Calculating Your Time Commitment

A Project Sponsor should be a part-time job.  You should keep your time commitment to 20% of your overall working time.  If your normal work time is 40 hours per week than you can commit to 8 hours a week as project sponsor, 60 hours would be 12 hours.  In order to calculate your commitment you need to have a clear understanding of your skills.  The higher the skill level the more you can take on projects. Our Size-Complexity Matrix helps you determine the how many and size of projects you should sponsor.  Projects in the Size-Complexity Matrix run from 100 to 1,000 points.  The table shows that number of points you absorb at any one time by your skill level:

  • Highly Skilled = 1,000 points
  • Skilled = 500 points
  • Moderately skilled 250 points
  • Poorly Skilled 100 points

The two overriding attributes that determine the chances of project success or failure are size and complexity. Size is determined by mostly labor effort. Labor effort is determined by the cost of normalized labor, number of persons, and the overall size of the team. We also consider the number of functions, lines of code, and other factors to build our size number. The number denotes the class size of the project from grand to small. Determining complexity is more complex. We use about 25 project attributes to determine complexity, such as the number of stakeholders, diverse user profiles, and innovation descriptions. Complexity ranges from very complex to very simple. A few years ago we created the Size-Complexity Matrix as a way to determine the estimated likelihood of success based on both a rating system and a color code. This matrix is based on more than 100,000 projects collected over 20 years. Green means the project has a good chance of success, yellow means the project will most likely be challenged, and red means the project has a very good chance of failure.


It is easy to create your own Size-Complexity Matrix estimate using the following tables and guidelines. The size is a selection that has two tables. The top table uses labor cost. Standish uses labor effort as a major ingredient to measure size; therefore, when selecting the project size in the table use normal United States labor rates. The bottom table uses team size. You can take the average of both tables or select the highest or lowest table. Remember these are guidelines, not rules.

The complexity guidelines are more complex. You need to assign points and add up the points based on the attributes of the project per the complexity guideline table. The higher the points the greater the complexity. We use two dimensions to complexity: environment and scope. If none of the attributes apply, then the project is very simple. If you score fewer than 3 points the project is simple. If you score 4 to 7 points the project is average, while at 5 to 9 points the project is complex. If you score above 10 points the project is very complex. There are a couple of ways you should use this matrix. First, determine the project forecast in terms of size and complexity. Then think of it in terms of your project experience as a role model. We had the benefit of 100,000 detailed projects to draw on as our role models.

Using this guideline you can determine how much you can take on as project sponsor.  If you are a highly skilled sponsor you can take 10 small, very simple projects or one grand, very complex project.  You could take on two moderate, average complexity projects.  If skilled you can take on a moderate, average complexity projects or five small, very simple projects.  If moderately skilled you can take on one medium, very simple project.  If you are poorly skilled you need to start with small, very simple projects one at a time until you become more skilled. If you are new to being a project sponsor, you may want to start off with small simple projects as you gain experience.