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  • Prem Sundaram

Managing Multiple Projects Successfully

Updated: Feb 1

As a project manager you are most likely managing multiple projects, and as a result you need to rely on a project management information system as much as best practice project management processes. Unfortunately there is surprisingly little information about this real world topic!


Sure there are lots of 'project management' software tools and methods, but when you are in the real world and need examples of projects management information then things become a bit harder and project managers end up creating or stumbling into their own systems to use. This is not the stuff taught at the project management institute or on an agile project management course!


Project Note Stacks in NoteDex application
Image of Projects represented as Stacks in NoteDex

In this article we will explore, from one information management project manager to another, how to mentally and visually organize your day to day projects to remain at maximum productivity. We will explore the key elements of an effective project management information system and what you need to know as you put yours together.


The world is everchanging, and many of us are easing back into "normal" life after over a year of uncertainty. But some things don’t change - it is nearly impossible to manage all of your thoughts and ideas without writing them down in one place. How do we get back into the groove of handling our time and multiple projects?



What is a project management information system (PMIS)?


Simply put, a project management information system is a set of tools and methods, along with a documented way of using them to organize your thoughts. You might have a physical planner or notebook or you might have a website for this purpose. Either way, it's your personalized system that helps you as you manage multiple projects.


A project management information system is a "living" tool. It's not a one-time thing, it's an ongoing process you have to maintain and use over time. Because your organization is always changing the structure of your projects, you will need to add tools, add notes and add pages to your PMIS as well! All in all, it's a very powerful tool for you as a project manager to stay on top of things and keep the projects moving.


Project management information systems don't have to be fancy or new or super-technical. You can make your own notebook with a spiral, stapled binding. All you need is something that helps you organize your thoughts and tools!


The PMIS is the cornerstone of good project management, good control and proper communication. You can't be an effective project manager if you don't have one.

An article by Lori Bregman published on project-management.org says that 1 in 5 projects fails due to lack of effective project management information systems. That's scary!



The Role of Project Management


Project management itself is a process that enables an organization to plan and carry out projects efficiently and effectively. There are many things that project managers do, including:


-Planning each project

-Evaluating risks

-Obtaining resources for the project

-Delegating tasks to team members

-Communicating with stakeholders



The Importance of Regular Meetings


Regular meetings are critical to keeping the momentum and communication going in a project. Scheduling a regular meeting is a crucial element to monitoring productivity. Whether it be a video chat, phone call, or face-to-face, select one to form a habit. It not only provides a guaranteed check-in but also provides a mechanism for expecting progress. Once you decide on a regular meeting time with your team, stick to that schedule to keep up to date. You will be pleased with what you can accomplish by having an allotted time to collaborate. During the meeting, focus on the goals to be achieved and the challenges that are arising.



Elements of a Project Management Information System


There are many different elements of a good project management information system, but some of the most important ones include:


-The ability to plan each project

-The ability to capture new information from meetings and research in an organized way

-The ability to quickly access information

-The ability to share information with project team members

-The ability to archive the information after the project finishes.


NoteDex is our tool that can help boost your productivity and organization. In this article, we will use NoteDex to show how to manage projects efficiently using NoteDex and how it supports each of the 5 elements above.




1. Plan each Project at a High Level


Planning is the key to success when it comes to project management.


Missing a single detail can result in an entire project failing, and there's no worse feeling than knowing that your failure was due to something you could have avoided.


But planning doesn't just help with avoiding failures-it also helps you succeed! When you know what's coming up ahead of time, it becomes much easier to prepare for potential problems. This means that good planning will not only prevent disasters but also provide the foundation for future successes.


For this reason, every good PMIS has space allotted specifically for planning each project so that all team members are on the same page about what needs to be done next. If your system lacks this feature, consider adding pages for this purpose using NoteDex.

Building a project plan might be the most important part of a project, but it's certainly not the only part.



Brainstorming


One of the very useful techniques for planning out a project is to outline the project at the high level. This a trick that advanced project managers know. You might outline the project on a whiteboard, in Word or in a 'Mind Map'.


My recommendation is to outline the high level first in a mind map to capture your unorganized thoughts and ideas first, and then create a new Project Management stack in NoteDex. At this initial stage of project planning, you want all your ideas and creativity captured.



Image of Index Card with Mindmap drawing
Example of a mind-map - very helpful in brainstorming the outline of a project

Then create a set of cards, one for each outline topic, using the title for the outline text. You can then use the body area of the NoteDex index card for further elaborating on this step/task of the project.


If your project has multiple stages or themes you can use the groups and tabs in NoteDex to classify and organize your project management tasks.



Project Tasks

You can write down all of your goals, milestones, and tasks, then rearrange them in order of priority. From there, you can assign due dates and specific people to complete tasks.


Especially when working with a team, the high-level discussion and planning help comprehend the project. Everyone needs to be on the same page!


In addition to planning your next steps, you also need to check up on past progress and make decisions about what needs to be changed moving forward. This is why every good PMIS has a space for research and meeting notes-it's so easy to forget things in the heat of the moment, and it's always good to have a place for them!



NoteDex Tip:

You may create a stack for each project, which will hold all notes, to-dos, and ideas related to that project. You can identify your projects quickly by personalizing the title and thumbnail of your stacks – we find an image logo or picture that helps you organize visually.


NoteDex has a very information-dense and quick interface, which is ideal for anyone managing projects. One of the many helpful features of NoteDex is that the cards display in order, so when you come back to them, you can pick up right where you left off.


Learn More


2. Capture new project management information from meetings and research in an organized way


Captured meeting notes, research points and decisions in a neat outline inside your project stack in NoteDex. Your next note is organized in date order next to the last meeting note or idea, logically. It is critical that your project management information system allows you to build up this historical knowledge of the project so that you and your project management team can reference data in the future.


NoteDex Tip:

This is one of the key issues that NoteDex solves, all those random notes in various software (e.g. Meeting notes in Word, Evernote, OneNote, Apple Notes etc.) cause project managers to forget and lose track of where the project management information is. By using NoteDex for your project management process you will have an effective project management information system that you can rely on, knowing where your meeting and project notes are.


The capture of data is the critical first step in a effective project management information system and good project managers know this and have formulated their own system, using whichever tool they choose, as part of their project management process. The responsibility is also on the shoulders of the project managers, since they are the lead person for organizing the project. And in today's environment especially when we have project managers working remotely, a project management information system that can capture data and be used anywhere is critical for project success.

With NoteDex you can capture your notes on the web, the desktop app or your on your smartphone.




3. Quickly access Project Management information


The ability to quickly access information is one of the next criterial for a project management information system. You can never know all the project management information you're going to want before it arises, and when you're in a meeting or conducting research, it's important that you can take notes and then retrieve them quickly and efficiently.


If a project manager or project management team is disciplined in saving the data into a NoteDex stack, then you will benefit from the rapid information retrieval capabilities of NoteDex, including;

  • Viewing small image thumbnails of each note so you can quickly 'see' the note you are looking for

  • Text search for a keyword

  • Finding a card within a folder or by filtering on a tag

  • Sorting of cards by order created, date created or by title.

You can see that such a tool will immensely help a project management team quickly advance its conversations during the project meetings, since people are not struggling to find the important management information needed. The project team will be more efficient and the team members can focus on analyzing the project information rather than looking for it!

4. Share information with project team members


Another important criterion for a good project management information system is the ability to share information easily with project members. In order for a project manager to be effective, he or she needs timely and accurate information. And in order for this to happen, the project manager needs to have a system where he or she can share this information easily with other project team members.


In NoteDex, you can share your project management information by generating a link to the stack (or individual cards) and sending it to your team members. They can then open the link and view the information without having to have NoteDex installed on their computer. You can also optionally password protect the link so that only authorized people can view it. This makes it easy for your project team to have the information they need at their fingertips, whenever they need it.


The ability to add notes from anywhere makes it very efficient for project managers to get more information from the team and capture the holistic view of the project.

5. Archive the information after the project finishes.


Project managers know that the last stage of project management processes is to 'close' the project. It's the stage in project management when you confirm and document all the deliverables and archive information appropriately.


An important criterion for a good project management information system is the ability to archive the information after the project finishes. This is so that you can keep a record of the project and so that you can use the information later on, if needed.


NoteDex Tip:

In NoteDex, you can archive a project stack for recall later. You can also archive your information by exporting it to a PDF or an Excel file. You can then store the PDF or Excel file on your computer or email it to someone else. This makes it easy for you to have a record of your project and to be able to refer back to it later on, if needed.

Project Management Information System Tools


A complex project means many deliverables and lots of information. In addition to managing project information described above, you should use task tracking tools and project management tools to manage the schedule/milestones and tasks. Cross your tasks off the list by moving them around to a completed category or change their title to 'complete."


Though not designed as a 'to-do' app, NoteDex is a great visual tool to keep track of To-Do tasks that arise and don’t fit into other project-management task software tools. You can add Tags to categorize your cards into To-Do, In-Progress, and Complete. Better yet, change the color of your cards to indicate your progress-- green for To-Do, yellow for In-Progress, and red for Completed, or whichever colors you prefer.


Having these visuals will help you feel accomplished and give you an idea of what else needs to get finished. Have fun with it and craft your system to a method that works best for you!


Managing multiple projects requires good planning, good communication, and retrieving information when you need it. It is no surprise, we believe that NoteDex is an excellent tool to help manage projects, and we hope you find it helpful too!

Conclusion


In this article we learned about the importance of a good project management information system as the cornerstone for successful project management. We see that there are five elements to this which include the abilities to:


- Plan each project

- Capture new information from meetings and research in an organized way

- Quickly access information

- Share information with project members

- Archive the information after the project finishes.


Whichever project management information system you choose to use as long as it supports you in each of these five areas of project management then you will be well supported for project success. Of course, project success is not entirely dependent on the your software tools, but having good project management software, project management processes and good project managers will all contribute to the success of the project.


How do you and your project managers manage information? I'd be interested to know what project management software and which project management methods you use so we can further this discussion about project management information systems and how we can better optimize our NoteDex app to support the while project lifecycle.


Managing multiple projects requires good planning, good communication, and retrieving information when you need it. It is no surprise, we believe that NoteDex is an excellent tool to help manage projects, and we hope you find it helpful too!


Cheers!

Prem










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