The act of juggling several projects at once can quickly overwhelm any team. Once the work is broken down into tasks, delegated out, and set in motion, it’s all too easy to get lost in the details. Teams need to regularly get above the fray to gauge overall project health. But even then, how does the team create and maintain a strategic, high level outlook of all their current projects? The most simple and powerful solution to this quandary is to use project labels.
What are Project Labels?
A project label is nothing more than a few words and a color swatch that, when applied to a project, convey meaning and denote what next steps should be taken. And the choice of color creates a visual indicator that can be quickly understood without having to actually read the label. A good label ecosystem creates a high level of organization where each project’s context in it can quickly and easily be deduced.
Label lists will vary from team to team, depending on the industry they work in and the type of work performed. To help your team get started here are a few examples of how labels can be used to deliver more successful projects.
Practical Use Cases for Project Labels
Phases of a project
It’s a common practice for project workflows to be based on phases. Each phase, or step, informs the team and the client how the project is progressing.
When modeled after project phases, labels are useful for keeping projects on track and for scheduling upcoming work. An example list of phases are “discovery,” “design,” “development,” and “deployment.” When a project is in it’s deployment phase, that’s a cue to the team that they can queue another project to begin.
Types of projects
A multidisciplinary team will not only juggle multiple projects, but projects with entirely different scopes. Many full service agencies fall into this camp.
Basing labels on the type of project helps a team keep their work segmented at a high level. Labels might include “social media,” “content,” “design,” and “SEO.” These labels are useful for singling out specific projects based on expertise. Your UX designer, for example, can use the labels to focus in on projects for which they are the lead.
Some projects will always be more important than others. For example, a higher priority should be placed on projects where the client paid a rush fee. Whereas, a lower priority should be given to unpaid side projects.
A listing of priority-based labels is simple and straightforward. Name them “low,” “medium,” “high,” and assign them the colors green, orange, and red. This makes it incredibly easy to scan a list of projects and zero in on the higher priority ones. Plus, it is useful when running productivity reports to make sure each project is getting a level of attention relative to its priority.
In larger companies there are typically multiple teams, each one focusing on their domain of responsibility and expertise. In these companies, labels can be used to organize projects based on the team doing the work.
An example of labels for a larger company with multiple teams would be “design,” “engineering,” “administration,” and so on. Associating a project with its team makes it easier for those teams to stay focused on their work. This is especially useful for people who work on multiple teams, because, it enables them to filter project listings and run productivity reports based on which team they’re working on at that moment.
Health of a project
There are a number of variables that factor in to gauging the health of a project. Is it in danger of going over budget? Has the deadline been delayed? Is work behind schedule?
Once you’ve deduced a project’s health, apply a project label to it. Then use these labels to monitor projects based on their last health check. Color swatches can be particularly useful. For example, an unhealthy project can be given a more eye-catching red swatch, so it can’t be easily overlooked. Then perform a weekly health check by sorting your project list based on label and follow up with the most at-risk projects.
There is a lot of work to keep track of before a contract is signed. And it’s incredibly helpful to track and manage that work with your project management software. However, it gets confusing when sales projects are mixed in with ongoing work.
Project labels are useful in this scenario for denoting where the project is at in its sales cycle. For example, your list of project labels could include “lead,” “qualified lead,” “signed,” and so on. Not only will this help you keep track of where the project is at in its sales cycle, now your team can easily filter out sales and focus on contracted work.