The more companies grow, the more projects they have in progress at the same time. Managing workloads, keeping track of deadlines, and knowing what to prioritize can become complicated, which is why multi-project management is so vital. In this guide, we’ll outline how leaders use multi-project management to coordinate multiple projects, tasks, workers, and time. We’ll explore why having a multi-project management tool is important for organizing and managing work. 

What is multi-project management?

Multi-project management refers to the process of overseeing multiple active projects all at one time. It is often guided by a multi-project management framework which refers to the various stages of the project life cycle, from selection to planning, control, monitoring, and evaluation.

A multi-project program will summarize the various essential elements of a project. Having this information allows a company to create and consolidate repetitive tasks across multiple projects within a portfolio. This approach can help improve the efficiency of all projects in the department. 

Difference between project management and portfolio management

There are key differences between projects and portfolios but the biggest one lies in the very nature of what they are. 

A project is temporary, while a portfolio is ongoing. A project manager focuses on the requirements of an individual project, while a portfolio manager looks at all aspects of the organization’s operations. 

Project managers will also be able to appreciate the results of their work if they can relate to a single objective.

Tips for managing multiple projects

  • Start planning early. Having a project plan in place is very important when it comes to coordinating multiple projects. Use templates and task lists to outline key components before project kickoff
  • Manage time wisely. Pay attention to individual workloads when assigning tasks. Also, it's important to set some breaks so that the team can recharge and focus on the most important tasks. 
  • Prioritize individual tasks. Project managers need to know how and when to focus on the most critical tasks in a project. Doing so will help the organization achieve better results and minimize the time spent on non-important tasks.
  • Templatize repetitive actions. By batching tasks that are similar to or repetitive in different projects, you can work on them in the least amount of time possible.
    Keep plans flexible. It is very important that leaders are flexible and can alter their plans and goals as they see fit. Doing so helps avoid making common mistakes over and over again.
  • Find managerial balance. A great leader knows when to take command and when to trust their team. 
  • Create detailed tasks. Assign a specific time allotment or effort for each task along with individual due dates, approval assignments, and task descriptions. 
  • Encourage open communication. This is important because it allows teams to easily identify potential issues before they occur, which can be addressed before any major delays happen.

Multi-project management challenges

Like with any given project, there are infinite challenges you may experience. However, there are three common themes among the top multi-project management challenges. Here’s what they are and how to overcome them. 

Challenge: Lack of prioritization

Team members may have multiple tasks to do across a variety of projects and only so many hours to do them in. Cut down on analysis paralysis by deciding which tasks are a priority for them so they can make decisions on the flow and continue moving forward. 

Solution: Clear priority indicators 

Set individual priorities on tasks and update them as needed. 

Challenge: Miscommunication

Cross-functional teams, third-party vendors, and external stakeholders can easily lose sight of communications if they aren’t easy to access. 

Solution: Centralize discussions

Bring everyone together and give them controlled access to in-platform conversations, files, and tasks as needed. 

Challenge: Inefficient use of resources

Scheduling conflicts, budget constraints, and the occasional sick day can all throw a wrench in even the best-laid project plans. 

Solution: Improve visibility 

Use a project management solution that will allow you to see a macro view of all your projects in one multi-project management dashboard. 

What is a multi-project management dashboard?

A multi-project management dashboard is a project management tool that covers the various features of all your active projects in one easy-to-digest space. Through this dashboard, you can view all of your most important schedule, budget, and reporting metrics. 

Each project schedule and project plan are displayed as a percentage complete and status indicator for reference. The project budget displays planned costs vs. the actual costs in real time, while visual charts display the various resources, risks, and issues affecting the projects in play. They can also be used to create reports and chart-based data sets. 

You may already be familiar with using multi-project dashboards if you have experience with Agile project management. 

Features to look for in a multi-management project tool

Although some project apps offer these features, a true multi-management project tool will have each of the following:

  • Dashboards that give users a bird’s-eye view of all active projects
  • Detailed task descriptions that include individual effort indicators, deadlines, and in-task communication
  • Integrated planning and scheduling tools that make it easy to pinpoint potential roadblocks
  • Prioritization settings so that managers can indicate which areas should get the most resources and attention at the right time
  • In-platform communication with controlled access to project plans, files, and assets
  • Centralized document storage made accessible to all project team members
  • Real-time budget and scheduling updates for accurate resource allocation

How to implement multi-project management software

Like any other project, implementing a multi-project management software requires planning and preparation. This should include a variety of key steps and roles for everyone involved, as well as a plan for communicating with the team.

Before you dive into tool comparisons, the first step is to thoroughly assess your company’s needs. This will help you answer the most important questions, which will also inform the project’s overall budget.

Once you have decided on the type of software that will work best for your company, you can start to narrow down the providers by interviewing them and gathering feedback from other users. This step will give you a better understanding of how to use them and what your options are. 

During the execution phase, you will start converting data and preparing for the transition to the new platform. This is a critical step in the process, and it involves preparing for various scenarios.

One of the most challenging parts of a successful software roll-out is dealing with resistance from your staff members, especially if they’re already overwhelmed with a number of ongoing projects. Having people with varying levels of expertise can help manage this issue and keep the system running smoothly. 

Some software tools may even be ready within a day if you are able to dedicate time to quickly adding in project details and tasks. Get a jumpstart on this before you even purchase your next tool by taking stock of all current project workflows. 

Mapping out your organization's processes is an important step in the transition from an old to a new project management software. This will help you visualize how those processes operate and identify opportunities for improvement which can help you prevent or overcome them in the future. 

Implementing a multi-project management tool also works best if you can get the senior and middle managers to buy in first. They may be more likely to adopt the software if they see its effectiveness first-hand. List the activities that your team deals with and identify the key processes that have the most impact on achieving goals and targets.

How to manage multiple projects with Wrike

Wrike is an effective tool for project coordination no matter how many active projects you have on at the same time. With Wrike’s multi-project dashboards, you can quickly go over your work schedule, review progress, and approve changes where needed. It’s also a useful space for reflecting on projects and tasks throughout their entire lifecycle. 

But above all else, Wrike is the best tool for keeping track of the tasks that require the most effort. It does so by allowing you to rate the amount of work that each task requires. At the same time, you can keep up with all the details, such as deadlines and stakeholder approvals through detailed task descriptions. 

Creating a step-by-step breakdown structure for your tasks is the easiest way to make them more efficient. That’s why Wrike offers an automated workflow system to help you create a copy of all your past tasks and trigger the next steps in real time.

With Wrike, you can easily evaluate your progress and assign tasks to specific projects. This eliminates the need to wait for the projects to finish before getting a more detailed view into what else is going on. 

This level of transparency holds employees accountable and provides greater visibility into vital project aspects that will cut down on miscommunications and unnecessary questions. Plus, Wrike allows managers to plan each project's goals and assign people to oversee the work so that everyone knows what's expected of them. This will make it easier to get done and reduce stress.

And with Wrike's Report Builder, users can customize the data so that it only reviews the most important metrics with updates made in real time so you never miss a beat. 

In conclusion

Multi-project management is a process that can be easily used to jump-start various projects while keeping everything organized in one place. Having a solid foundation like the kind Wrike can provide will allow you to focus on what matters most instead of starting from scratch each time you begin, work on, or finish another project. Start Wrike’s free trial today to begin mastering the art of multi-project management.