Project Management

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Topics: Leadership, Organizational Project Management, Sustainability
Number of Projects per Project Manager
Hello Everyone,

I know there is several scales to Projects, however is there a rule of thumb or threshold for the number of Projects one project Manager should handle to be efficient.

I know this is a depends on a lot of factors question. Its more to get your thoughts.
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Dear John,

Having worked as a portfolio/Programme/Relationship manager for a large FTSE 25 UK company for 11 years, I would like to state the following. Some of them you have already acknowledged in your message.

(1). The number of projects were atleast 2 Large, 20+ medium sized and 30+ bau improvement projects every year. In addition I have to ensure the application maintenance is looked after as well along with change and configuration management as some of systems were closely coupled.

(2). In addition, atleast 5% of my overall effort was to embark upon innovation pilots from technology, process and people productivity improvements as well.

(3). The only way I got away with this is by having highly empowered teams, applying EQ principles among my teams along with structured reviews and incentives for the team.

Another advantage I had was that the customer is a regulated industry and the systems were fairly robust and the budget plans were set for every 5 years. It really helped us to focus upon priorities and channel our energies.

In the current context, I believe you have to look at the following facts

(1). your organisation sector i.e., regulated or non-regulated
(2). Technology, Application landscapes and upgrade/refresh cycles
(3). Maturity of PMO in your organisation
(4). PM for Strategic projects or BAU enhancement projects
(5). PM for Core systems development or ancillary systems/services
(6). Organisation structure (what is in-house vs what is outsourced)
(7). Organisational skills levels and maturity
(8). Project timelines, Schedule constraints etc
(9). Resource attrition in your organisation
(10). Knowledge Management maturity in your organisation and Learning and development facilities in your organisation
(11). Enterprise, systems Technology and Solution Architecture capabilities and maturity in your organisation.
(12). Project Estimation maturity and historic data

Based on the above, you can manage from 1 to 6 projects(in the current state of technology advancements and agile concepts) at any point of time with 8 hours of working hours a day. However there could be sometime where you may spend extended hours which then can cause burden and losing focus at times. But as a thumb rule, I believe you should be handling one strategic project at a time with 4 to 5 bau projects bundled in the strategic project or handled separately. PM's role now a days is lot more stressed due to federated business structures and technology advancements. "Being Agile and Innovative" is the broad theme for PMs now a days than how many projects you handle or can handle.
The amonunt of time a project manager will apply to project management activities is 15%-25% of the total project duration as a rule of tumb (in my personal experience this percentage has been validated). It depends on the organizational project maturity regarding project mangement (for example, the project management culture is micro-magement oriented or not?). So, with that on hand, you can calculate the amount of projects for each project manager.
This depends on size and type of project. Those who deal with mega energy/ Oil & Gas projects know that they are pretty intense running for couple of years sometimes, and large budget at stake. Usually one project per PM for this kind of project is assigned to have full accountability and focus.
Search around the community. I can remember a few similar discussions. You'll find a variety of thoughts and feedback. The obvious answer is it depends. Industry, scope, complexity, experience. Also depends if consultant based and if client is expecting to be 100% allocated.
Thanks for providing the discussion.

I think Dunbar's number could be used as a criterion.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number

One for a 150-person project, five for a 30-person project.
And if your project has more than 150 people, you will need to divide the group and have multiple PMs.
Another factor to consider is the actual responsibilities of the PM in the given context. For example, if they don't have administrative support for reporting and other "mechanical" activities, they may be unable to take on as many projects as a PM who has access to Project Administrators/Controllers.

Kiron
Assume maximum productivity per week at the rate of 75% ;
For a 40 hour week, that equates to 30 hours .

In that 30 hours , realistically you would expect to be able to manage a maximum of 2 projects (Monetary range of $2 Million) or one project (Monetary range $5-10 Million).
If the project has multiple streams or multiple small projects - eg multiple vendors for multiple parts or streams of the projects , then this will be further complicated and then you would be better placed, just to handle the one project at a time...

This does not mean that if you have projects in the monetary range of $200k that you can manage 10 projects at once. It also depends on how much realistic time you can devote for the Project Management component. Sometimes the smaller value projects may require more coordination because you don't have a huge component of procurement and the project is being done in-house.

So I think , if you are leading end -to-end projects from inception to handover , you should only have a maximum of 4 projects on the go at any given time of the monetary value of upto $200k.

if you are leading only components of the project , e.g. you are a Transition Project manager just handling transition to support , you could potentially have more but not too much more , or you will burn out pretty quickly.

In my experience , managing a big project full time worth $2 Million with multiple streams has been quite challenging .

And so has managing 2 projects together - one fairly small @ $200k and the other one fairly big at $1 Million.
Dear John,

It goes back to the 3 P's - Project, Portfolio, Program. A set of unique and individual projects may develop into a portfolio of projects that may in turn develop into a program. Knowing when a set of projects need to be individually manged by a dedicated project manager will depend on the resources available in the organization and the available schedule of each project manager. Experience will tell a project manager when the amount of projects they are managing is hindering their ability to preform their job to the best of their ability. However when a project manager gets attached to a project it maybe difficult to hand over the project to another project manager.

Daire
As others mentioned, there are lots of factors.

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