How do I calculate the size of a project?

Before the project starts, my clients want some kind of foresight or approximate forecast of the expected project size. Or the clients underestimate the effort in the first consideration for a new project. In this article, I would like to briefly describe how a project size is determined.


A uniform definition or measure of a project size cannot be found across the board. There are often classifications of small, medium and large depending on budget, duration and resources. The complexity of a project is usually used for size.

Basically, the assessment of whether a project should be classified as small, medium or large is always made from the perspective of the client.

Note: A small project of a large company may be a large project that can no longer be managed from the perspective of an SME.


Various criteria define a size for a project through parameters. The size thus plays a central role in the decision-making process as to whether I should/can carry out the project or not.

Not only the budget plays an important role, but also a number of conditions for measuring the origination (number of projects, sub-projects, project leaders, scope and quality of the use of technology). As the size of the project increases, so does the amount of process work to be done.

Many criteria for a project are interrelated and partly overlap. Therefore, a simple classification into small, medium and large is sometimes too blurred.

The following criteria can be used to distinguish between different project sizes:

  • Kind/type of project
  • Internal or external project
  • Complexity
  • Degree of innovation
  • Project costs
  • Specificity of the project outcome (distinction between project and programme)
  • Project personnel
  • Duration of the project
  • Effort of the project
  • Scope of the project result
  • Opportunities and risks (from a business, company, division perspective)
  • Business criticality
  • Contract design

A prerequisite for decision-making is a clear understanding of the thresholds and limits above which a project will no longer be carried out. The evaluation procedures for the individual criteria will also be unambiguous, documented and comprehensible.


The following rating procedures will be used depending on the type of project:

  • Effort estimation (e.g. analogy method, expert analysis, for SW projects Lines of Code, Function Point, etc.)
  • Resource analysis (personnel requirements, personnel availability and capacity, required skills, availability of material resources, etc.)
  • Complexity analysis – various procedures, sometimes extensive calculations
  • Initial stakeholder analysis – who is directly or indirectly involved/affected by the project nationally/internationally, different cultural groups
  • Risk analysis, qualification, quantification and definition of measures from a business perspective
  • Weighted benefit analysis can be used for different assessments/evaluations
  • First rough work breakdown structure/project structure plan – Clarification of project scope
  • SWOT analysis (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threads) – Strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats potential – Does such a project fit us at all? What happens if we do not carry it out?
  • Contract check by legal (legal department, lawyer) – highly recommended Liability risks!
  • Business case with static or dynamic investment calculation methods – How does the project justify itself from an economic perspective?

However, most projects can be classified relatively pragmatically without much effort on my part. The classification small, medium and high may well fit. The above list of criteria is a checklist. In this case, I define a simple matrix for you when we work together. Suitable for the project and the client’s organisation.

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