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Volume 6 | Issue 5 | May 2012

Daniel Vitek, MBA, PMP

Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements. This is accomplished by using tools, & techniques, such as project planning, risk and issue management, communication, etc. These can all be applied with varying degrees of rigor depending on project demands.

In order for projects to be successful, it is important for the team to follow best practice management processes and complete associated documentation with the degree of rigor that best promotes successful achievement of objectives. Classifying work efforts assists in determining an appropriate level of documentation and management rigor to apply to such efforts.

As an example, the diagram above uses risk and complexity or dollars as determinants of rigor. The diagram illustrates that the greater the risk, complexity, or dollar/budget value, the greater degree of management and documentation rigor should be applied. Note that such classifications should only be treated as guidelines. Managers, in collaboration with project teams and within policy requirements, are responsible for determining the most appropriate levels of management and documentation rigor to best promote success.

Follow the steps below to classify your work according to the diagram. This classification process is iterative and may change throughout the effort’s lifecycle.

  1. Identify risk levels
  2. Identify complexity levels OR dollar/budget size
  3. Using data identified above, estimate where on the Classification Diagram the effort falls
  4. Based on where the effort falls on the diagram, complete the appropriate documentation and apply the appropriate level of management rigor


  • Legal Risk
  • Budget Risk
  • Scope Risk
  • Resource Risk

Characteristics of High Risk Efforts:

  • A similar effort has not yet been completed successfully
  • The effort has strict time or budget constraints
  • The effort is utilizing/implementing new technology

Characteristics of Low Risk Efforts:

  • A similar effort has been completed successfully within the last year
  • The effort has sufficient time and budget to complete the required work
  • The team is knowledgeable in the areas needed to successfully complete the work
  • Number of partners
  • Number of resources
  • Number of implementation sites
  • Effort Scope
Characteristics of High Complexity Efforts:
  • The effort is large in scope, size, or timeframe
  • The effort encompasses and/or crosses multiple CDC areas or is external to the CDC
  • The effort has a large number of stakeholders

Characteristics of Low Complexity Efforts:

  • The effort is small in scope, size, or timeframe
  • The effort has sufficient time and budget to complete the required work
  • The effort has a limited number of stakeholders


The more risky, complex, or expensive an effort is the more documentation and management rigor may be required. To what level rigor is applied should be at the discretion of the manager. However, when in doubt as to what level of rigor is appropriate, in most cases, more is always better.

What about Fast Track Projects? A fast track project is one that is initiated outside normal agency processes to meet a critical agency need in a very compressed timeframe, as approved by senior leadership. An example of such a project would be an emergency outbreak response.

Fast track projects often begin with little time to apply best practice approaches. As a result, management rigor becomes exponentially more important as under such extreme circumstances it is often acceptable to sacrifice documentation rigor in lieu of quicker deliveries. By default, doing so also increases risk.

The degree of documentation rigor applied may be less or more than recommended levels and should be applied as needed, at the discretion of the project manager. Fast track projects may start with less documentation or Lite templates and then eventually move to full templates with more detail documented and management rigor applied, as needed.

Upon project completion, best practice close-out activities should include finalizing documentation that there wasn’t time to complete during the fast track effort. This additional information would then be included in the scope of topics examined during lessons learned analysis and knowledge gained applied to further the success of future efforts.

For more information and tools related to the topic(s) covered in this newsletter, the CDC Unified Process, or the Project Management Community of Practice please visit the CDC Unified Process website at

Please also visit the CDC Unified Process Newsletter Archive located at for access to many additional newsletters, articles, and management related topics and information.


The CDC UP offers a short overview presentation to any CDC FTE or Non-FTE group. Presentations are often performed at your location, on a day of the week convenient for your group, and typically take place over lunch structured as one hour lunch-and-learn style meeting.

Contact the CDC Unified Process at or visit to arrange a short overview presentation for your group.


The CDC Unified Process Project Management Newsletter is authored by Daniel Vitek, MBA, PMP and published by the Office of Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services.

For questions about the CDC Unified Process, comments regarding this newsletter, suggestions for future newsletter topics, or to subscribe to the CDC Unified Process Project Management Newsletter please contact the CDC Unified Process or visit



  • January 27, 2012
    Topic: Leadership
  • March 01, 2012
    Topic: 2012 Project Management Summit
  • March 23, 2012
    Topic: Understanding Records Management
  • April 27, 2012
    Topic: Contracting
  • May 18, 2012
    Topic: Cloud Computing at CDC
  • June 22, 2012
    Topic: Project Change Management
  • July 27, 2012
    Topic: PM Best Practices - A Panel Discussion
  • August 24, 2012
    Topic: Enterprise Performance Life Cycle
  • September 28, 2012
    Topic: A conversation with CDC Policy Leadership
  • October 26, 2012
    Topic: The Value of Alternative Analysis
  • December 07, 2012
    Topic: Managing Risk


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