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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.