Managing multiple projects at once can be a bit like a juggling act. Every action taken in one project needs to feed into the next with fluidity and poise, and when done right, a skilled portfolio manager can make it seem like no trouble at all. But if a few big mistakes are made, well—it all comes crashing down.
Managing multiple projects at once (otherwise known as project portfolio management), then, is a technique that can be cultivated and mastered. Portfolio managers must be able to prioritize tasks within projects, monitor their team’s performance, and allocate their resources effectively.
How to Manage Multiple Projects
Juggling multiple projects simultaneously takes a special kind of skill. The following video with Jennifer Bridges, PMP, offers you tips and techniques to keep all these balls in the air.
Jennifer discussed the trials and tribulations of working on multiple projects at the same time. She offers some real-life advice on how to manage these many tasks successfully.
- Define in detail and resources required for all projects before you begin them
- Set up a way to track the process through the project life cycle of each project
- Manage dependencies and have a mechanism in place to chart changes
When you plan ahead you can also work to avoid these traps:
- Not tracking dependencies
- Over-allocating or over-committing resources
- Shifting critical resources to higher-priority projects
- Setting Unrealistic deadlines
- Not updating and re-baselining plans
- Conflicting priorities or incentives
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s go over 10 strategies that will help you manage multiple projects effectively.
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Multiple Project Tracking Template
Use this free Multiple Project Tracking Template for Excel to manage your projects better.
10 Strategies for Managing Multiple Projects
When you have more than one project to manage, you have to be efficient with your time or risk burnout. You have a lot of disparate things to do, often at once. It can be done, of course, but requires that you follow a few tips.
1. Set Up a Project Management Office (PMO)
A project management office has a great deal of control over projects. They communicate with stakeholders and clients and define and maintain the standards of project management for a company. Having a PMO helps to make sure that all the projects are being delivered on time and within budget. This can be an external or internal group.
2. Use Project Management Software
Having project management tools gives managers visibility into all the projects they manage. ProjectManager has project portfolio management features, such as a portfolio dashboard, roadmaps and portfolio status reports. These give you real-time visibility into all your projects, the ability to balance resources across many projects for greater productivity and reports to both monitor progress and performance while keeping stakeholders informed. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.
ProjectManager has portfolio dashboards to monitor all your projects in one place. Learn more
3. Avoid Resource Overlapping
Managing many projects requires a great deal of resources. These resources must be allocated carefully to avoid having resources overlap. If they do, this will impact the scheduling, budgets and can even jeopardize the success of the project. That’s why it’s important to carefully plan resource management and monitor its allocation.
4. Find the Critical Path for Each Project
The critical path is the shortest amount of time needed to complete the project. It does this by identifying the essential tasks. This can help managers prioritize and balance the resources across their projects.
5. Assemble the Right Team for Each Project
Each project is different and should have a team that reflects its unique needs. Be sure to assemble team members that can work together, but also have the skills and experience required to complete the project properly.
6. Plan Ahead
Just as you plan for one project, you must plan for multiple projects. The last thing you want to do is start the week unprepared and wing it. No matter how good you are, things are going to get out of control quickly. Therefore, make weekly plans for yourself, look at the work ahead and prioritize it. Know your upcoming deadlines. Meet with your team and stakeholders. It’ll likely change day-to-day, but at least you have a structure.
7. Communicate Clearly
Communication is the lifeblood of any project. Your project plan, status reports and so much more are all communication tools. Managing multiple projects means that you act as the hub that leads to both multiple stakeholders and teams; therefore, you must update stakeholders and direct your teams. However, if you do this (in person, on a project management tool or with documentation) it has to be clear. Remember, communication is also listening. Get feedback and be responsive.
8. Review and Adjust
Plans change. Things happen. You can’t be married to the schedule without risking going off track, overspending or losing quality. Just as you would when managing one project, and more so with multiple projects that exponentially add to the possibility of change, you need to monitor and review your progress and performance regularly. Have a plan in place to manage change and adjust your schedule, costs or scope accordingly.
9. Delegate Work
If you have a tendency to feel that for something to get done right you have to do it yourself, lose it. There’s no way one person can manage multiple projects without support. Accept help and delegate work that can be delegated to associates. There’s tons of paperwork and other minutiae related to managing multiple projects that can be done by others. Oversee it, sure, but don’t overdo it.
10. Stay Organized
Don’t use Post-It notes or keep your schedule on scraps of paper. Where are your important dates and numbers? They should be at your fingertips, probably best on an online project management tool that can automatically alert you of approaching deadlines, collect all your files in one place and plan, schedule, monitor and report on your project.
Multiple Project Tracking Template
This free multiple project tracking template for Excel helps you keep track of tasks across projects so you can monitor their costs and progress simultaneously.
What Tools Can You Use to Manage Multiple Projects?
As we mentioned, project management software has tools that are designed to plan, manage and track projects individually and in a program or portfolio. Here are some of those features that you’ll want to better manage multiple projects.
A project dashboard provides a high-level overview of the projects you’re working on. They have graphs and charts to illustrate key performance indicators (KPIs), which allow managers to make sure all the projects are progressing as planned.
Gantt charts have two sides, the left is a spreadsheet and on the right is a visual timeline that reflects the data on the left. This provides a full view of the whole project in one place. A roadmap is a Gantt chart that has multiple projects, which allows managers to better share resources and make better decisions on how to manage each project.
Kanban boards visualize workflow and show the production cycle as columns on a virtual board. Tasks are represented by cards that collect data on directions, assignees, priority and more. This tool fosters team collaboration and gives managers visibility into the work so they can resolve any potential bottlenecks that will slow down the work.
Reporting features provide more detail than dashboards and also can be shared with stakeholders or clients to keep them updated on progress. There are many reports, including portfolio status reports that capture all the projects over a period of time and provide useful data to help make more insightful decisions.
ProjectManager offers these and other powerful project management tools to manage your projects. Watch the embedded video below to learn more.
Managing Multiple Tasks vs. Managing Multiple Projects
Managing a project involves the development of a plan, scheduling, taking risks and resources into account, managing your team and budgeting. Tasks are less complicated but benefit from a certain level of management.
Projects, like tasks, start and end. Both often start as a task list, but whereas tasks can often be accomplished with a simple to-do list, projects require more coordination. You need to estimate the cost and time it’ll take to complete each task.
In fact, tasks can be looked at individually, but a project must structure those tasks. They need to be prioritized. The tasks require resources, and those resources need to be assigned before the task can be worked on.
Usually, you’re not going to make a risk management plan to tackle a few tasks. There might be risk involved, but then again—there’s risk involved in everything. However, a project must look at all the tasks in context to the risks inherent in executing them. These risks go beyond the mere task. The project can be impacted by weather, supplies and more.
Though tasks are little projects, they differ enough from the constraints of a larger project to require a unique method of management. As projects grow in complexity, tasks relatively stay the same in that they’re broken down into small, manageable bits. Therefore, to-do lists and prioritizing are usually as much as you need to get tasks done, while projects require a more detailed methodology.
Common Challenges of Managing Multiple Projects
It’s not going to be easy, even if you plan and are prepared. Managing multiple projects is challenging. The problems that come up when managing multiple projects are akin to a shadow world of best practices.
It’s obvious but bears repeating, that communication can make or break a project. If you’re unable to clearly explain to your team what has to be done, you’re going to spend more time and money than necessary on tasks. If you can’t communicate the state of the project to stakeholders, they’re going to interrupt the proper management of the project.
Lack of Trust
If you don’t trust your team, they’re not going to trust you. Without building trust in the project, you’re jeopardizing the project. This speaks to delegating. If you’re not sharing the responsibilities of the project, then the people you work with are going to suspect you don’t trust them. Whether that’s true or not, you’re eroding morale and risking the success of your projects.
No Clear Roles & Responsibilities
As in one project and only more so with many, if your team doesn’t know who does what chaos ensues. Projects should run like machines, with each team member doing their part like gears that meet and move the project forward. If they don’t know their roles, and what they’re responsible for, things jam up fast.
If you don’t put the work in before the execution of the project plan, you’re going to have to do it while executing the plan. That’s a recipe for disaster. Each project you’re managing must have a thorough project plan and on top of that, you need to have a plan in place to manage all the other projects at once. That’s a lot of planning, but you don’t want to do that when you’re spending money and losing time.
How to Manage Multiple Projects With ProjectManager
Project management software helps you manage one or more projects by organizing tasks, creating schedules and then monitoring their progress and reporting on performance. ProjectManager is an online tool that gives you the tools to better manage multiple projects all from one tool. Here’s how.
Build Overview Projects
See all your projects on one page. Customize the chart as you want. View status, progress, managers, teams and more.
Get data on metrics for all your projects, including health, cost and workload, on one dashboard. We do the calculations for you and display the results in easy-to-read graphs and charts.
Find efficiencies among your projects on the roadmap. Reduce costs and tighten schedules by seeing every project together on one timeline.
Keep your team working more productively by viewing the workload page. See at a glance who has too much work and reallocate from the same page to balance their workload.
Report to Stakeholders
Present portfolio reports to stakeholders and keep them in the loop. Reports can be generated with one click and filtered to show just the data they want.
Ready to start managing multiple projects and tasks with our award-winning project management software? Start your free 30-day trial now.