3

I work in a consulting/agency and am currently the only developer and deep-technical person there. Therefore I am currently assignt to 6-7 projects in which I have different roles from developer to architect or technical project manager. Most of the tasks, even if they are of conceptual nature, are broken down to tickets, but they are in different jiras and asanas.

I have the feeling that a large part of my time is spent organizing and prioritizing my work. In particular, I'm trying to set up a system with our PMs so that we have all the tasks from the different jiras in one bundled system. Unfortunately, this results in a huge mountain of tasks that hardly motivate me to tackle them, so I organize prioritized tasks in a trello for the week. But I waste so much time with transfer tasks.

Furthermore, it is always exhausting to jump between projects and go from an appointment with customer A (e.g. Microsoft Environment) to an appointment with customer B (e.g. AWS Environment). In addition, I have learned to delegate tasks in the meantime and then in the middle of working on project 1 a colleague comes to me with a showstopper question on project 2 which has to be answered.

Do you have a good approach on how I can manage my tasks efficiently? Do you do single days per project for example Monday - project A, Tuesday - project B,... and how do you organize that so you can keep track of things?

Update 26/08/20: The management knows about it and is also recruiting. But that is very difficult at the moment because we are in a region with many big players. We have already set up a role model together with the management, which actually sees me at the back of the line and reserves me for the difficult cases, while the technical colleagues work away the operative tasks such as configurations.

I think the most important thing would be a tool to bring order to the tasks first and then I would have to successively find the tasks that I can delegate without spending a lot of time or that are large enough that it is justified to train an employee in the project. As a second step, after my vacation, I would then no longer get involved in all projects, but leave the simple cases with the colleagues who replaced me on vacation. Is this going in the right direction?

  • How much of your work is new development vs. putting out fires? – Sarov Aug 25 at 14:50
  • It changes weekly. I would say 20% development, 10% conception, 70% putting out fires. – 0x30 Aug 25 at 18:02
  • Time to tell the powers that be that you need help! Perhaps a down-line that you can manage. – Mike Robinson Aug 25 at 19:29
  • Management is already informed. I updated the question with some additional information – 0x30 Aug 26 at 7:10
  • 1
    There is only one of you but by implication, several project managers competing for your resources. Does each have an agreed percentage of your time each week, or could they in total ask for more than your full time? If so, can they / would they be prepared to negotiate and agree on your time allocation? – Iain9688 Aug 26 at 11:37
3

Try to bring the work to you

I would suggest to create a Kanban board for yourself and allow people the option to give you work. Have columns like:

To do| In progress | ... | Done 
-----|-------------|-----|------
     |             |     |

You take work from the top of the "To do" column and you work on it. Once it's done or you have more capacity, you take some other ticket from the top of the "To do" column. People on the various projects can only change what's in the "To do" column. They decide what work is needed, they meet together and set priorities, they are the ones that will place items in the "To do" column.

You just let everyone else fight for their chance of using you in their projects, and you don't care about anything else than for work to show up in the "To do" column. When there are not enough tickets there you just let everyone know and telling them to add more tickets.

You keep everything visible, you keep everything transparent, communicate clearly, set proper WIP limits on each column, then focus on your work. By visualizing the work you can later figure out how everything is going, where are the pain points, how you can improve, etc.

Of course, this would be the ideal case. To let others figure out how you can help everyone, and let them organize between themselves to get access to a shared resource. Because this is the problem. You are a shared professional between different projects. It's not really your problem, it's the projects' problem.

The other option is obvious:

Have copies of yourself

That can be done by you training others to do you job, so they don't have to share you, or for the company to hire more people with your skills and then split the load between more people.

Both options will have their pros and cons for you and for everyone else, but something must be done because you can't juggle with 6-7 projects for too long. You will burn out and things will fall through the cracks.

| improve this answer | |
  • We work in such a way that the team (customer and us) estimates & picks tasks in a two weekly planning. So I have my tasks. But it's hard to keep the overview because every customer uses his own system and I have to click through 7 systems to know all the tasks. Otherwise I copy them into my Trello (Kanban) board, but then they are not up to date. The problem is also that I can not only be assigned tasks, because I am often in charge of the project as a consultant or sub-project manager. This means that I am often invited to meetings or have to exchange ideas with customers. – 0x30 Aug 25 at 18:09
  • Training other people is difficult because it is an investment of time which pays off in the future. I have almost no time for that initially. On the other hand we don't have people who can do it. What makes my role special is that I am able to familiarize myself with new questions or areas in a short time and keep the overall view. This is difficult to teach but in my opinion must come from an intrinsic motivation. At most, I could give up parts of my work like coding. – 0x30 Aug 25 at 18:09
  • You need help, even if it's an assistant that handles your Trello board and makes sure the information is in sync with 7 other systems. You can't work 6-7 projects, with tasks, meetings, subcontracting, firefighting, etc, non-stop, without burning out. I think that you are so caught up in how things are taking place that you forgot to take a few steps back and look at the big picture... – Bogdan Aug 25 at 19:27
  • ...For example, you mention you put out fires 70% of your time. To me that means that your estimating and two week planning is probably waste because you get called in meetings and there can always be some fire to mess all of it up. So why estimate or plan when you can work on what's comming your way. I don't know the full situation, but take a pause and look at it from afar. See what things can be taken of your plate, and have management help you with that. If they don't, then they are not doing their job. – Bogdan Aug 25 at 19:28
  • FYI – the issue that "each customer uses his own system" is an unfortunate but predictable vexation for consulting situations. The consulting agency has to graft itself onto the customer's present manner of doing business without fundamentally disrupting it. – Mike Robinson Aug 25 at 19:33
1

It's pretty easy. First thing you have to understand that everybody considers you a free resource. Nobody cares what you do for other projects as you are free. That is why it's easier to dump a task to you then to do it themselves. You should follow those simple steps (you need some task management system for that like Jira or Trello):

  1. Start the formal process of accepting the tasks. Correctly structured task can save you a lot of time. If the task is not correct - reject it immediately. Make those putting tasks putting effort in saving your time.

  2. Set a cost for yourself with your management. Let's say if a person requesting a task they have to bring the X amount of money to the company in X time or they would be penalized. So for example, if a person requests new authorization system for the site, they need to say that it will bring 1 200$ within one year the project is done, or 100$ per month.

2.1 You say you need to spend 4 days to make this system rolling, and let's say you make 50$ per day.

2.2. So the cost of this module is 200$ and it will make 1 200 in one year.

  1. This is your prioirty factor. Just range the tasks based on what it will make for the company. And YES everyone who makes a task has to commit to additional revenue. Because it's business you know, it's all about money.

People will be hesitant to that, as you share the responsibility with them. So if they want you to switch projects, why not? You say it will take you:

3.1. Two days to finish current project at logical breakpoint

3.2. 4 days develop new task

3.3. 2 days get into previous project again.

  1. In the end it's all about money. If people are ready to invest their commitment and be help responsible for revenues, they will start thinking before making a task.

4.1. All prioritization will be natural

4.2. Your boss will be happy that you care about his money.

| improve this answer | |
  • Thank you. The problem with this approach is that we work entirely for customer projects. These are billed on a daily rate. This means that no matter which project I am involved in, it brings the company >1.000€ per 8h. Therefore the financial incentive is not target-oriented. And since we appreciate the tasks quite liberally anyway, it's no problem for the customers if I book a little more time because I need to get into the project. It's just an internal problem that deadlines can't be met because I have more work than hours a week, even if the company is paid by the customer for this time. – 0x30 Aug 26 at 13:55
  • Use the fair estimate if you would outsource your job. If your revenue is so high that you are doing more than several k Euro per day and your boss is still with you alone. Then it's time for you to consider your job. As you are being milked by people. You should not take projects first place, you don't have resources for. – Undry Aug 26 at 14:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.