When does a task become a project?

Often computing work fails because there is a mis-estimate of the work involved.  While the work should have been planned and implemented as a project, instead it was under-estimated and treated as a task.

A task has limited impact and risks, and often can be completed by an individual.  A project, on the other hand, has wider impact and higher risks, and needs planning for resources and schedule with a team.

Although any one of the factors below may not make a task become a project, if a task involves a few of the factors then it is a good indication it should be treated as a project.  Of the factors listed, 'potential impact' is the most important indicator.

Project work should:


Factors Comment
Potential impact
  • Number of users
  • importance of users/functions
Number of groups to be coordinated  
Potential risks Only low risks may be acceptable for some user groups
New implementation
  • Not done before or not routine
  • Not done before by this person
Complexity of technology, tasks and systems  
Time to recover from failure
  • length of time
  • availability of resources
Length of time involved  


Other useful documents:

'Is Your Project Out of Control?' (Microsoft Solutions Framework)

Organizational Maturity Chart (Microsoft Solutions Framework)

 Desktop-Admin, Nov. 2001
 Updated December 19, 2002