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Feature Focus: Project Types and Stages

As part of a new series of blog posts, we’ll be sharing insights into how we operate, using WORK[etc] the online CRM to manage WORK[etc] the business. Yes, the biggest users of WORK[etc] are also the ones who made it -- which is why we’re starting a new blog series geared toward sharing best practices that we’ve developed over the years.

Project types and stages

It’s been about 18 months since the current project types and stages feature was built into WORK[etc]. Before that, project progress was governed only by tasks and subprojects. In very crude terms, if you had a project with 10 tasks, the default setting was that the progress would increase by 10 percent for every task you ticked off.

Progress bar with equal stage percentages

Things aren’t as straightforward as that, though — individual tasks in a given project will rarely have the same weight. You might have a project with two tasks — do the work and then review it. Obviously, the review would be a lower percentage compared to actually doing the work. It won’t be an even 50-50 split.

The fact that not all tasks will have equal weight was the main reason that Project Types and Stages came into existence.

Progress bar with unequal stage percentages

Creating and setting the stage

The point when I finally thought that I had this cracked came during a training call with a digital marketing and design company. Here’s how we went about setting up a project type for one of their web design projects.

The company’s process involved four basic stages: consultation with the client, design, remote development, and finally a sprint, where everybody involved in the project got together to focus on finishing it.

A typical project for this company usually involved several cycles — design, remote development, and sprint — until they finished coding the website. For this particular project type, however, they wanted only one of each stage. We first went about setting up the Consultation stage.

Creating a new Project Stage

The completion percentage for each stage is based on whatever value you enter. It’s not an exact science; for some projects, you may be able to put a very accurate percentage on specific stages, but for others, you may just have to make up a number.

We set the Consultation stage to account for about 10% of the work. We then added Design, Development, and Sprint stages at 30%, 65%, and 95%, respectively

The stage descriptions make it easier for everybody to know exactly what is happening at any specific stage, while color-coding them helps you quickly see how the project is moving along. Users who have access to the customer portal can also add a portal label, which is what clients would see on the customer portal.

The reason for this is that you may want to call a stage one thing internally but give it another, slightly friendlier name for your clients. Or you might not want to reveal the full details of your internal processes.

You can even use the same portal label for multiple stages. In the screenshot above, as far as the customer is concerned, everything from “Design” through “Sprint” is “In Progress.” If the project is currently in the “Development” stage internally, for example, their client would see this on the customer portal:

Portal Labels

Any further changes made to a project type will automatically be applied to projects that use it. For example, if the company adds two new stages to the Website Development project type, these two additional stages would automatically be reflected in the Rebranding project shown above.

See where your projects stand at a glance

Perhaps the most important thing about stages is that they give you a quick visual overview of where you’re at in any given project. You can filter for specific project stages on the main Projects screen and save the results as a shortcut at the top of your screen. This can be particularly useful to managers; at any point in time, you can access that list with a single click.

Let’s say that you run your own digital marketing firm and want to see all Website Development projects currently in the development stage. You just go to the main Projects module and filter for those stages.

Using Project Types for Saved Filters

With just one click, you can check the list every week and immediately see which projects you need to follow up on. If any of the projects needs updating, that can be done by simply clicking on the project stage and choosing the new stage from a drop-down menu.

Updating Project Stages

On a very basic level, project types can also be used to differentiate internal projects from client projects. You could, for example, create a project type called Internal Projects and use it to monitor any internal work — preparing blog posts, redesigning the company letterhead, etc. Client projects could then use a different project type.

With this setup, you can just go to the project list and filter for internal projects, as opposed to things that you’re doing for your clients.

Filtering for Internal Projects

Not just for projects

When you create a new project, you can set the project type for the project as a whole and choose an entirely different type for all related items, such as tasks.

Using Project Types for child items

This can be particularly helpful for projects where you need a deeper level of control over tasks that have their own processes and stages to follow. If a digital marketing firm, for example, has a whole bunch of SEO tasks lined up, they can set them to an SEO project type.

Words of advice

Project Stages can be added to a Project Type at any time. The first real-life Project Stages I started to use were for our Consulting and Paid Service Clients.

We set up the “steps” or “stages” of the process and jumped right in. After a couple of weeks, we realized that we should have an additional stage at the end for client feedback; 10 seconds later, it was there. The next month, a “Quote Sent” stage was added at the start. This flexibility is perhaps the secret of success here.

My advice for every WORK[etc] user is to first set up a very basic project type. A generic one with three stages — Not Started, In Progress, and Completed — will do nicely. Use it and put it into practice regardless of what you do in your business, and then start to fine-tune it like I did.

Have you played around with the project types and stages feature? Tell us how you use it to streamline your business processes.

  • Hassan Zaheer

    interesting way of managing a project

  • I will be interested in seeing how this plays out with with our current projects. I will be discussing this with our other project managers to see if we can improve on our existing systems with these new ideas. Thanks WORK[etc]

  • You hit the nail on the head for us Steve. In addition to internal and external, our projects come in all shapes and sizes. We may complete a design or prototype project in a few days. On the other end of the spectrum, projects focused on organizational efficiency & change may last months. We also run a variety of workshops and treat those as projects. Our workshop cycle runs about 90 days and involves multiple steps, people and activities.

    We’ve been testing the WORKetc project module in all of the above scenarios and look forward to trying out the new updates.

  • Allen Bayless

    Project types is very useful, but has primarily been used for the same example given in regards to web design projects. At the start there were only a few stages, but then quickly realized creating additional stages such as gathering materials to testing made a project’s process more organized.

  • Athens Kolias

    we’re setting up a new WorkEtc system for a client, and trying to figure out how to call the Stages for their various Project Types. This article certainly helps to clarify, and I can’t imagine not having “Stages” or phases to chunk out the work. Don’t forget that not everyone uses a traditional waterfall project management approach. many use an Agile project management approach. So you could call some of the stages: Roadmapping, Release Planning, Iteration Planning, Sprint, Retrospective, etc.

  • John Belchamber

    Thanks for the tips Steve.
    I’ve been using Projects for consulting and trainiing projects and found them to be a great way to keep myself (and other stakeholders) on track.
    This article provides me with additional tools that’ll enhance the way I use Projects in WORKetc even further.

  • Drew Tennimon

    We use projects to help us facilitate internal changes, actually due to the the POSSIBILITIES that worketc allows us to do…Thank you

  • WOW! all i can really say. That’s all i use in my department at work and I just put a new suggestion in the other day for a feature i think should be added. But i cant wait to try this out! Keep up the good work.

  • David McGarry

    What a clean solution. This will help make our projects much more straightforward to manage and I like the addition of being able to use with child items – as in your example, we will probably use it to manage the same jobs – SEO tasks. I will sit down with my project manager and go through these changes when they are implemented… but first I’ll send him a link to this article!

  • This was very helpful Steve. Setting up and adopting proper projects has always been a bit of pulling teeth for me. After so many years of shooting from the hip it’s taken me some time to unlearn and properly implement. This gave me a bit of fresh air to take a simpler approach. Thanks for the great post!

  • Matthew Bauer

    Thanks for the information Steve. I have been leery of setting up projects, mostly due to the amount of time it takes to do it right. The post really clarifies what is needed to setup a project the correct way and how to manage it. Great Post!

  • Louise Roberts

    This looks as though is will offer much greater flexibility for the mangement of projects. Being able to create little tasks and have this reflected in the project stage bar will be very useful. Internal projects will benefit hugely for us being able to manage them in the same way, what a great idea!

  • Richard Wilson

    Cant wait to start managing my work projects using this, This will make organising and managing them so much easier. Many thanks for the information Steve.

  • Our team has played around with project types and stages quite a bit. At first we created lots of stages that were tied to how we work. For a “Workshop” type of project ,for example, we identified 8 primary stages with many tasks within each stage.

    When we brought additional team members on to WORKetc who were not yet familiar with the system, we adopted a very simple 3-stage system for their consulting projects of Active, Complete and Reconciled. While they are doing consulting work, the project is Active and they add time & money to the project. When they have finished the project, they change the state to “Complete” . This triggers our business manager to review the project making sure everything is correct. When he is done, he changes the state to “Reconciled”.

  • Eric Brandt

    HI Steve – Thanks for the great post. We’re deep into project types and templates (to the point where I think we may have too many). The key thing for me with project types AND processes, is that they provide a solid, consistent, repeatable sequence that keeps our whole staff on the same page and timeline, AND holds people accountable. I’m still working on the best way to monitor progress, and frankly am looking for a more robust reminder function that would not only alert the person responsible for completion of the task, but me, the manager, as well.

  • I need to be making much better use of projects. The simple 3 stage setup mentioned at the end of Steve’s article seems to be a good idea to get me going with this approach.

    Will also have a play with the other suggestions mentioned within these comments and let you know how I get on.

  • Thomas Lawler

    Very thoughtful and informational article! Thanks for sharing Steve.

    We have played around with projects & their respective settings, but I don’t think we have really found our sweet spot. I’m continuing to work with several groups in my company to create stages that work for them.

    This is certainly a great reference, and I will make sure we pass this along in office.

    Thanks again!

  • We use projects with stages fairly extensively. Particularly useful to be able to create different stages for different types – as not only project types within one business can vary, but we also run three businesses!
    I would second my advocacy of keeping the stages simple to begin with and only adding as needed. Too many stages initially can be difficult to get everyone to keep them properly updated – which rather defeats the object and hinders adoption.

  • This could well be the answer we have been looking for!!! I have been frustrated that our percentage completions weren’t accurate due to every task being an equal weight irrespective of the effort involved in it. I don’t think I or any of my colleagues had realised that this was how you could use project stages. So, thanks for the great article Steve, please can we have more of them?

  • Donna Grindle

    The use of different project types on the child projects may be a key to solving a problem for us. We keep working with the stages and couldn’t tweak them just right. I have seen that child option 100s of times and never took the time to look at what that could really do for us. Thanks Steve!

  • I have always found it useful to use mindmaps when planning different projects particularly in the early stages. As much as i am a technophile at heart i also find a good old pencil and paper a great tool for this. This article did give me some great insights for future project planning and i look forward to implementing those ideas in part.

  • I love the simple things in life. Something as simple as saved filters makes my life so much easier. Sometimes I have a lesser part in web project cycles. So I have less items to take care of. With larger projects sounds like I can filter out all the work that I don’t need to be focusing on. Out of sight out of mind, less stress. Very cool!

  • This is a great blog for those of us that like check lists, like me. I am what you might call an “over lister”, to the point that I add and cross off things i have already done. So needless to say this is like crack for me. I will be all over this feature especially because most of my tasks for work are recurring monthly tasks and managing a ton of little task for a few clients get a little confusing if you don’t know where you are in the stage of the project! Love it!

  • David Jones

    Thanks for the great write-up and walk-through. We are slowly getting in to Project management with Work[etc] and this definitely helps. Having all our customer data in one place has solved many problems for us and we are really excited about getting as much as possible out of excel and into Work[etc].

  • Steve Westrop | WORK[etc]

    It took me ages to get my head around the concept, but I’d be lost without it now.

  • Thanks for this, Steve. We’re just getting to grips with everything and so it’s really useful to have a deeper understanding of how stages and project types can work with our publishing projects.

  • Tabitha Mills

    I am still grasping the full capabilities of the tasks area but I am already finding that it can be an invaluable tool. Whether it’s an internal task or a client project I find its a great way to keep a visual checklist of goals and steps along the way.

  • Branden

    I noticed you had a ‘what your client sees’ screenshot. How common are WORK[etc] screens shared with clients? I know it’s something we don’t really do on our end, but is it something everyone else does?

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