Optimal size & number of projects
I've often been struggling with partitioning a body of work (e.g., everything for customer X) in the right number of projects. Let's see...
Too big a project: When subprojects emerge
Some years ago, I was migrating a webshop from Drupal to WordPress. Along the way, pretty much everything got reinvented. Originally, the project was called Kbshop. Subsequently, it spawned into a bunch of projects (or subprojects), called Kbhop01 to Kbshop15.
In hindsight, these were 15 different projects:
- Some of these subprojects were really small and others contains endless folders with subsubprojects or something like that
- Whenever I need to find something back, I still tend to be surprised when I find it somewhere within the folder Kbshop: Wasn't that about migrating a site to WordPress?
- Heterogenious expertise → See separate chapter.
BTW, whenever the term subproject is used, it's probably already a sign that the project is too big.
Too big a project: Heterogeneous expertises?
Another example involving the project Kbshop from the previous chapter: These 15 subprojects were heterogenious concerning the kind of work that was involved. E.g., Kbshop11 was about launching a prototype site at a certain URL and Kbshop15 had to do with business development.
That's probably a sign that these should be separate projects, although not always: Every project probably involved heterogeneous expertise, like a content writer and a theme-developer working together on a site.
When this is an issue: When you actually would have to have to different project teams.
Too many projects: "Where does this belong?"
Maybe a sign that a body of work is partitioned in too many projects: When it's difficult to decide whether task X should belong at project Y or project Z.
I believe that clustering (e.g., using tags) can be really helpful in such situations: Keep it one project, but use clustering to create different views.
Too many projects: Diminishing overview
Similar to the previous chapter: When there are too many projects, it will become really hard for me to understand what any specific project is about. Especially when dependencies amongst these projects start to appear - That's driving me nuts.
Should projects be without any outside dependencies at all? I doubt if this could be a general rule.
Not a criterion: Too many items in Trello
I don't think that it is much of a criterion when there are too many lists and/or tasks in the used project management apps (like Trello or Notion):
- BrushFace was one of the projects in 2020-2023 that went really well. It was actually a collection of projects, all run on one Trello board. It had about 150 tasks and that was never an issue
- Too many tasks? No worries: Just make sure that there are at least a couple of tasks that people can work on, while the next tasks are being reviewed.
Example: How to do it right
Juhu! Let's see if I can fix this:
At one point I had projects/Trello boards like these:
|BrushFace||Everyhing related to site interface & custom site functionality, because these two things were developed by the same person. This was actually a collection of about 7 different projects. They were not related to any specific site, but to the theme used by all sites. BTW: This is pretty much the only project here, that wasn't done by only myself.|
|TourFR||Create the French site|
|ShopUp||Update webshops. Could be anything. From arranging a license for a plugin to updating images|
|fr_fr - Update||Update the French site|
|GrowSpurt||Website updates concerning project GrowSpurt|
|Other||Various website-related things, including from text messages coming from the customer: I felt like treating those seperate from the other projects. They were also rather 'random', so they usually didn't fit in any other project|
- Dedication: Creating a site is a focused effort with a deadline → TourFR should be its own project
- BrushFace is rather a collection of projects, or maybe a department, business as usual (BAU), operations or area in the parlance of Building a Second Brain. I could split it into the approx. 7 projects that it comprizes, but why? It's all done by the same person → It's the BAU theming. This has several projects, but not separate Trello boards
- The other Trello boards (except maybe some items from Other) are all about updating webshops. They are not really projects, but rather an operational activity → Combine them and use clustering if needed.
|BrushFace||Operations||This is the area Theming or Website user interface. It contains about 7 projects (or sub-areas), but without separate Trello boards, mostly because stuff is done by one person|
|TourFR||Project||Create the French site and deliver in wk09. Team consists of three persons|
|ShopUp||Operations||This is the area Webshop maintenance. It's not really a project, but rather an operational activity, department or area: