Application of Systems Lifecycle Processes

to Large, Complex Engineering and Construction Programs



By Bob Prieto

Jupiter, Florida, USA



The complexity of megaprojects and programs continues to grow and with it the challenges of delivering ever larger and more complex programs. These large complex programs open the door to many new opportunities but also to increased challenges in delivery and sustainment throughout their lifecycle. Prior articles have described the open nature of this large complex program system[1] and compared its attributes to many we find in the world of relativistic physics[2]. These challenges must be addressed recognizing that they arise from a combination of physical, fiscal and human attributes in a realm of complexity which challenges the very foundations of project management theory.

This paper looks at hard systems aspects as contrasted with the soft system aspects more characteristic of an open system. Its purpose is to adapt a systems engineering framework associated with the hard closed elements of these large complex project systems without losing site of the overall open systems nature of large complex programs.

The systems life cycle process codified in ISO 15288 lends itself to application in large complex engineering and construction programs. It provides a framework to aid in the integration of physical, fiscal and human factors from a lifecycle perspective. This life cycle spans the assets initial conception through ultimate disposal of the consumed asset.

The table that follows identifies where specific outcomes and the associated activities to accomplish them may reside. These have been defined as at a program level (PMC, Program Management Consultant), project level (PM, Project Manager) or at a lower project execution level (PExec). Several limitations should be noted. First, the standard itself and the application as presented in this table do not do sufficient justice to the social and environmental aspects of a triple bottom line perspective. Here the reader would benefit from a closer view as can be seen in Prieto 2012[3]. Second, the open systems aspects of large complex programs are not truly covered and as such this may best be regarded as a subset of a larger open system perspective related to large complex programs.

The table follows the general format of ISO 15288, grouping system processes into four groups:

  • Agreement processes
  • Enterprise processes
  • Project processes
  • Technical processes

The table is intended to provide a framework where each activity can be further broken down into a series of tasks. In an earlier use IP under development related to the management of large complex projects was mapped to this system life cycle process.


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How to cite this paper: Prieto, R. (2020). Application of Systems Lifecycle Processes to Large, Complex Engineering and Construction Programs; PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue X, October.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/pmwj98-Oct2020-Prieto-Application-of-Systems-Lifecycle-Processes-to-Large-complex-programs.pdf



About the Author

Bob Prieto

Chairman & CEO
Strategic Program Management LLC
Jupiter, Florida, USA


 Bob Prieto is a senior executive effective in shaping and executing business strategy and a recognized leader within the infrastructure, engineering and construction industries. Currently Bob heads his own management consulting practice, Strategic Program Management LLC. He previously served as a senior vice president of Fluor, one of the largest engineering and construction companies in the world. He focuses on the development and delivery of large, complex projects worldwide and consults with owners across all market sectors in the development of programmatic delivery strategies. He is author of nine books including “Strategic Program Management”, “The Giga Factor: Program Management in the Engineering and Construction Industry”, “Application of Life Cycle Analysis in the Capital Assets Industry”, “Capital Efficiency: Pull All the Levers” and, most recently, “Theory of Management of Large Complex Projects” published by the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) as well as over 700 other papers and presentations.

Bob is an Independent Member of the Shareholder Committee of Mott MacDonald. He is a member of the ASCE Industry Leaders Council, National Academy of Construction, a Fellow of the Construction Management Association of America and member of several university departmental and campus advisory boards. Bob served until 2006 as a U.S. presidential appointee to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Advisory Council (ABAC), working with U.S. and Asia-Pacific business leaders to shape the framework for trade and economic growth. He had previously served as both as Chairman of the Engineering and Construction Governors of the World Economic Forum and co-chair of the infrastructure task force formed after September 11th by the New York City Chamber of Commerce. Previously, he served as Chairman at Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) and a non-executive director of Cardno (ASX)

Bob can be contacted at rpstrategic@comcast.net.

To view other works by Bob Prieto, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/bob-prieto/


[1] Prieto, R. (2020) Systems Nature of Large Complex Programs; PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue VIII, August

[2] Prieto, R. (2020). A Deeper Look at the Physics of Large Complex Projects; A Neo-classical Project Management Theory is Required; PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue VIII, August

[3] Application of Life Cycle Analysis in the Capital Assets Industry; PM World Today; March 2012; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/272504721_Application_of_Life_Cycle_Analysis_in_the_Capital_Assets_Industry