Project Management

Best Practices for Managing Multi-Stage Projects for Agencies

Mindaugas Gluchovskis ·

Managing Multi-Stage Projects

Agency project managers often find themselves at a crossroads when managing multi-stage projects. There are a lot of factors to consider, and no amount of risk analysis will make prioritization easier. However, not everything can be a priority, and every decision you make to push back is bound to upset a stakeholder or two. 

Managing multi-stage projects can be simple. With the proper project management techniques, you can breeze through these challenges. 

Agency project management 101 

Every project manager knows the key to a well-executed project: a realistic project plan. However, creating a project plan isn’t always straightforward as there may be dependencies along the way — or maybe clients would change their minds and want to add another feature. 

Therefore, you must create a project plan that is as detailed as possible.

Try to forecast your milestones and when you need to deliver them. Know your resources, allocate them accordingly, and create a resource pool you can draw from in case of contingencies. Try to add visualization to your project plans so you can tell at a glance what needs to be done. These are great workflow visualization tools I would start with.

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Gantt chart milestones on Teamhood

Next, monitor your projects efficiently. Make sure there are no impediments and your resources are working at a comfortable capacity. Identify any potential roadblocks before they become issues and address them accordingly. 

Finally (and this is the part many agency project managers struggle with), manage the projects.

Agency project management often requires PMs to commit to impossible deadlines to keep clients happy. However, the reality is that saying yes to additional features without adding time to the schedule or money to the budget contradicts project management principles. You cannot add to the scope without affecting the budget and the schedule. 

What should you do the next time a client comes to you with another unique feature to be added to the project?

This would be an excellent time to manage client expectations. Listen to them, understand what they’re asking for, and say you’ll get back to them about the timelines and implications of the project.

Don’t say yes immediately — consult your development team first and make an informed decision once you have seen your project plans. Communicate this change effectively to all concerned stakeholders, and if there are no issues and you can comfortably move forward, you can commit to your client.  

Leveraging epics and features in multi-stage projects

Now that you understand how to manage client expectations properly, it’s time to know how you can effectively manage multi-stage projects. A multi-stage project is bound to be challenging if it’s your first time driving a complex project, but don’t worry — just like any project, this has a beginning and an end. 

chilc item levels
Item levels in Teamhood

Multi-stage projects are often broken down into phases, each with its milestones and deliverables. In agile project management, this could be characterized by Epics and Features.

To make it more helpful to project managers using a different methodology, think of multi-stage projects as those requiring you to work in a hierarchical order.

Say, for example, that we are running a marketing campaign. Your Epics (major phases) could be Ideation, Creation, Execution, and Reporting. Under Ideation, you can have Features (milestones) such as a Campaign plan, secure budget, and seek sponsorship. Under these milestones, you have smaller tasks required to complete your features. 

In a perfect world, you only have one project with multiple epics. But in reality, agency project managers would have to run several multi-stage projects simultaneously. At times like this, organizing your tasks and prioritizing would be very daunting. 

Tips for managing multi-stage projects

Here are a few tips to help you manage all your multi-stage projects:

  • Create your own dashboard. 

Each project should have its own project plan, which should be translated into your project management tool, such as the Teamhood Task Board. But if you manage multiple projects, integrate your plans into one cohesive dashboard. This way, you could see your Epics and Features to tell at a glance what you would need to prioritize. 

Explore the interactive Teamhood task list template firsthand:

  • Be mindful of resource planning. 

It is always ideal to allocate only 80% of your resource capacity — always allot 20% to the unknown. Having this bandwidth would be helpful if you come across emergencies and contingencies. 

If you’re managing multiple projects and sharing resources among them, it would be helpful to have a resource calendar. This lets you immediately check which resource would be available for your needs and which could act as a backup. 

There is always a better way to approach prioritization: you should prioritize tasks and deliverables based on their urgency and importance. Gauge what would be the risk if you were unable to complete something, and gauge which one you can deal with. Ideally, all your projects should be running on track — but if you are handling multi-stage projects and you only have limited resources, then you would have to compromise on some of these deliverables. 

Many project managers think that multitasking will save the day, but the reality is that multitasking can often delay a project.

Instead, use the Pomodoro Technique: set a timer and focus on a specific task until your time is up. This allows you to be hyper-focused on the task at hand and put all your attention on it. After you are done, work on the next problem, and so on, until your task list is all ticked off. 

And if you have too much on your plate, don’t hesitate to delegate. Your job as the project manager is to ensure that the project is running on track, and you cannot do that if you are swamped. Deputize some of these tasks and automate those that you can. 

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Find out how you can start saving more time with Teamhood productivity tips.

Conclusion

Even in the agency setting, project management consistently follows the same principle. You cannot change the scope of a project without affecting its delivery deadline and budget. You must create a detailed and accurate project plan to manage your projects properly.

Managing several projects simultaneously can be very tricky, but having a trusty project management tool such as Teamhood could help you be more organized. With a good tool, you have a good idea of your project deliverables and prioritize your resources accordingly. 

When planning your resources and priorities, try to use the Eisenhower matrix. This allows you to make informed decisions based on what is most important to your projects. 

Finally, delegate and deputize your tasks to ensure you can properly pay attention to your project. If you need help focusing, try the Pomodoro technique to keep you on track. 

As always, all projects, even complicated and multi-stage ones, must end. You can successfully lead these projects with minimal complications with proper project planning, monitoring, and project management.  

Are you looking for an effective project management tool? Check out Teamhood, which has visualizations and intuitive UI to help you manage multiple projects simultaneously. Click here to learn more.

mindaugas avatar
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2019 - Present Marketing specialist

Innovative content marketeer with MSc in International Communication, Mindaugas brings fresh ideas and inspiration about project management and beyond.

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