Most project organizations exist in a multi-project environment. This environment creates the problems of project inter dependency and the need to share resources.
For example, what would be the impact on the labor resource pool of a construction company if it should win a contract it would like to bid on?
Will existing labor be adequate to deal with the new project—given the completion date? Will current projects be delayed? Will subcontracting help? Which projects will have priority?
Competition among project managers can be contentious.
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All project managers seek to have the best people for their projects.
The problems of sharing resources and scheduling resources across projects grow exponentially as the number of projects rises.
In multi-project environments the stakes are higher and the benefits or penalties for good or bad resource scheduling become even more significant than in most single projects.
Resource sharing also leads to multitasking.
Multitasking involves starting and stopping work on one task to go and work on another project, and then returning to the work on the original task.
People working on several tasks concurrently are far less efficient, especially where conceptual or physical shutdown and start-up are significant. Multitasking adds to delays and costs. Changing priorities exacerbate the multitasking problems even more.
Likewise, multitasking is more evident in organizations that have too many projects for the resources they command.
The number of small and large projects in a portfolio almost always exceeds the available resources (typically by a factor of three to four times the available resources). This capacity overload inevitably leads to confusion and inefficient use of scarce organizational resources.
The presence of an implementation gap, of power politics, and of multitasking adds to the problem of which projects are allocated resources first.
Employee morale and confidence suffer because it is difficult to make sense of an ambiguous system.
A multi project organization environment faces major problems without a priority system that is clearly linked to the strategic plan. In essence, to this point we have suggested that many organizations have no meaningful process for addressing the problems we have described.
The first and most important change that will go a long way in addressing these and other problems is the development and use of a meaningful project priority process for project selection.