Characterization of complexity in engineering projects

Abstract The complexity of the projects has increased, boosting the demand in modern project management for new knowledge, tools, techniques and work models. However, the scientific community still seeks a definition for the complex project construct and the factors that characterize it. Therefore, the objective of this qualitative and descriptive study was to identify the factors that characterize the complexity in the vision of engineering project management professionals and from that, to propose a definition for a complex project. This characterization was based on the perception of 132 respondents, captured through the word evocation technique; treated and analyzed by the Vèrges technique with the support of Social Representation Theory and Complexity Theory. As a result, the central nucleus of the social representation that characterizes a complex project in the view of the professionals of the engineering area was constituted in descending order by: stakeholders, difficulty, risks, technology, large, scope, multidisciplinary and long. It is observed that complex projects are seen as a superlative system, in terms of quantity and quality of constituents, and stakeholders management gains protagonism.