One of my students emailed me recently, asking about how to assess project complexity. He said, “I think it would be pretty neat and also quite useful if you could define a project as say a .60 Apollos or what have you… I don’t imagine it would be at all easy to come up with the measurement though…”
It would be cool. And, I think complexity is relative to each organization–especially its project culture and the people. Remember the Project Pyramid? The parts that make complexity difficult to assess are in the two areas hardest to measure: People and the abilities, and work environment.
So when I think about project complexity, I think about the complexity in this environment. And I think about what these people can do. Those two risks are impossible to measure, and have a huge impact on perceived project complexity. Add in short schedules, large feature sets, and a low tolerance for defects, and you’ve got an even more “complex” project.
I’ve had good results talking about project risks rather than project complexity. That way I can explain the whole picture, rather than lump everything together as “complex.” And, maybe we can make some tradeoffs :-)