How to get the right sized lifecycle for small capital projects

When it comes to project management, most companies use the equivalent of a steam roller: a 200-page project management manual that implements a staged development process with several ‘capital gates’, ensuring projects are well-defined and structured. Conducting a complex approach to assess realistic costs and consider all risks before funding is approved.

The manual and its associated spreadsheets are excellent for large projects, requiring a steamroller approach to manage their inherent risk and complexity. However, they are wildly over-engineered for the 80-90% of capital projects (by number) that fall into the ‘small’ category.

Small projects require a substantially less intricate development process than large, strategic projects. They don’t need to have a three-phase development lifecycle forced upon them.

Also, most small projects are managed by someone who already has a day job – and who may have little project management experience. These people don’t have time to decipher which bit of the manual logically applies to their conveyor upgrade. But they might aspire to broaden their skillset into project management – if only there were an easy way to do so.

In practice, what happens is that many of those managing small projects often use the project management manual as a doorstop. Instead, they implement a rinse-and-repeat delivery approach based on their last project, resulting in variable outcomes. When they do attempt to use the ‘large project’ lifecycle, it results in widespread inefficiency and confusion.

“Small projects account for around 30% of a capital project portfolio by value, which leaves a significant amount of multi-million dollar investment without effective management.”

Classify projects by complexity and guide your project managers through development.

 Instead of trying to crack a nut with a steam roller, organisations need a consistent framework to classify the type of project involved.

Only then can it be assigned an appropriate lifecycle for its complexity.

CAPEXinsights scores projects based on tailored complexity criteria and then assigns the right type of development lifecycle – complete with workflow actions.

The platform allows organisations to include a range of tailored criteria for measuring project complexity. 


For example, as well as standard HSE questions, project managers may be asked:

• How well-defined is the business objective?

• Is this type of project new to the site?

• Does it involve using technology that is new to the world/business/site?










With the scoring complete, the platform not only instantly assigns the project an appropriate lifecycle, but it guides Project Managers through the process with step-by-step instructions, templates, forms, and checklists that bring existing processes to life. The system offers clear guidelines and a framework rather than requiring initial prescriptive input to classify a project. This common-sense flexibility gives fledgling PMs enough support to meet the project requirements successfully – no matter the scope of their role.

The platform also acts as a learning tool, offering inexperienced Project Managers a wealth of resources, including explanations, links to policies, and connections with Subject Matter Experts they can approach with questions. Over time, this helps organisations expand their project management capability.

PMs are encouraged to attach evidence to show action steps have been completed, making oversight fast and easy. Governance is also supported by connecting project sponsors and project managers - enabling them to share information easily and track progress.

Those favouring the steam roller approach say all projects must be put through the manual. But this is hard to enforce and highly inefficient. We want PMs doing the right amount of work (but no more) to manage small projects efficiently and effectively. And we want to give those will little experience consistent guidelines and best practice support.

For more information on how CAPEXinsights can simplify your business processes and help you achieve your capital project and portfolio potential, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.