Managing Virtual Projects Review

Managing Virtual Projects
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Managing Virtual Projects by Marcus Goncalves contains 10 chapters divided into three parts, starting with the business case and conceptual overview of virtual project management, termed `ePM' throughout the book. The second and main part: Project Management Foundation, attempts to detail ePM practices and scenarios with `case studies' added at the end of each chapter. Part three (containing only two chapters) focuses on ePM execution.

There is no doubt that there is a wealth of experience and potentially valuable information in the book - Goncalves is an entrepreneur with 14 years consulting experience including the management of virtual teams. However, there are several major flaws. Much of the content is presented as an overlong dialogue, often distanced from the virtual theme. Lack of clarity is made worse by many poor-quality figures, at least half of which are simply not required (for example the boxed content of figure 3.7 (p95) is prefaced by almost the exact same information in bullet points). Frequent references to personal experiences, a positive concept in itself, often leaves the reader with an an overriding feeling of self-promotion (of the authors consultancy practice and previous book) without sufficient justification. Most of the case studies are not what many people would consider case studies - merely discussions within a general area or short industrial stories. They add very little to the development of the book and are certainly not "insightful" as described in the preface.

The principal problem with the book, however, is its unsuitability for the intended audience. Goncalves states that the book "is geared toward project managers, project leaders, and project workers involved with virtual execution of their projects" (pxx) stating also that the book assumes familiarity with traditional project management (PM), only discussing such concepts "at a distance". However, the text frequently goes into PM territory for several pages with no reference to virtual team issues (for example chapters 6 and 7 are almost exclusively dedicated to basic PM principles). Many `workers', never mind `leaders' and `managers' will find large parts of the text superfluous and distant from virtual team issues. Also, if familiarity is assumed why is there a 36 page glossary section on project management, defining terms such as 'project', 'program', 'cost' and 'Gantt chart'? There are over 500 terms defined and not one exclusively related to virtual work.

There is some good points in the book but other than a micro-level communication on electronic tools functionality (which one may garner from the Help function of a software package) all value lies in the domain of basic project management - good overviews of the PM triple constraint (time, cost and quality) within real projects and scheduling tools (Chapter 6) may be useful for the PM student or inexperienced practioner - but emphasise again the unsuitability of the book for the intended audience. Basic virtual theory - including types of virtual teams, is not covered until p297, and represents standard content which can be found in texts dating back several years. Attention to virtual tools is little better. If you already have MS Project, read the help file - yet there are severe limitations to the few tools that Goncalves focusses on.

In summary, Managing Virtual Projects is a missed opportunity and adds nothing to the state of the art in virtual teams. The book purports to be a treatise on virtual work and how that changes PM. In reality it is a competent text on the basics of PM with only a very cursory overview of virtual work. It could prove as a starting point for project managers with little or no experience in both project management and virtual teams, but then again such a reader would be best looking for a more concise, `higher value for page' text such as Working Virtually by Jones, Oyung & Pace or Achieving Project Management Success Using Virtual Teams by Rad & Levin. Managing Virtual Projects by Goncalves could probably half in length and provide better value - especially when you consider the intended audience who are often pressed for time. Less would have been much more.

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Product Description:
Managing a project can be stressful enough without the added difficulty of coordinating project members working from different sites or even continents!
Managing Virtual Projects outlines techniques, practices, and products that are being effectively used by virtual project managers around the globe.
With more projects being outsourced every day, managers will turn here to get the knowledge they need on maintaining quality and budget controls, developing documentation standards, implementing essential technologies such as Microsoft's EPM or Primavera, and more.

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