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Virtual project management

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Section 1: Literature Survey

Introduction: The virtual project management concept is gaining its importance due to globalization of industries. The report mainly focuses on the evolution of project management and changes in approach of project management methodologies. It also highlights the aspects of traditional project management and modern project management. The difference between classical project management approach, contemporary project management approach and virtual project management approach is also discussed with their advantages and disadvantages in this report. The drawbacks of virtual project management are discussed and their existing solutions are also highlighted along with the features of virtual teams.

Project Management Institute has defined Project Management is application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques applied to project activities in order to achieve the goal.(PMI,2004)

Evolution of Project Management: Project Management has been practiced for hundreds of years dating back to the Egyptian epoch. However in the min 1950's many organizations has started applying formal project management tools and techniques to various projects. Author Azzopadri has divided development of project management in four periods.

[1] Prior to 1958: this period is known as ‘craft system to human relation' due to evolution of technologies. During this time evolution of technologies such as automobile and telecommunication helped for minimizing project timings, because automobile contributed in resources allocation and mobility. Telecommunication system increased speed of communication. In addition to this Henry Gantt invented Gantt chart which helped for effective planning of project.

[2]1959 to 1979: this period is known as ‘Application of Management Services' because of significant development of technologies. The core project management tools like Critical Path Method (CPM) and Program Evaluation Review Technique (PERT) were introduced. However this period was characterized by rapid development of computer technology. In 1970 effective project management tool Material Requirement Planning (MRP) was introduced.  

[3]1980 to 1994 :this period is characterized by revolutionary development in the information management sector with introduction of Personal Computer (PC) and associated computer communication network facilities. This development resulted in managing and controlling complex project schedules. Furthermore project management techniques were more accessible due to low cost project management software for PC.

[4]1995 to present: this period is dominated by development related to internet, which changed business processes dramatically in mid-1990. The internet has provided fast interactive and customized new medium that resulted in making firms more productive, more efficient and more client oriented. Furthermore the development in softwares and internet facilities lead to various approaches of project management. (Azzopadri, 2006)

Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) defines the traditional project management as set of tools and techniques that can be used together to an activity that seeks an end product, outcome, or a service. (PMBOK, 2004). As per Frame (2002) the reasons for the fall of traditional Project Management are success and failure is assessed against achieving scheduled, specifications and budget but not assessed against customer satisfaction. Another problem in traditional Project Management is it single minded approach for tools like scheduling, costing and resource allocation. This is fixed set of tools which involves CPM (Critical Path Method), PERT (Program Evaluation Review Technique), Gantt charts, S-shape budget curves. (Frame, 2002)

Modern Project management: Modern project management is well understood discipline that can give predictable and repeatable results. The methods used in modern project management are highly analytical, automated tools and developed project management softwares to support large projects.(Howes, 2001). In traditional project management, planning and control methods are very specific and controlled, once a phase is over the next stage will start and it will continue in decided sequence. However it is difficult to carry out perfect sequence in perfect time because of some factors as the world is not perfect. However in modern project management much more flexibility is built in system. It focuses on features of the project instead of focusing on every specific task. The sequence of the project can be adjusted to meet with environmental, business, material and other changes. This results in beneficial project management.(Rose, 2011)

The rise of internet and development of collaborating softwares have introduced new aspect to Project Management. The success of project is recognised on the profit-loss status. Therefore, there is heightened pressure to assure that projects are successful in terms of deliverable results, cost, and delivery date. Global projects with virtual teams have developed a way by which the cost and duration of projects can be cut down while maintaining a sound control on quality and scope of projects. (Rad et al, 2003). The globalization of business has resulted in greater interest in more comprehensive suit of the best practices of project management.

Virtual Project Management: Virtual Project Management is the system by which virtual teams work together for determinate period of time for specific goal.(Rolfs, 2006). Virtual teams are the merger of the Information Technology (IT) and organisational behaviour domains (Bissoonauth, 2002) and it is defined by Gignag (2005) as “a group of workers who are geographically dispersed but not distributed across expansive geographic locations. They are working together towards a common goal and using electronic communication as their primary medium”. The main difference of virtual teams from traditional teams is “separation by time and distance” (Cascio et al, 2003)

Table 1 summarises huge changes in the area of project management. Actually it focuses on two particular periods classical and contemporary, considering that these boundaries differ from industry to industry.

Classical Project Management

Contemporary Project Management

Virtual Project Management

Aim/ Focus

To Completing project on time in given budget

To deliver good quality under budget and in time

To achieve the best quality in least possible time and cost

How to Manage

Managing by walking

Managing by tele-communication

Managing by clarity of communication. Understanding on methodologies, goals and processes.

Practice

What was the last best in our company

What is currently best in the world

Best in the world but improvised to suit local environment.

Standards

Local

National

Global standards

IS for supporting PM

Outsourced

Integrated in companies Information System /Information Technology (IS/IT)

Part of company's Information System /Information Technology with dependency on outsourcing service providers

Project Managers

Selected ad-hoc from senior managers who are experienced in that area.

Project Management professional requirements with special training

Certified Project Management professional managers and multicultural exposure

Manager

Manages single Project

Manages multiple projects with IS/IT support

Manages multiple, multi-vendor, cross pole projects affecting multiple cultures

Team Member

Assigned to one project only

Assigned to more than one project with support of IS/IT

Afford to utilize specialized skill set available at any corner of the world with lowest cost possible

Critical Resources

Money, time, people

Money, time, people, knowledge, IT support

Money, time, people, knowledge, IT support and Global Outsource service providers

Who is applying PM

all sort of endeavours with engineering background

In all business organizations and by individual entrepreneurs 

Spreading in organizations and individuals encompassing areas that were unheard before like teaching, vendor negotiation, media, healthcare, office secretarial work.

(Desai et al, 2006)

The rise of Virtual project management: Due to changes and fluctuations of current global economy the pressure on enterprises has been increased. The management and organizations of various design, construction, production services and other projects has become more decentralized due to development of information technology, e-commerce and globalization. A virtual team involves project manager and certain virtual teams depending on company. In recent years virtual project teams has become first choice to many enterprises because it helps in reducing time and cost, sharing knowledge, making full use of capabilities of the staff, improving working environment, increasing the enthusiasm of the staff, carrying out cross cultural activities and enhancing the quality of product.

The given figure shows major attributes of virtual project management. Virtual project management mainly involves controlling and leading of virtual teams.

Virtual Teams are defined here as group of workers of geographically and organizationally dispersed knowledge works brought together across time and space through information and communication technologies in order to specific customer needs or to complete unique projects.(Krill et al, 1997). However, Peterson and Storh has defines virtual teams as a “group of individuals who work across time space and organizational boundaries with links strengthened by webs of communication technology. They have complementary skills and are committed to a common purpose, have independent performance goals, and share an approach to work for which they hold themselves mutually accountable”. Along with definition Peterson and Storh has introduced seven types of different virtual teams. The basic types of virtual teams are as follows

  • Networked teams: group of individuals who act as a team to achieve common goal, membership is fluid and diffuse.
  • Parallel teams: work in short term to develop solutions for improvement in process; membership is distinct
  • Project teams: conduct projects for clients for a specific period of time, team has decision taking authority
  • Production teams: perform regular work, clearly defined membership
  • Service teams: support consumers in typical service role around the clock
  • Management teams: work collaboratively on a daily basis within functional division
  • Action teams: gives quick response and activated in emergency

The significant advantage of virtual team is that the resources of virtual project organization can be arrange quickly and cost effectively (Rad et al, 2002). In addition to this Rad has stated that virtual projects allow organization to form joint ventures for short and specific time of period for significant purpose. Juhre (2001) notes, at a time skilled technical resources are required then virtual project becomes a success factor organization.

Comparison of Virtual teams and traditional teams: The major difference in virtual teams and traditional teams is the diversity and different locations of team members as well as organizations.

Features of virtual teams:

Many sectors like construction industries, engineering (manufacturing, chemical and production), software development industries, customer services and call centre industries are using virtual project management for efficient outcome. The International Technology Association (2004) defines engineering as involving “the knowledge of the mathematical and natural sciences gained by study, experience, and practices that are applied with judgement and creativity to develop ways to utilize the materials and forces of nature for the befit of human being”.(Joseph, 2005)

Each step requires the skills and expertise of an engineer in different ways such to operate, teach the operation, or to sell the product.(Simpson, 2004)

Offshore outsourcing is the generic term when companies are using virtual teams for the completion of project.(Lieberman, 2004)

In software development industry virtual project management is widely used. Requirements of clients in software development industry changes time to time. And to find appropriate talent to give satisfied service to customer virtual project management is very essential in software development industry. Now a days many firms and companies are using Virtual project management for better performance.

With the advent of latest internet technologies all the communication between the client, project manager and virtual teams is carried out through VOIP, email, Instant messages, online screen sharing etc. this enables the client to access the data regardless of the position of the virtual teams. The required data/source code is stored in repositories which are managed by the project manager. Hence project manager acts as an interface between the virtual teams and the client.

Issues in Virtual Project management:

The issues in Virtual project management are depending on areas of virtual world and factors which can impact on project management. The main areas of virtual world are

  • Physical variable
  • Culture
  • Organization

Depending on these three areas Virtual project management model (VPModel) has been developed.

1. Physical variables: This is the area of space and time. The issues raised in this area because of distance between project members.

Geographical distance:

By using software tools for (EPM) project team member communicate with project manager. But EMP decreases performance in poorly skilled teams which is expensive (Kanawattanachai et al, 2002). And creates stress rises ethical questions (Keyzermann, 2003)

Different Time zones:

Due to different time zones work can be done on continuous basis (Lau, 2004). In case where real meeting are essential, time and cost for travelling are expensive and due to jet lag efficiency of work can be reduced (Kayworth et al, 2002) and such disadvantages can decrease commitment towards project (Godar et al, 2004)

  • Conflicts:Conflicts cab be raised by cultural difference, diversity and misunderstanding.
  • Cooperation: It includes every issue that allows people to work together (Rehinhard et al, 1994) Cooperation includes virtual meetings, sharing of information etc. however cooperation is depend on communication style.

2. Culture:

In the virtual project management all project members used to have different background culture and these people brought together to achieve common goal, so many fundamental issues arises in project management. Due to different culture virtual team differs in language, working methodology, which leads to lack of trust and misunderstanding between project members.(Kyzerman, 2003)

One more disadvantage in working cross culture is use of technology. When modular and simple technology is used for minimizing the gap, then the possibility of error in executing project increases. (Dafermos, 2001)

3. Organization

Organisational scattering refers to “the degree to which a virtual team consists of individual who work across organizational boundaries”(Shin, 2005). In organizational area the main issues are Electronic security, hackers are valid threat for virtual projects. And other major issue in this area is sharing of information in various organizations which are working on same project.

4. Other than above mentioned issues other issues are leadership quality and effective communication. This issue can be resolved by using multicultural exposed personnel as project manager who has optimum qualification.

Summary:


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