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Hyderabad, India
Delivery Excellence - Virtual Project Team Organization
May 26, 2010
   Content Revised in June 2013 (-Som G)
A Project Team includes the project manager, and the group of individuals who act together in performing the work of the project to achieve its objectives...

The structure and characteristics of a project team can vary widely, but one constant is the project manager's role as the leader of the team, regardless of what authority the project manager may have over its members.
- Organizational Influence and Project Lifecycle, PMBOK 5
project is a temporary endeavor. There was a point in time for the organization when the project did not exist. There will again be a time when the project will no longer exist. For the brief time when the project does exist, a group of individuals come together, form a team, execute the project, fulfill the need of the hour and disband. Such is the nature of a project and its team. Once the project is complete, and sooner or later it will be, there is no need for the project team to stay engaged as a team.
As discussed earlier, how long a project team lives depends on how the organization defines the term "project". Regardless of the term definition and longevity of the project or the project team, it is absolute certainty that there will no longer be a need for the team once the project goes out of existance. Even in cases where an entire customer portfolio of projects is termed as one "project", there are times when 100% of the project team members may not be billing 100% of their time to the project or the client. In such cases, it is only cost-effecint that the members of the project team conduct such work on such other projects as may be required, so that the organization can have maximum utilization (and billability) of its resources. As such, a project team would then be virtual for each project, where a percentage of each individual drawn from various functional organizations is "lent" or assigned to a requiring project to form a project team.
A balanced matrix assumes certain level of maturity within an implementing organization's framework as well as among the participating individuals. It may not always be the best, better, or even an advisable choice for a small or lower-medium service-oriented company. A projectized structure is preferable in such cases.
Consider the organizational structure shown in the picture.
Project Virtual Team Structure
In this structure, the Project Managers are individual contributors. In my opinion, a project manager who is an individual contributor (where the project team is not in a solid-line hierarchical relationship with the project manager), is a "real" people manager, because s/he has to manage the team by influencing. Their project team members report to them on a dotted-line relationship for the specific project-related tasks assigned to them, with the project manager exercising no real authority over the team members. Organizationally, the team members may report into several other functional groups. In a corporate level of organizational hierarchy, these team members may be located at a lower, equal, or even higher level than the Project Manager's own level. However, Project Manager would manage the day-to-day tasks of these members as they relate to the project (s)he is managing.
Managing such a team requires true people management and skills in a Project Manager - such as building trust and relationships, being fair and understanding team needs, putting the team's interests ahead of self-interests, and so forth. The structure, however, assumes certain level of discipline, maturity and professionalism among all individuals within the project team. And the project manager manages the team members through influencing rather than carrot-and-stick.
Furthering the effeciency of cost and resource utilization, building such a project team would not typically happen overnight, and all at once. A best practice is to build the team over a period of time (days, weeks, months or even years depending on the duration of the project). The table below provides a few project delivery lifecycles mapped to PMI's Project Phases along with a likely scenario of project staffing needs. Ultimately, the Project Manager is responsible for determining the needs and ensuring proper staffing for the project, and consequently requesting the line managers for (and, once done with the project work, releasing) appropriate resources at appropriate times during the project lifecycle.
Incremental Staffing Plan by Project Phase
PMI Initiating Planning Executing Closing
RUP Inception Elaboration Construction Transition Go Live
Waterfall System Concepts Planning Requirements Design Development Integration and Testing Implementation and Deployment Go Live
ASAP Project Preparation Business Blueprint Realize Final Prep Go Live
èèè Staffing Across Project Lifecycle
BA BA BA   Dev Lead Dev Lead BA BA BA
BSA BSA BSA BSA Developers Developers BSA BSA BSA
  Architect Architect Test Lead Test Lead Ops Lead Ops Lead Ops Lead
Dev Lead Dev Lead Testers Testers Dev Lead Dev Lead  
Test Lead Test Lead   Developers Test Lead
Ops Lead Ops Lead Test Lead