The best alternative for solving uncertainties

in complex IT project planning, risk management, and change management



By Hao Sun

SKEMA Business School

Paris, France and China




In spite of the continuous growth of investments and investigations for project management, yet there have been none apparent improvements of the total success rate of projects since the 21st  century, which is a paradox in the project management fields.

This article aims to manage complex IT projects by using new theories and methods. One of the essential features of a failure complex IT project is the high degree of uncertainty, which is the subject of this crucial point. Individually, the high uncertainty leads to high risks result that need to be handled by particular methods and processes of risk management.

The purpose of investigating complex IT projects is not only to summarize the best practices/methods of this approach but also to improve management activities and the practice of various projects to address low success rates. Therefore, this paper help to solve some of the problems in the field of IT project management, and finally gives some valuable advice on general IT projects.

Keywords: complex IT projects, Agile, project planning, project risk management, project change management, Line of Balance, Critical Chain, ITIL.


In 2016, Standish Group, tracked the implementation of IT projects in the United States from 2011 to 2015 and published a series of reports entitled Chaos. According to the series of reports, “about 50% of IT projects exceeded the budget between 2011 and 2015, although this figure has improved a lot since 2000, but it is still high”[1]. The main reason for this improvement is the improvement of project management.

Chaos report follows:Figure 1. Chaos Report Data[2]


Project Success (Green): The project is completed on time and on budget.

Project Challenged (Yellow): The project is completed over-time or over-budget.

Project Impaired (Red): The project is canceled at some point during the development cycle.

According to the survey report, it is clear that there are many problems in IT project control. We can understand project control through the guild:

Figure 2. Standards of Practice (SoP) [3]

These problems can be summarized as:

“Business involvement is inconsistent or results in confusion,

Fuzzy business objectives,

Requirements definition processes do not reflect business need,

Lack of complete agreement when projects are done.”[4]But behind these appearances, in my view, the deeper reason is that the complexity of IT projects is increasing, the IT project managers lack the awareness of complexity, and the high uncertainty and high risk of IT projects lead to this chaotic situation.

So, what is complex project management? Recognizing the complexity of the project, first of all, is to recognize the complexity of the project, and then put forward the concept of complex projects, which have complex project management. However, recent results from some project management studies have shown that “project complexity is common to almost all projects, but not all projects can be classified as complex projects. Complex projects have the following characteristics: Uncertainty, ambiguity, dynamic interfaces, and significant political or external influences; Usually run over a period which exceeds the technology cycle time of the technologies involved; Can be defined by effect, but not by a solution.”[5] The original intention of the complex project as a concept is to solve the problem that the compliance rate of the project targets in the global scope is still low after entering the 21st century. For this reason, some experts have proposed to introduce new theories to support project management.

The following table is a standard for project management complexity rating from GAPPS:


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Editor’s note: This paper was prepared for the course “International Contract Management” facilitated by Dr Paul D. Giammalvo of PT Mitratata Citragraha, Jakarta, Indonesia as an Adjunct Professor under contract to SKEMA Business School for the program Master of Science in Project and Programme Management and Business Development.  http://www.skema.edu/programmes/masters-of-science. For more information on this global program (Lille and Paris in France; Belo Horizonte in Brazil), contact Dr Paul Gardiner, Global Programme Director paul.gardiner@skema.edu.

How to cite this paper: Sun, H. (2019). The best alternative for solving uncertainties in complex IT project planning, risk management, and change management, PM World Journal, Vol. VIII, Issue VII, August. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/pmwj84-Aug2019-Sun-solving-uncertainties-in-complex-IT-project-planning.pdf



About the Author

Hao Sun

Anhui, China





Hao Sun is a joint student of the University of Science and Technology of China and the SKEMA Double Master Program. He studied software engineering at the University of Science and Technology of China and project management at SKEMA. He was born in Anhui Province, China, and has a high degree in network engineering from Anhui University and is a certified database engineer in China. At the same time, he passed the certification of AgilePM and Prince2 in December 2018. He completed his final assignment in the first semester of SKEMA and completed his thesis under the guidance of Dr. Paul D. Giammalvo, CDT, CCE, MScPM, MRICS, GPM-m Senior Technical Consultant by studying International Contract. Hao Sun currently lives in Paris, France, and can be reached at hao.sun@skema.edu.


[1] Standish Group (2016) CHAOS Report. Retrieved November 2018, from https://www.standishgroup.com/store/services/10-chaos-report-decision-latency-theory-2018-package.html

[2] Standish Group (2016) CHAOS Report. Retrieved November 2018, from https://www.standishgroup.com/store/services/10-chaos-report-decision-latency-theory-2018-package.html

[3] Definition of SoP by Guild of Project Controls Retrieved November 2018, from http://www.planningplanet.com/guild/gpc

[4] Aleksandar, R. (2017) Why do so many it projects fail? Retrieved November 2018, from https://www.oshyn.com/blogs/2017/january/why-do-so-many-it-projects-fail

[5] Naomi, C. (2016) How to Manage a Complex Project? Retrieved November 2018, from https://www.projectmanager.com/blog/manage-a-complex-project