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Hacking Your Way into Managing Multiple Projects

Written by Val Sopi on Wednesday, June 18, 2014


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Photo by Public Domain Pictures

1. Plan correctly

Planning is one of the key elements in managing a project correctly and setting the stage for a happy relationship. Planning, next to execution, is probably one of the hardest parts in a given project. Imagine an airplane taking-off with engines revving to the max, just to give it enough power so it can sail smoothly at 30000ft with half the power. That’s exactly what planning is: you give your max to cover every little aspect at the start of the project (which is mostly based on your experience with projects of a similar scope) just so the project has a better chance in succeeding.

Ask questions

This is the perfect time to ask. No question is crazy enough. If you’ve signed the contract (which you should have done before getting this far) there are no more risks in trying to sound salesy, hence your communication will be more natural, curious, and informative. Questions you may ask could be anything that have to do with properly foreseeing the outcome of the project. These questions could be related to the project, people involved, decision making process, payments, delivery, go-to people, “what if’s”, etc. Here are a few which come to mind:

  • Who is the key decision maker?
  • Are there any special requests which could sound crazy? Example: Specific color choices for no reason whatsoever.
  • Who will be responsible for approving deliverables?
  • How long do you think approvals will take?
  • Do you have any other concurrent running projects?

Keep in mind that you have to allow and trust the client if they have certain pet peeves and don’t want to share them publicly. Take them as such and run with it towards greatness. Not being judgmental about client’s wants, wishes, and strategies is key to building a strong trusting relationship. Remember, they do not know “everything” about their business, which is the reason they’ve hired you in the first place: to help them navigate the waters they are not familiar with. Appearing judgmental will only make things worse. And client’s will smell that, if that’s the case. After all, we all have certain idiosyncrasies which we don’t want to explain in detail. Trust the client. You want to build a long-term relationship and not just a one-time fling.

Know your team

Each project calls for different skill sets. For the most part, the majority of people in your team are people whom you’ve worked with before and know quite well. However, you have to watch out for how your team-members will fit in within the new project. Even though they have shined before doing a specific thing, doesn’t mean they will shine again. Asking questions of what is possible within the scope of the project, will almost always save the day.

Another thing you have to watch out for is outside consultants and freelancers you bring in on project basis. More times than not they can make or brake your project, and it usually comes down to the time these folk have available. Ultimately, they are hired guns and mercenaries. If they have something parallel going on at the time of working with you, you have to make it clear that you are flexible as long as everything regarding time and availability is laid out openly beforehand.

2. Communicate effectively

If both first and third points in this article go completely wrong, communication will always be your strongest ally. Being able to communicate effectively and efficiently of what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen, will increase your chances of running and delivering a successful project. Being an effective communicator means being able to work with different personalities across the board (your team and client).

One of the ways to not communicate effectively is to hold in information that would otherwise be crucial to a positive outcome. There are no logical reasons to hold off any information that must be passed down to responsible parties. Knowing that your client is in love with color “Red” and not letting your designer know about this, can cause delays and frustrations on both ends. The best performing teams are made up of engaged individuals who are in the know of key pieces of information.

On of the ways to figuratively look at this is to think that your team and client are navigating a somewhat known forest where your ultimate goal is to reach the desired destination. Now, if along the way your fancy phone notifies you that it will rain fishes, it’s best to share that bit of information with everyone and take cover until the weather settles down.

3. Document constantly

One of the best tricks to manage a project correctly is to document everything along the way. You do not have to be super strict about it and document every bit of information that you come across, but it’s great if you can cover major milestones and forks in the road. Specifically speaking, it’s best practice not to promise anything verbally to the client. Making verbal promises can almost surely ruin your reputation as a reliable service provider, because our memories are constantly being replaced by new information and there’s a high chance that you’ll forget what you’ve promised, causing you to come across (in a worst case scenario) as a liar.

In case the client makes a new request, it’s best to document this through a quick Email, asking the client to approve/agree on the matter. An example is shown below:

+ + +
Hi Steph,

Thanks for your feedback today. As we’re getting closer to deployment, we can definitely implement the “FAQ” section. This would require for your team to put in the information in a timely fashion (a week before launch) so there are no delays on our end. This addition will require a small fee on top of the agreed upon estimate (2% of the total amount) and we require that you approve this new implementation. A simple reply to this Email with an “Ok” will suffice.

Thanks ahead and see you tomorrow in our weekly meeting.
+ + +

Email is a great way to keep tabs on major changes to the project. By doing this you’re achieving two things:

  1. You’re letting the client know that you are responsible and reliable, and
  2. The client will understand that their contribution is a must in the positive outcome of their project

Recap

Remember, that for a positive outcome of a project it’s best to always keep everyone informed about every little detail. You do not have to share unnecessary information with everyone because that could easily distract, inundate, and overwhelm your team-mates. Share only the necessary information that will assure the best contribution from everyone. Also, as a project coordinator you should share information that is relevant to the other party. While it’s great for everyone on the team to be informed that the project will be developed using open source technologies, it’s utterly useless to share each specific detail of PHP framework benchmark reports with the illustrator who’s been hired as a freelancer.

Plan, Communicate, Document, and you’ll have yourself paid on time.

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