In some industries (including the Canadian military in many instances), “project” refers to the entire body of Work executed under a contract and the contractor’s associated organization and resources. In some industries, however, “project” refers only to small-p projects: time-limited activities to accomplish specific goals (for example, construction or renovation projects, information technology development projects) and executed under a project-management discipline and methodology.
Although the meaning is usually clear from context, the use of “project” to refer to an entire contract’s worth of Work seems to drive small-p project managers crazy. Their objection may stem from the increasingly professionalized understanding of small-p project management, with its formal certifications, training programs, and procedures—much of which seems to have little home in the former type of project.
However, on rare occasions the meaning of “project” in an RFP is not immediately clear from context: People with different assumptions/expectations of standard usage can end up talking at cross-purposes on a proposal team. (Well, arguing, really. Yelling maybe. Not that I’ve ever seen that.) The usual issue is whether reporting and management standards that apply to the whole body of work under the contract also apply to each small-p project. This sort of confusion must be straightened out, soonest, by careful reading of all RFP references to “project” and by a question to the client if necessary.