Managing Multiple Projects Best Practices
With constant pressure to complete more and more "lean" deliverables everyday, UltraVista Project Management Professionals (PMP) almost never had a chance to concentrate on only one project at a time. Our clients expect that UltraVista project managers multi-task multiple projects, while keeping everything under control and not letting anything fall through the cracks. It requires a certain skill from a project manager to be able to manage multiple projects, budgets, resources and schedules at once and at the same time managing his own business affairs.
We compiled the best advices from UltraVista project manager how to manage multiple projects successfully:
It often seems as if every project is the highest priority for company's executives. Everything has to be done right now, and below budget. Nevertheless, some projects have a greater potential for benefit than others. Those should be the highest priority ones. While it might seem that all projects are important for executives, the reality is something else... and project manager has to find out which ones are more important than others. For most projects, all three parameters—scope, schedule and cost - are equally important. Setting priorities enables the project team to determine which of the three is most essential. These priorities support scope planning, decision making, constraint management and plan optimization, negotiating project changes, and integrated change control.
Project managers should consider the trade-offs between scope, schedule and cost by specifying small changes to the stated project objective. Would it be worse to slip the schedule a week beyond the deadline, or increase the project budget by 5 percent? Would it be more appropriate to drop a feature of a project deliverable or to add staff to the project team? Would a slightly longer project that delivers a more robust product be desirable? Questions such as these often arise late in a project, but it is better to deal with them early.
In exploring the costs, pain and appropriateness of small changes, relative priorities emerge. Project managers should consider the options and discuss them with the project team to develop consensus on the priorities. Next, he should validate the prioritization with the project sponsors and stakeholders and make modifications, if needed, based on their feedback. For some projects, agreeing to constrain two of the three parameters may be necessary, but it is always unrealistic to limit all three, especially prior to project plan development. Periodically review priorities.
Developing Schedules Concurrently
All of project manager projects' schedules have been intertwined together with strict dependencies. If project manager has several critical items, from several different projects, that are all due at the same time, it's best to create one master plan, with all the critical milestones on all projects on it. That way, he can fit the various schedules together and look for conflicts earlier.
Planning this way helps ensure that he is not overburdening any of project resources, including himself. He needs to ensure that each department, cross-functional work groups or individual that is involved in any of those projects is scheduled in such a way that they can get everything done. This is actually an advantage of the enterprise Project Management Office, when managing multiple projects, instead of having each project managed by a separate project manager.
Scheduling All In ONE Project
When it comes to own personal work schedule, and the work schedules of the project team members, project manager should schedule his time as if it was all one big project. At no time he should not be thinking in terms of spending X amount of time on project A and Y percentage of time on project B. Instead, plan by looking at project schedules as sub-schedules of an ONE BIG schedule, then schedule himself accordingly. In reality it really does matter how the project manager balances his time between projects, as long as it balances out in such a way as to get everything done, which ultimately is the overall scheduling goal.
Select the Best to Do the Rest
Even when the project does not have enough staff, project manager should never try to fill all remaining gaps and do everything himself. While that doesn't mean that project manager can't get your hands dirty, particularly in the area he excels, he needs to properly plan his involvement before committing himself to anything.
The team's morale really pick up when they see the project manager working alongside them. It is very important to select the best resources as leads and delegate the rest to them, while making the time for the greatest possible project impact.
Writing and Tracking Down Everything
It comes a given, the more areas a project manager is working on, the more details he has to keep track of. If one depends on his own memory so much, he might remember the thing eventually, but it might be too late. A good rule of thumb is "If it isn't written down, it didn't happen." Forcing yourself to developing the habit of writing everything down is one of the most important thing in multitasking multiple projects. Nowadays, there are on-line tools and even mobile apps that can help us keep things organized and up-to-date. UltraVista recommends Oracle Primavera P6 which is also supported by mobile apps. One can use the scheduler as an Action Items List for himself, or even give access to others for review and upgrade.
Check-lists are a great way to make sure that everything gets done. The most critical tasks that gets assigned and the most important details that need to be completed should appear somewhere on a check-list. Checking the check-list as often as possible is highly recommended. Project manager should utilize check-lists as a reminder to get status reports from team members and verify that the work is done. As a rule of time, no matter project manager trusts each member of the project team, he MUST see and verify that the work is completed, never accepting "almost done" excuses. Again, Oracle Primavera P6 or Mobile Project Manager (Android App) can be used to keep things organized and check-marked.
Keeping Communications Open
Almost any project manager know the Holy Grail of project management - communicate, communicate, and communicate. Project manager should make sure that he communicates with every team, every day, even if it's just for a moment. That moment he spends shows that he's really interested, still involved and think that the team members are important. At the same time while developing the report and trust with the project team, it gives them opportunities to identify risks early and provide feedback. And one of the most important things what comes with the trust is honesty in reporting: tasks that were "almost done" become "will be done in 2 days", leaving a lot of uncertainties out of project scheduling and tracking.
Managing Own Time
Time invested in managing own time is the best time spent. Project manager must follow the project plan every single day. Granted, things will happen to try and destroy that plan, but having that plan is much better than not having a plan how to manage own time, when the day manages project and the project team. So, as a project manager don't let yourself get bogged down in any one thing. If a meeting is scheduled to last an hour, and the hour is up, end the meeting. Everything else can wait until next time, because you must follow the plan.
A very important part of managing own time and delegating properly is to realize the importance of any activity or problem. There are those who will bring every decision to you, expecting you to make it for them. Empower people to make their own decisions; then you don't have to.
Often, we fund ourself getting caught up in things that are urgent, but not really important. How did those things become urgent? Many times, it's because somebody didn't do what they should have, when they should have. If that's the case, we must put it back on them and let them run around in circles taking care of it, and we don't let it become our problem.
Managing Project Administration
The amount of paperwork that is associated with some projects can be daunting and just trying to keep everyone informed can be a overbearingly challenging task. We have learnt that project manager is not a secretary for every project team member, and we should delegate those clerical tasks to others, so that you we can concentrate on what is important and our job - managing projects.
Taking the Fate in Own Hands
In the end, if anything you should take away as an advice, this is it. Almost every enterprise has people who have their own agenda and try to use others for their own purpose. These people don't see you as a manager who is getting projects done for the enterprise; they see you as a resource cube for building their agenda castle. There are different ways they will be trying to take advantage of you projects. They may piggyback their pet project onto one of yours, or by telling you what to do and when to do it. The only one that have that right is the Project Management Office boss and senior management, especially if they have already established projects priorities. Take you fate in your own hands, and never have anyone else managing it for you.
These are the best practices the UltraVista project manager have established as a "bible" for successfully managing multiple projects. Looking at those rules, one would thing there's a lot of effort to do all that, but believe us it's much more work if we don't do it. Managing multiple projects and multiple priorities successfully is a skill that requires staying on top of the game plan. Maintaining success requires keeping project manager 100% focused on managing and not on doing the project deliverables himself, no matter how much of a temptation there might be to get down and dirty with the troops, one must keep it under the control. The most important job of the project manager is simple - managing projects.