Whether at work or in everyday life, we don’t like to appear in situations where we don’t know which way to turn because there are too many tasks, and everything is important. However, it’s common in the modern fast-paced project environment — overlapping deadlines, the same resources required for several projects, or competing stakeholder requirements, to name a few.

How to deal with a lot of competing priorities, and ensure they don’t affect the success of your projects? Let’s figure it out in the article.

What Are Competing Priorities, and Why Is It Important to Tackle Them?

In project management, competing priorities denote situations in which various project tasks, goals, and requirements compete for limited resources (employees, budget, and time). When unmanaged, these conflicts lead to challenges hampering timely and successful project delivery. In a multi-project environment, this issue is especially acute, as there are dependencies between multiple projects in addition to relationships between project tasks.

Let’s review some competing priorities examples:

  • Scope vs. schedule.

This means that completing the required project scope will extend a project schedule.

  • Resource conflicts.

The same team member is required for multiple tasks or projects simultaneously.

  • Quality vs. cost.

Ensuring the highest quality of project outcomes may require additional resources, including project costs.

  • Risk management vs. innovation.

Risk management aims to mitigate all possible risk-bearing events, while innovation is always accompanied by uncertainty and risks.

  • Conflicting stakeholder requirements.

Different project stakeholders may pose competing requirements.

Now let’s review the crucial factors that contribute to the emergence of competing priorities.

Reasons for competing priorities


In addition to the triple constraints of project management (time, scope, and cost), there can be resource constraints, as the number of people involved in a project is always limited. This may result in the above-mentioned conflicts between project timeline and scope, quality and budget. So, ensuring that the project will be delivered within time and budget frames at the required quality under conditions of resource constraints can be quite challenging.

Changing requirements

Though changing requirements are inevitable, they can extend a project’s scope and lead to competing priorities, e.g., the need to complete the extended scope within the limited timeline or the need to assign more resources while there aren’t any available ones.

Multiple stakeholders

Stakeholders can be project sponsors, customers, project team members, or other parties interested in project execution. All of them may have different objectives, requirements, and needs, which may lead to competing priorities.

Innovations and technological advancements

Implementing innovations is a must for a company aiming for a competitive advantage in any industry. At the same time, it may require additional costs, human resources, or cause project delays.

External factors

Changes in customers’ needs, marketing dynamics, regulatory changes, and other external events affecting the project budget, time, and scope will lead to competing priorities.

Why is it important to manage competing priorities?

Managing competing priorities will allow you to:

  • Ensure smooth workflow;
  • Use available resources efficiently;
  • Prevent people from overload;
  • Avoid bottlenecks and reduce risks;
  • Increase team members’ productivity and efficiency;
  • Improve project outcomes.

In a nutshell, managing competing priorities will let you deliver your projects timely and successfully regardless of existing constraints. Let’s explore the strategies that will help you manage competing priorities as they arise in the project flow.

How to Handle Competing Priorities in Project Management: 5 Effective Strategies

Managing conflicting priorities aims to ensure alignment between a project and a company’s goals, intelligent resource management, streamlining project work, and delivering the expected project outcomes. The strategies listed below will help you address conflicting priorities effectively and keep a project on track.

1. Identify conflicting priorities.

This first step involves recognizing the issue: determining conflicting goals, tasks, or projects that are in competition for the same resources (have overlapping due dates, competing requirements, limited budget and demand for high quality, etc.). By listing all priorities and their respective demands, you can gain a comprehensive view of the potential conflicts. This priority list will become the basis for making decisions on addressing these conflicts.

2. Assess their alignment with project/business goals.

Once conflicting priorities are identified, you should assess their impact on achieving project and business outcomes. Evaluate how each priority contributes to the project’s success and is aligned with the organization’s strategic goals. Tasks or projects with a higher impact on critical outcomes should be prioritized. This assessment helps understand the significance of each priority and make decisions that correspond to the broader objectives of the organization. Also, this will ensure that resources are allocated to tasks that drive the organization forward.

3. Use scenario analysis to find ways to resolve the conflict between priorities.

Scenario analysis is a powerful tool for resolving conflicting priorities. By simulating different changes in the workflow and their potential outcomes, you can analyze various ways to address these conflicts and come up with the most effective one. For example, to address a resource conflict, you can reallocate resources, add more employees, establish more realistic deadlines, etc., assess the impact of these actions, and choose an optimum strategy.

4. Discuss your findings with stakeholders.

Effective communication and collaboration with stakeholders as well as providing them with regular updates are crucial in priority management. Once you’ve identified potential solutions with the help of scenario analysis, you should discuss them with key stakeholders. Engaging them in decision-making ensures that you’ve addressed their concerns and requirements, which will enhance their support for the chosen strategy.

5. Use a robust project management tool.

A robust project/resource management tool can significantly simplify the management of competing priorities. These tools help visualize the highest priority tasks, monitor progress, adjust plans, and make informed decisions. Let’s take a quick look at their capabilities using the example of Epicflow, a multi-project resource management software.

Epicflow is designed to address the complexity of multi-project management, so preventing and addressing conflicting priorities is the core principle of its functionality. Here are some examples of its capabilities.

Project and task prioritization

Epicflow’s task management features automatically create a prioritized task list for every team member so that they can forget about competing task priorities and bad multitasking. When there’s a resource conflict in project portfolio management, Epicflow prompts you to reschedule the projects in accordance with their business value and employee availability.

Smart resource allocation

Epicflow facilitates intelligent resource allocation based on team members’ skills, availability, and capacity. This eliminates the possibility of resource conflicts in a multi-project environment and increases the efficiency of project work.

Performance analysis

Epicflow provides multi-faceted real-time visibility into performance analysis, which helps detect conflicting priorities and bottlenecks early on.

Scenario analysis

Making prioritization decisions across conflicting priorities is challenging due to uncertainty. Epicflow’s What-if analysis provides an opportunity to test various scenarios and find an optimum way of resolving conflicting priorities.

Forecasting potential roadblocks

With Epicflow, you can forecast people’s future capacity and workload and use these insights to prevent resource conflicts, bottlenecks, and potential issues in the future.

As we see, Epicflow works as a single platform enabling smooth workflow and optimum resource utilization across multiple complex projects. You can contact our experts to explore more of its capabilities.

By implementing these impactful strategies, project managers can effectively manage competing priorities, ensuring that the most critical tasks are addressed and the project remains on track to achieve its objectives.

It’s better to prevent a problem than to solve it; the following tips provide actionable insights into how to avoid competing priorities from the outset.

5 Tips On Preventing Conflicting Priorities

Plan projects thoroughly

Start with defining the scope, objectives, deliverables, time frames, and required resources for each project. Detailed planning helps in identifying potential conflicts early on and provides a clear roadmap for project execution. At the same time, a project plan shouldn’t be too deterministic and allow for flexibility. Using project management software with predictive capabilities will make this task much easier — you can forecast future competing priorities and resolve them before a project starts.

Plan resources and their capacity

Effective resource and capacity planning is critical to preventing resource conflicts, delays, and unbudgeted expenses. So when assigning people to projects or tasks, you should take into account their availability and capacity. This will also help you prevent employees from overload and avoid bottlenecks.

Prioritize projects and tasks

When it seems that multiple tasks or projects are equally important, you should establish a prioritization strategy for them, which will help you set the true priorities. You can use such decision criteria as business value, project deadlines, and resource availability to prioritize projects and tasks. Thanks to prioritization, critical projects will receive the required resources, which will contribute to achieving a company’s business goals.

Monitor project and resource performance

Tracking project metrics and resource performance should be an ongoing process allowing for the timely detection and prevention of conflicts and bottlenecks that can have a disruptive impact on the whole project environment.

Make data-driven decisions

Making decisions based on accurate data helps prioritize tasks, reallocate resources, develop and adjust project plans, and resolve competing priorities, which enhances overall project success.

Following these tips will let you proactively prevent conflicting priorities, ensuring that projects are executed smoothly and deliver the desired outcomes.

Key Takeaways

  1. Competing priorities arise when project tasks, goals, and requirements compete for the same resources (employees, time, budget).
  2. The sources of competing priorities include constraints, changing requirements, competing stakeholder needs, the need for innovation, and external factors.
  3. To resolve conflicting priorities, you should identify them, assess, their impact, test different ways of resolving them, and discuss your decision with relevant stakeholders. Use modern project management tools to help you. 
  4. A systematic approach involving proper project and resource planning, prioritization, regular performance analysis, and data-driven decision-making will help you prevent competing priorities.