigators:

About the research

The Construction Industry Institute (CII) currently collects information for benchmarking and metrics that recognizes complexity with one question, requesting a project to be ranked on a scale of 1 to 7 with definitions of low, average, and high complexity. While this information is useful, there is promise to develop a new and innovative tool(s) for industry to improve upon the understanding and measurement of complexity.

The purpose of this project is to develop a methodology (including potential tool(s)) to help organizations identify, measure, and respond to project complexity to hasten organizational change in behavior and increase the likelihood and/or predictability of achieving desired outcomes.

The information already collected by CII can act as a springboard to continue to measure complexity and explore the impact of complexity on project decision making. The objectives of this project are as follows:

  • Define complexity and its facets, including how it differs from other factors that drive project performance, such as risk indicators
  • Develop a methodology to identify level of project complexity
  • Develop a complexity measurement approach
  • Assess the relationship between project complexity and project outcomes (cost, schedule, quality, etc.) as well as project practices and decisions (both technical and management)
  • Identify best practices to address complexity

Each objective builds on previous objectives beginning with defining complexity and its facets so a common language and vocabulary regarding complexity is developed. This will enable better communication within and between project teams regarding the details of the project. In addition, by defining complexity, there will be a greater understanding of which complexity facets are driving the project and what these facets entail.

This greater understanding will be enhanced by a methodology for identifying the level of complexity on a project. By having a measurement method, companies will be able to make decisions regarding resources based on complexity in addition to other decision-making tools. Furthering this methodology includes the development of an innovative complexity measurement approach that will enable comparisons between projects, scaling project management practices and processes needed for the project, and again aid in decision making.



  • Construction Industry Institute
  • University of Texas at Austin