The number of project-based organizations is rising with each passing year, fostering dynamic multi-project environments. One of the reasons for this complexity is the interdependency among projects (e.g., product/service portfolios) wherein one project relies on another project or program for its successful completion.
According to Gartner, effective portfolio management helps organizations with clear visibility into diverse interdependencies across project teams.
Project interdependency influences the planning and can even affect project outcomes. Therefore, project managers need to successfully ascertain the best ways to manage and leverage their resources for various work operations.
At the project level, Project Interdependency Management (PIM) also formulates a structured process that helps managers to oversee these project linkages better and then deliver projects within scope, time, and budget.
In this article, we dive a little deeper into different interdependencies within project portfolios and highlight how they impact the project’s progress.
1. What is Project Interdependency?
Project interdependency is a relationship of tasks or projects wherein one project can impact another’s progress, or their order of occurrence can substantially influence the portfolio’s course. These Dependencies can be any deliverable, process, tasks, technology, or product produced by any project, team, or resource.
However, if not appropriately managed, all these interdependencies can lead to discrepancies and conflicts among teams. Therefore, Project Interdependency Management (PIM) provides processes, tools, and techniques to project managers to identify, analyze, track, and manage various project dependencies cohesively.
For example, let’s assume your team is working on a construction project. Here, on-site construction workers can only begin when the architect completes the blueprint design and the necessary material is procured and available at the site.
There are two different ways to measure Project Interdependencies a) Dependency Matrices and b) Network Mapping Method.
This technique produces a visual way of understanding sequential project interdependence. It uses a 2-dimensional grid that depicts bi-directional dependencies of a project within a portfolio.
For example, an engineering design project is dependent on various tasks. The prototyping is dependent on initial planning and analysis. At the same time, designing and development tasks are dependent on prototyping. And lastly, quality control is dependent on product development. Thus, all these tasks exhibit sequential dependencies.
This method uses graphical models to map interdependency project networks. It is highly critical and applicable for teams that manage multiple and large projects. The outcome identifies multidimensional, complex dependency through a 3D visual representation of nodes and arrows.
For example, the same engineering design project can depend on various tasks and other projects or have a multi-project build process. Here the nature of a team’s work and interdependency can be multi-dimensional.
Network mapping is more scalable than any other PPM method as it easily addresses direct or indirect interdependencies of highly complicated project portfolios.
Why is Project Interdependency Management (PIM) Critical?
What happens if task B of the project doesn’t start on the planned date because task A is delayed, and now it’s affecting the project’s overall progress?
Suppose your team is working on a high-priority software development project where the designers, developers, and testers are scheduled for the two-month-long development & testing phase. But now, the project schedule is slipping from the developer’s end, and their tasks are not completed as per the project schedule.
With a lack of real-time update of this dependency, the QA engineers/testers would show up and bill their time. It would blow up project costs, cause delays and significantly affect the entire project.
In any of these scenarios, the implementation of project Interdependency management (PIM) practice provides a structured approach with formal documentation. It prevents scope, schedule, and cost risks from becoming major issues and improves projects’ quality delivery.
Given the importance of PIM, here’s a detailed explanation of different types of project interdependencies with examples:
2. Types of Project Interdependencies
Let’s now discuss various types of interdependencies among different projects across a portfolio of IT/IS or any other projects.
These are the dependency that takes place within the framework of the project, department, and organization.
Resource interdependencies refer to the shared service model of critical resources between two projects. It arises due to resource-limited availability and high demands for the same resource across multiple projects in an organization.
For example, there can be SEO expertise required for both web development and marketing projects. However, if there is only one resource available, it creates a resource interdependency as both the projects require resources with the same skillset.
This interdependency facilitates managers to leverage one project’s technical knowledge to another project, enhancing technical collaboration across multiple projects.
For example, developing a new version of computers depends on another project of developing operating systems designed to run on a 64-bit processor.
In technical interdependency, the output generated by one project determines the input of another project. For example, the first consumer data collection project will capture customers’ information based on their online interactions. And the second project of implementing a Business Intelligence (BI) will transform these data into insights for future reference.
The ongoing parallel projects within the same portfolio generate knowledge and expertise that benefit other projects. It is a proactive system for managers to use the knowledge gained from previous projects and drive innovation to similar future opportunities.
For example, a smartphone company often releases its upgraded version with more attractive features.
These are dependencies that affect your company and projects through external influence.
Projects are constrained by and rely on both the corporate environment and the changing competitive demand outside the company. It can impose additional challenges for projects.
For example, a new smartphone (product) of one brand is launched in an existing market of another smartphone company. An upgraded version of the smartphone is released in the current market of the same company.
Now, let’s dive deep into the scheduling categories of dependencies:
3. Scheduling Categories of Project Dependencies
Managers must formulate a project schedule before resource scheduling to identify the order of tasks. Most commonly, there are four scheduling categories of dependency in project management. These are:
FS dependency is when Task-II cannot take place before the completion of Task-I. For instance, designers must complete the wireframing in a software development project before developers begin with the development work.
Here both task A and task B need to start at the same time. For instance, For a successful Video development project, designing, copywriting, and content phrasing tasks begin together to develop a video within brand guidelines.
Here both task A and task B have to finish at the same time. These two tasks are mostly mutually dependent activities. For instance, software testing and debugging are completed concurrently.
It is the most uncommon type of dependency, which is often mistaken by the FInish-to-Start type. Here Task B cannot finish unless Task A has started. But once Task A is initiated, Task B can be completed at any time. For example, the account manager can only invoice the client (task B) after the product’s delivery (Task A) is initiated.
The above dependency types of projects can have multiple predecessors and successor tasks.
Now that you’ve got a comprehensive overview of different scheduling project interdependencies within a portfolio, let’s understand how you can manage them effectively.
4. How to Manage Project Dependencies?
Here are few steps that managers can take to ensure that they adequately manage the impact of dependencies. Let’s take a look at how you can do this.
Step 1: Identify all Project Dependencies
Identifying all project dependencies on the project will give a head start in their effective management. Managers can analyze the types of dependencies such as start to start, finish to finish, start to finish, and finish to start and include them in the Project Initiation Document (PID)
An example of task-based dependency– A walkthrough or training video of any software to end-users is dependent on another task of preparing a module. Only when the training materials are completely prepared, then the next task of software training can start.
Step 2: Hold a Dependency Workshop
When the project relies on different resources or work overlaps with other teams, running a dependency workshop is ideal. It will make the goals of the project aligned and foster good communication and collaboration among team members.
This dependency workshop will give clear visibility of the resource tasks and processes concerning the project timeline. It will also provide more insights into the deliverable and depict the need and impact of dependency tasks if not delivered.
Step 3: Consider the Risks/Constraints
Now the next step is to define risk management practices, project managers can analyze each dependency work to ensure that project risks are found early in the project life cycle and not later when the solutions are limited and costly.
According to Gartner, failing to understand resources or their work interdependencies can trigger several unrelated risk events within a project.
Therefore, an enterprise risk management system should be in place.
For example, your team is creating an app for a client, and you might be reliant on the first project to reuse the code for this project. But there is a risk that the first project work doesn’t finish on time or that the code isn’t reusable, and you have to start from scratch. These risks driven by dependency are very crucial to manage. Failing to do so will lead to time and budget overruns.
Step 4: Continuous Monitor & Control
Identifying and documenting the dependency log is essential for managers to monitor and control the successful delivery. Using an intuitive project management tool, managers can specify all dependencies and regularly monitor a preferred project schedule’s progress. Assessing the dependencies and constraints also illustrates the health of each project within the portfolio.
Running and managing interdependence will help managers open communication channels with teammates and eliminate dependencies seamlessly.
Dependencies being a critical aspect of PPM practice impacts scheduling and resource activities. Using an intuitive Project Portfolio Management Tool and a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), managers can help their team members understand and sail successfully through interdependency levels. The Project Interdependency Management (PIM) approach also helps eliminate bottlenecks and constraints in the existing project management system by enhancing the overall project workflow.
How do you manage various interdependencies in your project?
6. The Glossary
7. The Saviom Solution
SAVIOM is the market leader in offering the most powerful and configurable solutions for managing enterprise resources efficiently and effectively. Having more than 20 years of experience, this Australian-based MNC has a global presence in over 50 countries. It is also popular with more than 100 customers and helping them to achieve their business goals. SAVIOM also has products for project portfolio management, professional service automation, and workforce planning software which can be easily customized as per business requirements.