Working on Multiple Projects

We’ve been struggling a bit of late with the sheer number of projects we have on at the moment – seems like I’m spending more time reviewing each project than doing anything else.

The other problem is that projects seem to be taking forever to get finished, as we’re trying to do a bit here, a bit there – spreading ourselves way too thin.

A new house, anyone?

My brother and sister-in-law are having a new house built at the moment, and it was something my brother-in-law said to me last week that got me thinking. He was commenting on how quickly the house is being built – the slab was only laid about 5 weeks ago and it’s not far from finished. What he didn’t mention was the 6 months they waited for the builder to actually start!

If you’ve ever built a house, you’ll know that there’s a lot of stuff you have to worry about before the builder can start. Tap fittings, door handles, carpet colour… there’s quite a list. And only after all these things have been arranged does the builder actually start. And once they do, they get stuck in and the house actually goes up very quickly.

So here’s my lesson:

I’m only going to work on a couple of websites at a time. That way we can devote more attention to each project, and actually get the job done much faster.

When new clients come on board, we can give the client a start date and a to-do list, and make sure they understand that everything must be checked off that list before we can start.

So the client might have to join a queue before their website gets started, but once we do actually start it should come together quite quickly, as we’ll have everything we need in front of us.

Anyone care to share their thoughts/experience?

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4 thoughts on “Working on Multiple Projects

  1. We are also constantly facing the issue of having many projects running concurrently, given the small size of our team. Not that we are complaining of course. Anyway, we more or less pace the projects differently so that only one project will be going at full steam (by that, I really mean getting the most programming or design development work done), while bringing other projects to the less intensive stages (content gathering, user requirements, documentation, etc), much like what you are suggesting here. I think that’s the only way to do it, but I would be keen to know how other small teams deal with the same situation.

    While making the other clients wait for their turn could be a real issue, I’m really much more concerned about how best to manage the ‘current’ project effectively. More often than not, with so many projects running at a time, we can get buried in all the development work or paperwork, and become careless and short-sighted when it comes to managing project changes, bugs, client requests and whatnots. I haven’t got an official going on (you know, the small team mentality), but I’m beginning to see the benefit of having one in place.

    I’ve just starting on a Trac/Subversion system to keep track of project requirements and bug tracking on a project. So far, I’d say Trac is a competent system, though install was a pain. But once I got past that, it was really easy to use. I haven’t got the client involved in the Trac site yet; thought I’d be better off to get some procedures tied down first before we get them involved. The system is up and running, but it does take some time to work that into my usual workflow. Till then, I will still be exploring other means that my peers might be using, or to keep exploring Trac.

    So what do you use to manage your projects?

  2. We’re using NetOffice at the moment (there’s a link in the sidebar).

    It’s okay (andfree, so can’t complain too much) – and we’ve made quite a few mods – but it’s not perfect. The basic codebase is quite old, and it’s a little tedious to use at times.

    I really like basecamp but it’s pretty pricey. I’d be happier purchasing it and installing it on my own server rather than having to cough up each month.

    But until a better sysem shows up on the radar NetOffice it is.

  3. Jason,

    Basecamp is sweet. I really dig how splendid it would be a tool to communicate with our clients. However, like you said, it’s quite pricey, for the features that it has. It doesn’t have features for development teams like source code version control, bug tracking, etc. I’d say for mainly design projects, Basecamp takes the cake. I think it’d be perfect if there’s a product that looks as good as Basecamp, and provide good features for development teams. Or maybe I should go ahead and develop one myself. Haha!

    Trac, on the other hand, is quite handy for development teams, but not so for clients. What I like about Trac is that it uses wiki and Subversion. But Trac may prove to be rather intimidating for clients. For what it’s worth, Trac really provides a fast and easy way of maintaining a project website. If you want to have a project website to communicate information to clients, and not need them to communicate back, then Trac would be great. Otherwise, your clients have to be quite savvy with raising bug or support tickets in order to do that.

    Having said all that, I’m staying with Trac for at least a few projects to see if it’s worth the trouble. One thing I must say, Trac wins the competition, at least for me, and proves to be much easy and pretty to use than all other project management tools out there. I took a quick look at NetOffice but didn’t really like what I see. But then, I haven’t actually given it a demo run, so that’s just an unfair comment.

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