Projects rarely go as planned. There is always the potential to get new data, project or product updates, reviews or any number of last-minute requests. How do you deal with these ad-hoc requests?
Ad-hoc means that it’s specific—something that will not be repeated. Ad-hoc projects and ad-hoc requests will occur in project management and you need to know how to deal with them.
What Is an Ad-Hoc Project?
An ad-hoc project is one that happens unexpectedly, usually in response to a problem. Projects are almost always scheduled in advance, but an ad-hoc project is sprung upon the team without time for any prior planning.
That’s one of the things that differentiate an ad-hoc project from a traditional project in project management. Another is that an ad-hoc project usually includes a quick turnaround. Ad-hoc projects also focus on one goal (or group of people) and tend to use fewer resources, including team members.
To sum up, an ad-hoc project is when something comes up that requires an immediate response. Like any project, there’s only a limited amount of time to complete it, but the timeframe is almost always tight.
How to Manage Ad-Hoc Projects: 5 Best Practices
Because an ad-hoc project seems to come out of nowhere, it’s often not given the attention that a more deliberate project would receive. However, you still need to track and report on progress to meet your strategic initiatives.
One best practice for managing ad-hoc projects is using project management software. ProjectManager is a cloud-based software that allows you to plan, schedule and track your projects in real time. Monitor resources and your team’s time with the live dashboard. No setup is necessary. ProjectManager collects and calculates the data and then displays time, cost, variance and more. It’s like an instant status report for your ad-hoc project. Try ProjectManager free today.
1. Don’t Neglect Risk
It’s easy to cut corners when time is of the essence. Ad-hoc projects tend to have less red tape, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore a risk assessment. Any financial analysis will tell you risk can ruin a project. While you won’t have time for a full risk management plan, you must prioritize risks that are likely and could have a negative impact on the project.
2. Stay Flexible
Regardless of what methodology you apply to your projects, you’re not going to have the time for the advanced planning of a waterfall structure. An agile project approach is better suited to ad-hoc projects. They are more iterative, allowing you to quickly pivot as needed, and tend to work with a smaller group on smaller-scale sprints.
Related: Agile vs Waterfall and the Rise of Hybrid Projects
3. You Still Need a Plan
There’s not enough time to go through all the due diligence, such as cost estimates, that would get a more traditional project off the ground. But even an ad-hoc project needs direction. Not having some plan or request management in place to manage your resources, set deadlines and prioritize and assign tasks is going to backfire and create a longer timeline than you can afford.
4. Standardize Work Requests
There’s a lot of methods to speed workflows, such as email, text, voice messages or a quick exchange in person. These methods might feel as if they’re expediting the process but in fact, they create problems. Create a workflow that follows a set pattern that can be centralized, accessed by all, prioritized and even commented on to foster collaboration.
5. Facilitate Transparency
Every aspect of the project should be visible to everyone on the project team. This means updates and any changes. There must be a central source of truth that gives hybrid teams, whether they’re remote, in different departments or using different tools, the visibility they need.
Tools for Managing Ad-Hoc Projects
Project management software has features that let you control projects and ad-hoc projects alike. You can use them to assemble a team and assign them tasks, with deadlines, descriptions and priorities. This lets you get the ball rolling fast and quickly onboard your team.
Teams need a collaborative tool to let them communicate and work better together. This can be part of a project management software or chat and messaging apps that connect teams no matter where they are.
Finally, you need a tool that generates reports, both to manage the project and keep stakeholders updated on its progress. These reports should be able to filter data so you can deliver the details project managers need as well as more general reports for stakeholders. The easier to share these reports, the better.
What is an Ad-Hoc Request?
An ad-hoc request or ad-hoc task is a request that has not been planned for. An ad-hoc project is a larger endeavor, but the definition is basically the same. They are outside the project scope.
Another way to look at an ad-hoc request is as an interruption and team productivity-killer. They pull you away from the project and can cause delays and cost money. The worst-case scenario: an ad-hoc request can derail a project and lead to failure.
An ad-hoc request can be anything from a meeting that’s called at the last minute, pulling you away from deadline work. It can be paperwork, again assigned at the last minute, or re-delegated tasks. Even answering emails could fall under the ad-hoc request. Anything that you didn’t know was coming that takes you away from the main thrust of your job is an ad-hoc request.
How to Manage Ad Hoc Requests: 5 Best Practices
Just as you would manage an ad-hoc project, ad-hoc requests can be controlled with project management software.
Having a work management tool is going to help you prioritize, collaborate, monitor and report on the progress of your ad-hoc requests. Here are some other things to keep in mind when managing ad-hoc requests.
Yes, plan. While you can’t have a plan for something you don’t know will happen, you can set up enough of a cushion in your day to let you respond to ad-hoc requests without negatively impacting your schedule. Use a work breakdown structure to map the ad-hoc request.
If you permit an agile project management approach to your work it allows for greater flexibility so you can pivot from one task to the next by knowing how to prioritize that work and keeping in collaborative communication with the rest of your team. Having ad-hoc tasks managed in an ad-hoc system is one way to keep on track.
2. Filter Ad-Hoc Requests
There will always be ad-hoc requests and some of them must be dealt with immediately, others can wait and there might even be some that you could ignore. But they’ll come sometimes with great frequency and can be overwhelming.
The team leader should be the point person for all ad-hoc requests to keep the team focused on their tasks. Then the team leader can prioritize the ad-hoc requests and assign the work to the team member who has the capacity to take it on.
3. Have a Process
You need a process for the planned work and you need one for the ad-hoc requests, too. Just because it’s an ad-hoc request doesn’t mean it can’t be in the system and tracked. Make sure all ad-hoc requests go into whatever work management tool you’re using.
These requests should also be delivered in the tool, but sometimes that won’t be the case. Regardless, wherever they originate, the ad-hoc request must live in the tool to make it manageable.
4. Track Progress
Without a tool to track your progress, you’re working blind. You need to manage ad-hoc requests, which means knowing your team’s workload in real time so you can assign the ad-hoc request, and then being able to track their progress on the work.
Therefore, you want to work with a cloud-based tool that gives you live data so you know exactly where the task and the team are now and not yesterday.
5. Allocate Resources
Being able to manage ad-hoc resources requires resource management tools that allow you to reallocate resources as necessary to get the work done without impacting the other work that’s already in progress.
Sometimes that might mean requesting additional team members to handle the ad-hoc requests. Having the resource management tools that can show your team’s current allocation will better help you sell your case.
How ProjectManager Helps With Ad-Hoc Projects
ProjectManager is a cloud-based work management tool that is flexible enough to manage ad-hoc projects. Automated notifications by email and in the tool standardize the ad-hoc request process and then teams can be assigned and collaborate in real time with the transparency managers and stakeholders required to track their effort.
Intake New Requests on Kanban Boards
Ad-hoc requests can be added to the kanban boards so they can be integrated into the larger workflow. Managers can set the priority, add descriptions and assign the task to team members. The team can then manage their backlog and plan the sprint together by commenting at the task level. Meanwhile, the project manager has transparency into the process and can see any bottlenecks up ahead and reallocate resources to resolve them.
Allocate Resources Effectively
In order to know who on the team has the capacity to take on the ad-hoc request, ProjectManager has real-time resource management features, such as a workload chart. The workload chart is color-coded to make it easy to see who has too many or too few tasks assigned to them. The project manager can then balance the workload and make more insightful assignments.
Generate Progress Reports for Stakeholders
The stakeholders who made the ad-hoc requests will want to know how the work is going. That’s where ProjectManager’s reporting feature comes in. Generate a variance, timesheet and other reports with one click. All reports can be filtered to show only the data you want to share with stakeholders and then passed on as a PDF or printed out.
ProjectManager is designed to manage any kind of project, including ad-hoc projects, whether your team is under one roof or distributed. With secure timesheets, you always know the status of your team’s work on their tasks, regardless of location or department in the organization. Having this kind of control and visibility keeps ad-hoc requests from sapping your productivity.
ProjectManager is award-winning software that organizes work and connects hybrid teams. It has the flexibility to handle ad-hoc requests and keep you and your team working productively. Join the tens of thousands already using our software at organizations from NASA to Nestles and Siemens. Try ProjectManager today for free!