How to Manage Multiple Projects at the Same Time
Learn how to manage multiple ongoing projects, by watching this project management tips and techniques video.
Hello, I’m Jennifer Whitt, Director of ProjectManager.com. I don’t know about you, but managing multiple projects is one of the most difficult things that I can do. I remember back in the day when I started, I literally tracked projects before a lot of the software tools we have today with literal calendars on my wall and diagrams of projects and how the dependencies ran into each other. Now that tracking capacities are available with software products.
People actually laughed at me, but that’s the only tool I had back in the day. So now, thank goodness, we have other methods to do that, but what I wanted to share with you today are three tips for successful project planning before the kick-off, because what I found for myself is some of the most critical things that I can do in managing multiple projects is really setting things up correctly before the action begins.
The first thing that can be done is defining in detail and resourcing as required for all the projects before you begin. So if you’re managing multiple projects, defining each one and resourcing each one before those projects begin.
Number two, set up a way to track progress. So if you’re managing multiple projects and maybe, number one, your time is dispersed among multiple projects, but also it could be some of your team members are too. So having a way to effectively track not only your time, your tasks, but the other team members as well.
Number three, managing for dependencies. Having a mechanism set up for managing dependencies and knowing when other critical milestones shift or other resources shift, knowing how those dependencies effect, not only your current project, but how they may affect the other ones. Typically in most organizations that I see where project managers are managing multiple projects, again, it’s for typically their core competency so the teams are on those same projects as well.
Here are some of the traps that I find that we all get into. Some of the traps are not tracking the dependencies, so if we’re not tracking the dependencies things get off and we tend to get derailed on all projects.
Number two, the resources are over-allocated or over-committed so people aren’t tracking that. So if they’re over-committed then not only the current project but all projects get off track. Also, overlapping milestones with critical resources, so we’ve all seen it, and sometimes we’re the critical resource on some of those projects.
So if you find yourself or your other critical resources on your projects are overlapping on critical milestones, where maybe that critical implementation date occurs where they’re overlapping that’s not really a good idea. So you need some way to ensure that those resources are their time and realistically what they’re assigned to can be done.
Also, number four, shifting critical resources to higher priority projects. We’ve all seen it where we have the superstar or that one person that really holds the key to the results in the project and they get shifted to a higher priority. Maybe another project has something that happens where they need that resource, so that gets pulled from one project to another.
So it helps the other one, but it generally negatively impacts the other one. So really having a backup plan for that resource and knowing how, if that critical resource gets taken away, what’s going to be done? So that probably, if you have resources on your team where if they get taken away, you need to identify that as a potential risk and having some backup plan or knowing how you’re going to do that or at least having the discussion or the agreement with your change control board or how that thing is going to happen before it happens.
Number five, unrealistic deadlines. It’s a common thing, having unrealistic deadlines by not really estimating appropriately or really standing up to say that can’t be done and we rely on our team members. So really encouraging our team members to stand up and say when things aren’t realistic. So if your team members aren’t telling you, then you can’t take that back to your stakeholders or your change control board.
The other one is updating and re-baselining plans. Here’s where most projects fail and it’s one of the easiest things we can do. Things will change. Things will re-prioritize. It constantly happens. I mean, that’s a given. But the things is many people don’t go back and update or re-
baseline the plan with their stakeholders or change control board. That’s one of the things that if we do that appropriately and timely with the project then we can be categorized at the end as possibly successful instead of unsuccessful project.
Then, number seven, again, conflicting priorities or incentives, so that one is probably one of our challenging ones, where with the multiple projects if they’re serving different business units or different initiatives. Then they’re conflicting priorities and so it’s hard to stabilize the task, the deadlines, your resources, even your budgets.
Then the incentives, where some groups are driven on different incentives. So maybe your sales and marketing group is incented on one thing, but yet maybe your technology group is incented by something else. So if they’re incented differently then they’re not driving for the same result, which ultimately will not end in success for your project.
So those are some of the traps, these are some of the things I find. If we put these three things in place in the beginning before the kick-off will certainly help. For those of you who may find yourself with the techniques that I had back in my day where you have calendars on the wall or paper on the wall, well, for me, I like to make my life easy.
So I’ve learned that some of the simple solutions for me are getting tips from other project managers who’ve managed multiple projects or similar projects that I’m managing. They use templates. So, if I can use templates to quickly do things and efficiently and any tools in place, now I have a lot of tools in place for myself, and software.
So, now there’s software available where you can manage multiple projects more effectively by defining it and having your resources so you know when your resources are over-allocated. You know when your milestones are overlapping and dependencies cause negative responses for each other.
So I hope you find those helpful. It certainly has helped me in managing multiple projects over the years. If you need any additional tips, tools or techniques to manage your multiple projects and avoid some of the traps and pitfalls that you may find yourself in, then come visit us at ProjectManager.com.