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Themes and theories for working in virtual project teams
Themes and theories for working in virtual project teams

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3 Projects

The literature for practitioners and those studying project management defines projects in a variety of ways. The Association of Project Managers in the UK defines a project as:

a unique transient endeavour undertaken to achieve a desired outcome.

(APM, 2006, p. 150)

There is a British Standard for project management, BS6079, prepared by representatives from a cross section of industrial bodies, which defines a project in more detail as:

a unique process, consisting of a set of co-ordinated and controlled activities with start and finish dates, undertaken to achieve an objective conforming to specific requirements, including constraints of time, cost and resources.

(British Standards Institution, 2000, p. 10)

While at first sight these, and other, definitions in the literature may look quite different, the common features of a project are:

  • it has a start and an end
  • it has a unique purpose, sometimes explained as ‘to bring about beneficial change’
  • it has resources, budgets and schedules
  • people work on the project tasks
  • there is some measure of the quality or effectiveness in achieving the goal.

For some industries or sectors, working on projects is their normal way of working. For example, in the construction industry most activity occurs as part of a project. Other industries work on activities that are ongoing, although they may vary over time, which are known as operational activities. The actions carried out by a bank cashier are an example of an operational activity – the activity never ends, but may change over time. A team undertaking an operational activity is known as an operational team. Typically roles within an operational team are well defined but also evolve over time. Membership of an operational team is likely to vary over time; as such, a team is likely to exist for a long period of time.

The people who are brought together to work on a project are known as a project team. Membership of the project team may vary over the project life cycle but the membership will be known and the roles and responsibilities of the team members will be defined.