This book contains an excellent critique of the current approaches to modelling complex projects. It covers the traditional operations-research techniques (quantifying risk and uncertainty) through to soft-systems techniques, including systems dynamics.
The material is illustrated with useful cases and many insights gained from the author's extensive experience. The reader is left with a picture of significant potential for the further development of the subject, particularly through the integration of hard and soft-systems approaches.
The book is directed at modellers of complex projects, where a contract controls the work carried out. This is unnecessarily restrictive, and the modelling described could be applied with benefit in many projects of even moderate complexity.
Consistent with this audience, the learning objective implicitly is to help modellers understand the possibilities and limitations of the modelling process and their role in this. It is not a how-to book, as the blurb would lead one to believe. It is less prescriptive than that, more academic in tone.
Although the book is classified by the publisher as "professional", it is a perfectly usable text
for postgraduate specialist programmes in operations research or project management. It is certainly not for the beginner, as a grasp of project-modelling basics (CPM/Pert, risk analysis) is required. It would be best read, as a whole, as a critique of the techniques covered in earlier chapters that builds throughout.
In considering the future role of modelling, one concern I have is that having raised the problem of widespread project failure, the author leaves the reader wondering whether further modelling, even integrated modelling, would indeed help prevent such failure.
"New" approaches such as critical-chain project management change the requirement for modelling uncertainty. They are less focused on its quantification than on managing the flexibility necessary to accommodate the effects of that uncertainty. This could have formed part of the discussion and added further value to a good book.
Harvey Maylor is lecturer in operations and project management, University of Bath.
Modelling Complex Projects. First edition
Author - Terry Williams
Publisher - Wiley
Pages - 6
Price - £39.99
ISBN - 0 471 89945 3