In the present-day business environment, which is dynamic and uncertain, multiple projects management (MPM) as well as project portfolio management (PPM) are becoming common practices. High standards of managing multiple projects ensure that all the projects within a company contribute to achieving business objectives. At the same time, managing multiple projects is undoubtedly challenging. One of the aspects that is essential for the success of the final result and therefore requires particular attention is dependencies between projects.
What Are Project Dependencies and What Are Their Types?
To begin with, let’s define what is meant by a multi-project environment in this article: it will refer to both project portfolio and multiple projects that are run simultaneously. Their management differs from each other in the following ways .
Projects don’t exist in isolation: even a single project is dependent on a number of external and external factors and involves dependencies between its tasks. As for a multi-project environment, it’s a complicated system where dependencies between projects should be taken into account to make sure that priorities are right, the due dates won’t be missed, and costs won’t be overrun.
We can speak about project dependencies in case the success of a project depends on other projects. Also, projects may have common resources, budget, goals and in such a way be dependent on each other . Let’s consider these dependencies in detail.
Financial dependency exists when projects depend on the same financial factors. There can be a variety of such factors (e.g. unbudgeted expenses, changes in currency exchange rate, etc.) that should be taken into consideration to make sure that there won’t be significant cost overrun.
Market/interest dependency represents the complementary or competitive effects of projects on each other.
Resource dependency is the result of sharing the same resources, either human or material (e.g. failure of equipment in one project will affect the other projects that require the same equipment; an employee’s involvement in one project affects their availability for the other one).
Learning/experience dependency is about the knowledge or experience to be obtained in one project that will be used in the other project (e.g. a new process or technology is implemented in one project, and this experience will be used for the other one).
Outcome dependency refers to the results obtained upon completion of one project that will affect the implementation or success of the other one.
How to Manage Dependencies Between Projects
A multi-project environment can be compared to a gear wheel mechanism: if one of the gears is out of service, the whole mechanism will stop. So, the main reason for managing dependencies is to avoid the risks of inability to complete the project(s), which will negatively affect the other projects and overall result. Here are some basic steps for handling project dependencies.
Identify the types of dependencies.
To be able to manage dependencies between projects and avoid negative outcomes, the first thing that should be done is determining the types of dependencies that you will have to deal with. Identifying the types of dependencies will provide you with a vision of constraints that are likely to appear as a result.
Assess the risks
Having identified the areas of the projects that will be affected by the dependencies, it’s important to consider these dependency-related risks and manage them correspondingly.
The main idea here is to focus on the most critical constraints at this point in time. Setting the right priorities between projects and their constraints will significantly reduce the likelihood of bottlenecks in the project’s life cycle. For example, if there is a resource dependency between projects, their prioritization will be critically important to utilize the available resources in the most efficient way.
Review the dependencies regularly
Dependencies between projects in a multi-project environment is not something that can be dealt with only once: their management is rather an ongoing process. For example, changing circumstances outside the company (e.g. delay in raw materials delivery caused by bad weather) in the process of project implementation affects project A that is dependent on these circumstances. In turn, it will affect project B if there is a dependency between them. It means that corresponding changes will have to be made to project B as well. Therefore, as long as a multi-project environment is often accompanied by uncertainties and changes, dependencies between projects should be monitored and managed regularly.
Currently, there are a variety of multi-project management tools that make it much easier to manage dependencies between multiple projects. Here’s one of the examples.
What tools does Epicflow provide to handle dependencies?
As a software for managing multiple projects, Epicflow has the following features that help manage dependencies between projects.
Pipeline provides a comprehensive view of all your projects with their milestones. What is most important is that the ongoing projects are prioritized automatically by the system, so the projects that require maximum attention of a project manager, i.e. have the most critical constraints, will be shown on the top. The changes you make to your project will also be visible in real time. Also, you can share milestones between interdependent projects, which makes it easier to manage dependencies effectively.
In addition, in the Pipeline, you can see the Future Load Graph which demonstrates the load of your resources in the future depending on their current tasks. If the resources are going to be overloaded, you will be able to take corresponding measures to avoid bottlenecks related to resource unavailability. This tool is critically important for managing resource dependencies: it provides an opportunity to plan employees’ load in such a way that they will available for work on multiple projects without being overloaded at the same time.
These features represent only a small part of Epicflow’s potential for efficient management of multiple projects. Contact us if you have any questions regarding Epicflow’s functions in managing multi-project environment.
- Lowell D. Dye, James S. Pennypacker. (2000). Project Portfolio Management and Managing Multiple Projects: Two Sides of the Same Coin? Proceedings of the Project Management Institute Annual Seminars & Symposium. Houston, Texas, USA.
- Gozde Bilgin et al. (2017). Handling project dependencies in portfolio management. Procedia Computer Science, 121, 356–363.