This article will explore valuable tips to help you with your prioritization of projects, while managing multiple projects.
In today’s fast-paced business landscape, organizations juggle multiple projects simultaneously. Effectively managing these projects requires a clear understanding of their relative importance and the ability to prioritize tasks and resources accordingly.
Prioritization of projects is a critical aspect of project portfolio management (PPM) and is crucial in ensuring successful project outcomes.
There are some central domains that the project manager, the project team, and so too the management structure of the organization must consider and perhaps abide. Some of those domains are listed below:
Define Clear Project Objectives:
Before prioritizing projects, it is essential to establish clear objectives for each project. These objectives should align with the organization’s strategic goals and provide a solid foundation for decision-making during the prioritization process. Clearly defined objectives (measurable) help evaluate each project’s impact and importance and make informed prioritization decisions.
Conduct a Comprehensive Project Assessment
Evaluate each project based on its potential benefits, risks, resource requirements, and alignment with organizational priorities. When assessing the projects, consider financial impact, strategic fit, customer demands, and market trends.
Apply Prioritization Criteria:
Establish a set of prioritization criteria that align with your organization’s goals and values. This may include project value, resource availability, time sensitivity, strategic alignment, and risk assessment. Assign weights to each criterion to reflect their relative importance.
Rank Projects and Create a Project Portfolio:
Once the assessment and prioritization process is complete, rank the projects based on their scores or rankings derived from the applied criteria.
Continuously Monitor and Reassess:
Prioritization is not a one-time activity. It is essential to regularly monitor the progress and impact of each project and reassess priorities as circumstances change. Regular reviews and adjustments allow for effective resource allocation and ensure that the most critical projects receive attention.
Foster Collaboration and Communication:
Effective project prioritization requires stakeholder collaboration and communication. Regular project status updates and transparent communication enhance decision-making and mitigate conflicts.
Consider Dependencies and Constraints:
When prioritizing projects, consider dependencies and constraints impacting their sequencing or resource allocation. Identify interdependencies between projects and evaluate their potential impact on the project portfolio.
What can go wrong?
Famous last words, along with “Hey, y’all watch this.”
From our experience, project managers often carry many projects; at best, the project manager of that collection of projects may recognize some interferences between tasks, both in the Gantt chart and sometimes spot overbooking of the talent.
A long time ago, I worked in a large OEM engineering department.
There were six different groups in this department. Many projects were going on at any given time. I was the process manager, and in this meeting, one of the managers expressed concerns about the latest incoming project, perhaps pushing the department project load beyond the ability to undertake.
Rather than explore this, which at the time would be difficult as it was impossible to overlay the hours for each team member on each project and each project, it was decided to accept the new project with the enormous scope as the marketing folks articulated it.
Failures When Managing Multiple Projects
There is a saying that is impossible to trace to the origin, “When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.” The more projects, the more actions that require attention, and the less time spent resolving problems.
Running multiple projects simultaneously can pose challenges and increase the risk of project failures. This is not to suggest that one project manager all be connected to one project only. The limits depend on parameters such as, how large are the projects, the complexity of the projects, the organization’s expectations of the project manager. Keeping track of these project entanglements and state is not something that a project manager can keep in their head.
Some common project failures and their causes in the context of managing multiple projects include:
- Scope Creep:
- Causes: Insufficient project scoping and requirements gathering, unclear project objectives, priority changes or stakeholder demands.
- Impact: Project scope expands beyond the initial scope, leading to increased costs, delays, and resource constraints.
- Resource Overallocation:
- Causes: Inadequate resource planning and allocation, poor visibility into resource availability, and lack of coordination between project managers.
- Impact: Resources are spread too thin across multiple projects, leading to delays, compromised quality, and increased stress on the team.
- Lack of Communication and Coordination:
- Causes: Ineffective communication channels, siloed project teams, poor project integration, lack of project management oversight.
- Impact: Misalignment between projects, duplicated efforts, delays in decision-making, conflicts, and inefficiencies.
- Inadequate Risk Management:
- Causes: Insufficient identification and assessment of project risks, limited risk mitigation strategies, lack of risk monitoring and contingency planning.
- Impact: Unexpected risks or issues emerge, resulting in project delays, budget overruns, and compromised project outcomes.
- Competing Priorities:
- Causes: Conflicting project goals, shifting organizational priorities, insufficient resources to address all project demands.
- Impact: Project teams may face challenges in managing competing priorities, leading to delays, compromised quality, and strained relationships.
- Lack of Project Governance and Oversight:
- Causes: Weak project governance structure, insufficient project oversight and monitoring, absence of project portfolio management practices.
- Impact: Projects may lack strategic alignment, face challenges in decision-making, and experience inadequate support or resources.
- Unrealistic Deadlines and Expectations:
- Causes: Aggressive project timelines, inadequate project complexity and resource requirements estimation, and pressure to deliver quickly.
- Impact: Projects face difficulty in meeting unrealistic deadlines, resulting in compromised quality, increased risks, and stakeholder dissatisfaction.
- Inadequate Change Management:
- Causes: Poor change management practices, insufficient stakeholder engagement, and buy-in, lack of clear change communication.
- Impact: Resistance to change, project delays, decreased team morale, and compromised project outcomes.
- Insufficient Project Planning and Monitoring:
- Causes: Inadequate project planning, limited project monitoring and control mechanisms, lack of project management expertise.
- Impact: Projects face challenges in tracking progress, identifying issues, and taking corrective actions, leading to increased risks of failure.
- Lack of Lessons Learned and Knowledge Sharing:
- Causes: Ineffective knowledge management practices, absence of a lessons-learned culture, limited project post-mortem evaluations.
- Impact: Project teams miss opportunities to learn from past experiences, leading to repeated mistakes, inefficient processes, and suboptimal project outcomes.
From experience, organizations invest in robust project management practices, effective communication, resource management, and project portfolio governance to mitigate these project failures. Also, from experience, this investment is often in many tools only some team members can access and know how to use.
This may seem like a solution, but there will be a myriad of entrenched downsides, the money spent will not bring the full expected benefit for many reasons.
This discontinuity is not helpful for the project.
Projects often mitigate the risk by having many costly meetings. Regular project reviews, collaboration, and lessons-learned sessions can help address challenges and improve project success rates when managing multiple projects.
Tools to Help With Prioritization of Projects:
PPM Core provides several features and capabilities that help address challenges related to the prioritization of projects and managing multiple projects. Some of the problems the tool helps solve include:
- Lack of Visibility:
- PPM Core offers a centralized platform where all projects can be tracked and managed, in one place.
- It provides visibility into each project’s status, project activities and projects progress, enabling better decision-making and prioritization of projects. PMs can track project progress through custom metrics, as well as compare projectsprogress in customizable views, view the different timelines on a phase gate model, and contribute to the portfolio optimization.
- Inconsistent Prioritization Criteria:
- PPM Core allows organizations to define custom metrics based on specific needs and objectives of the company. It ensures users can report on the custom project metrics on defined measurement periods to provide an accurate picture of the project’s progress, spot patterns, and timely mitigate risks.
- Lack of Collaboration and Communication:
- PPM Core improves transparency, fosters collaboration, and ensures that relevant information is accessible to all team members aboard the project. It offers access control through role-based access, which means the company can decide which roles will have access to solely view or contribute to the project.
- Difficulty in Evaluating Project Impact:
- PPM Core allows organizations to assess and compare projects based on defined criteria, helping evaluate their potential benefits, risks, and alignment with strategic goals.
- It contributes to a systematic evaluation process, making comparing projects easier.
- Inefficient Decision-Making:
- PPM Core provides real-time project tracking, reporting, and analytics, empowering organizations to make data-driven decisions when prioritizing projects.
- It offers visualization tools and dashboards to present project information and facilitate informed decision-making, reducing the risk of biased or arbitrary decisions.
- Lack of Project Portfolio Management (PPM) Integration:
- PPM Core features a project portfolio management solution, allowing organizations to manage and prioritize multiple projects efficiently. It offers custom views for project comparison within the portfolio, allowing the company to select the metrics they want to compare the projects on, aiding in better decision making.
Prioritization of projects is a fundamental aspect of effective project management, especially when managing multiple projects simultaneously. Tools can help, and an example of those tools is one from Synami, PPM Core. To learn more about the PPM Core platform and how it can help to manage your project and project portfolios more efficiently, you can schedule a personal online demo presentation with the team.
Organizations can streamline the prioritization process, create a well-balanced project portfolio, and ensure that resources are allocated to the most critical projects.
By following these tips and leveraging the capabilities of PPM Core, organizations can achieve better project outcomes, optimize resource utilization, and drive overall success in managing multiple projects.
About the Author
Jon M. Quigley PMP CTFL is a principal and founding member of Value Transformation, a product development training (from idea to product retirement) and cost improvement organization established in 2009.