Revisiting classifications of types of projects


and programs and their application sectors



By Alan Stretton, PhD (Hon)

Sydney, Australia


Many of my more recent articles have been concerned with various representations of how project and programs relate to the broader contexts in which they are undertaken. In the course of developing these articles I have revisited some of my earlier articles on classifications of types of projects and programs, and their application areas (Stretton 2014f-I, 2016f, 2017j), and identified an opportunity to expand on, some of these classifications.

This article looks at these classifications in rather more detail than in previous articles, adds some new materials, and presents an overview of its findings in a format which allows interested readers to rapidly back-track to sources, and to re-allocate entities to suit their own situations and/or needs in more specific contexts.

We start with broader classifications of types of projects and/or programs, which I have (rather tentatively) labelled generic, as now discussed.


I have recently coined the descriptor generic for categories of projects/programs that are undertaken in most, or very many, application sectors, but am not particularly happy with this descriptor, and would like to find a better one. In some earlier articles (e.g. Stretton 2016f), I used the descriptor “technological”, following a categorization of major groupings of such projects by Turner 1993:458, who said:

Considering projects by ‘technology’, there are three major groupings of project:

  • organizational change
  • engineering
  • information technology

Maylor et al 2006 added to Turner’s list when they showed the results of a (then)

…..recent cross-sectoral survey of 200 firms from thirty countries which examined how companies were using project in their business ….. These 200 companies were running a total of 10,640 projects a year worth in excess of US$43.5 billion. …..

The PWC study showed the usage [of projects – my bullet points] as

  • to implement IT change initiatives (73%)
  • performance improvement projects (57%)
  • software development (49%)
  • new product development (45%)
  • strategy deployment (43%)
  • construction (31%)
  • research (15%)

I have combined the main elements of these lists into the following listing of generic types of projects (adding provision for other generic types), based on considerations listed there-under.

  • Business/organisational change
  • ICT systems
  • Engineering/construction
  • Product/service development
  • Research and development
  • Other generic project types

The rationale for adopting this particular listing and descriptors is broadly as follows.

  • I have equated the second bullet point from Maylor et al 2006 with Turner’s “organizational change”, which I then generalised slightly to the commonly used descriptor Business/organisational change.
  • I equated the first and third bullet points from Maylor et al 2006 with Turner’s “Information technology”, but have adopted the broader descriptor ICT systems.
  • “Construction” is equated with Turner’s “engineering”, and I amalgamated the two into the commonly used descriptor Engineering/construction.
  • I generalised “new product development” to include service as well as product (and also improvements to both), under the heading Product/service development.
  • I also expanded “research” to the more commonly used descriptor Research & development.
  • “Strategy deployment” is not necessarily a project type per se, as it may be undertaken by operational management. I therefore excluded it from this listing.
  • Finally, as noted above, there is provision for other generic project/program types.

We will now go on to look in more detail at several project/program classifications, in the context of distinguishing between generic project types, and their application sectors.


P2M’s Figure 3-1-1: Types of programs, and Figure 1-6-1: Application areas

I start with the following two tables derived from P2M (PMAJ 2008). These are the most extensive pair of types of programs and applications areas that I know of, and therefore should provide reasonably representative basic heading for each, to which entries from other sources can then (hopefully) be added. I have prefixed the P2M numbering with a “P” for program types, and an “M” for allocation areas, to facilitate later discussions.


To read entire paper, click here

How to cite this paper: Stretton, A. (2021). Revisiting classifications of types of projects and programs and their application sectors, PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue XII, December. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/pmwj112-Dec2021-Stretton-Revisiting-classifications-oF-projects-programs-and-application-sectors.pdf

About the Author

Alan Stretton, PhD

Faculty Corps, University of Management
and Technology, Arlington, VA (USA)
Life Fellow, AIPM (Australia)


Alan Stretton is one of the pioneers of modern project management.  He is currently a member of the Faculty Corps for the University of Management & Technology (UMT), USA.  In 2006 he retired from a position as Adjunct Professor of Project Management in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australia, which he joined in 1988 to develop and deliver a Master of Project Management program.   Prior to joining UTS, Mr. Stretton worked in the building and construction industries in Australia, New Zealand and the USA for some 38 years, which included the project management of construction, R&D, introduction of information and control systems, internal management education programs and organizational change projects.  He has degrees in Civil Engineering (BE, Tasmania) and Mathematics (MA, Oxford), and an honorary PhD in strategy, programme and project management (ESC, Lille, France).  Alan was Chairman of the Standards (PMBOK) Committee of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) from late 1989 to early 1992.  He held a similar position with the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), and was elected a Life Fellow of AIPM in 1996.  He was a member of the Core Working Group in the development of the Australian National Competency Standards for Project Management.  He has published over 230 professional articles and papers.  Alan can be contacted at alanailene@bigpond.com.au

To see more works by Alan Stretton, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/alan-stretton/