Front-End Planning for Large and Small Infrastructure Projects: Comparison of Project Definition Rating Index Tools

Mohamed Elzomor, Rebekah Burke, Kristen Parrish, Edd Gibson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Despite the need to reform, maintain, and expand U.S. infrastructure, the construction industry often struggles to deliver infrastructure projects that meet their target budget and schedule. One successful tool that assists in planning, assessing risk, and managing such projects is an evidence-based tool, the Project Definition Rating Index (PDRI), which supports the front-end planning (FEP) for projects. PDRI-Infrastructure Projects and PDRI-Small Infrastructure Projects effectively facilitate FEP efforts for large and small infrastructure projects, respectively. This article provides a definition of a small infrastructure project through survey respondents' identification and ranking of 16 characteristics that differentiate both types of infrastructure projects. These resulted in identifying the total installed cost (TIC) to be the main differentiator between small and large infrastructure projects, with small infrastructure projects having a TIC cap of $20 million. Also, the article provides details of qualitative and quantitative similarities and differences between both PDRI tools in support of improved planning efforts for their respective project types. Specifically, the study distinguishes between the two PDRIs in terms of their structure, content and weight of the elements, most critical planning elements, and target score. The goal of the comparison is to help project teams improve project planning and manage project risks by focusing on specific project definitions or identifying elements that may not need to be thoroughly investigated during FEP. The analyses show that small and large infrastructure projects require similar levels of project definition during FEP to support predictable performance outcomes, confirming that the management of such projects requires selecting the appropriate PDRI tool prior to its implementation. This article supports project teams in planning, assessing risks, and managing infrastructure projects by identifying the characteristics of small infrastructure projects and differentiating between the two PDRI tools.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number04018022
JournalJournal of Management in Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Industrial relations
  • Engineering(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research


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