By Amber Nelson

Although you may have your hands full managing your own project, it never hurts to come up for air from time to time and assess the landscape. Perhaps the project you’ve been diligently bringing toward completion has aspects similar to another project currently under way. Maybe you are terrific at motivating team members while the project manager down the hall excels in negotiating with vendors. Why not consider integrating your projects?

As with any new venture, the first task at hand is to determine whether a given course of action makes sense. In the case of integrating projects, you’ll want to answer the question, “Why integrate?” There are many sound reasons for integrating two or more projects, like eliminating duplicate efforts, maximizing company resources, and streamlining workflow.

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When integration makes sense
You may find that many of your deliverables are similar to those of another project manager. Rather than each of you working independently on the same basic processes, you can divide the common workload and complete the tasks in less time if you integrate your projects. By working together, you eliminate the duplication of efforts and save yourselves precious time.

In some cases, integrating one or more projects can help you maximize your resources. If your budget only allows for four team members and another project can pay for three, consider sharing a staff member or two. You may need the same skills on both teams, and you may find that integrating the projects will allow one person to work on both projects especially well while giving you and your project manager colleague some breathing room in the budget.

Workflow can get stopped up when a project manager relies on a wide array of people who each accomplish a small task. The task may seem inconsequential to one team member and therefore not get the attention it deserves, which leaves you hanging. When you marry your project with another, you are increasing the impression of importance of your joint efforts. And it may be easier for your team members to provide missing links for your project and another at the same time, rather than gearing up to do similar tasks a few days apart.

How to integrate projects
Once you have determined that an integration of projects makes sense for everyone involved—you, the second project manager, and your client—you can begin the process of melding your projects together. As the name suggests, integrating means that there will be places where the projects conform to one another and places where they remain independent. The trick to successful integration is knowing where to expect a seamless fit and where to let each project have a little breathing room.

As with any individual project, planning is key. You must first sit down with your coproject manager to go over your individual plans and assess the tasks and deliverables that can be joined. Once you have established the broad picture and have received sign-off from the necessary management, you can set up a joint meeting with both project teams.

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The joint meeting is crucial to develop buy-in from team members and to help them understand how they fit into the new, bigger work structure. This is a time for diplomacy, as some jobs may overlap. You’ll want to find noncompetitive ways to ensure that each team member feels valued for the skills he or she brings to the group, while staying aware of the individual contributions required for the integrated project.

From this point, the project can run quite a bit like any unintegrated project with one very large exception: You and your coproject manager must make your individual roles crystal clear among yourselves, your superiors, and your team members. You will, of course, want to negotiate this privately. But once you’ve determined what each project manager will handle in terms of authority, responsibilities, and deliverables, be certain that everyone else involved with the projects understands as well.

With sound planning, hard work, and excellent communication, successful project integration can help your project, your company, and your career. So the next time you’re chatting with fellow project managers, be on the lookout for commonsense commonalities…they might lead to a successful integration of projects.

Original publication on gantthead: April 9, 2001

Amber Nelson is a marketing communications consultant working in the greater Los Angeles area. She is a regular contributor to gantthead.

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