A project management tool, such as Insightly, can certainly make the delegating work at the office process much easier. Of course, that statement depends on your team’s approach to using the software. No matter how amazing a tool might be, “garbage in” almost always results in “garbage out.”

With this in mind, it’s usually a good idea to define in-house best practices for delegation. After all, the last thing you want to do is create more confusion than clarity.

In this post, I’ll share six questions to ask before making your next delegation.

1. Is This a Project or Task?

The words “task” and “project” are used quite loosely in today’s business environment. In fact, some might say that they could be used interchangeably. In my experience, however, they are actually two separate things. A task is usually a smaller unit of work and may be performed with minimal instruction or oversight. A project, by contrast, typically involves many different moving parts, team members, and considerations. To successfully complete a project, a team may need to batch together several related tasks.

If you’re an Insightly user, you’ve probably already noticed that the software aligns very closely with the definitions that I’ve just outlined. Although both records share some common features (such as the ability to add collaborators and notes / comments), there are distinctive differences.

To illustrate the differences between tasks and projects, let’s discuss a simple example.

Let’s say that your company is preparing to launch a new website. Some business owners’ first impulse might be to simply assign a task to their IT manager, not knowing what is actually involved with a website re-launch (not you of course!). However, in most cases, a website is going to require cross-collaboration from many different stakeholders. Such stakeholders might include marketing, IT, sales, product, and senior management.

An Insightly project is the perfect solution for this type of work. The team leader can quickly create the project record, upload linked documents or files, add collaborators, and assemble a detailed game plan.

Once the project has been initiated, your project coordinator will then need to rely on his or her team to get things done. For a website re-launch, such things might include:

  • Collecting input from key stakeholders
  • Selecting a new web template
  • Setting up a development server / site
  • Creating website copy
  • Editing the content
  • Designing banner graphics
  • Implementing tracking code
  • Testing the development site
  • Taking the new site live
  • Inspecting the launched site for any issues
  • Monitoring web traffic

Each of these could be easily packaged up into an assignable task. To create tasks in Insightly, your project manager would simply open the project, click on “actions” dropdown menu, and assign accordingly.

Once the tasks are assigned, your entire organization gains instant visibility into who should be doing what.

One final note about tasks: a task does not necessarily have to be linked to a project. In fact, many (if not most) of the tasks you assign will have no linkage to another record. Use unlinked tasks to delegate small chunks of value to your team. Examples might include: ordering office supplies, building reports, filing government paperwork, updating payment details, sending invoices, or anything else that is relatively straightforward.

2. Does This Task Repeat or Not?

Since much of your delegation will depend on the creation of one-off tasks, let’s spend some time thinking about specific task-related situations.

A popular place to start involves the frequency of the work being done. Your team is far too busy to waste time creating the same tasks over and over again. Why not set certain tasks to repeat on predefined schedules?

I’ve written at length on this topic in prior posts, so I won’t spend too much time explaining how to configure recurring tasks. I will, however, at least challenge you to evaluate which things happen regularly in your business. Make a list and start building recurrence patterns in Insightly. In doing so, you’ll find more time to dedicate to high value, high impact activities – and, less time spent recreating the wheel.

To get your creative juices flowing, consider the following ongoing responsibilities that are common to many businesses:

  • Making quarterly tax payments
  • Filing business entity reports
  • Paying and collecting sales tax
  • Publishing blog content
  • Preparing agendas for standing meetings
  • Preparing your monthly newsletter
  • Posting your social media plans
  • Looking at monthly web traffic reports
  • Submitting expense reports by month’s end
  • Completing employee performance reviews

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope it at least helps you identify a few candidates for recurring Insightly tasks. It’s time you stopped wasting so much time on administrative work!

3. Who Should Be Held Accountable?

Assigning a task (or even a project, for that matter) does little good unless someone is accountable for delivering results. And, just because you create an assignment, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your team knows what to do next. You need to put some teeth into your delegation workflow.

Therefore, when assigning work, it is important to specify an assignee. For Insightly tasks, there are two basic options.

Assigning to an individual: This is probably the most common situation, and it’s basically what I’ve been referring to up until this point. You need to have a task done, so you pick a specific person to do the work. In Insightly, just search for the user’s name, pick it from the dropdown, and move on.

Assigning to a team: Insightly also allows you to assign work to a particular team. This can be done one of two ways:

  • Assigning the same task to each team member – Use this when each team member must complete the same task. For example, you might want each team member to do a final click-through of the development site (before going live).
  • Assigning one task to the entire team – Use this when it’s OK for any one person from the team to do the work and mark it completed on behalf of the entire group. For example, if you have three web developers working on a project, you might ask for someone to set up the development site (whoever can do it first). This approach, although probably less common, offers additional flexibility – especially for your team projects.

When it comes to projects, you can select a team member to serve as the primary point person (aka “user responsible” in Insightly). In most cases, you should probably pick the person who will be supervising the entire project, delegating related tasks, and coordinating the various other aspects.

4. Is This Project Going to Follow a Predictable Pattern?

No two projects are exactly the same.

However, some projects follow a similar pattern of events. Taking a page out of the sales pipeline playbook, Insightly also allows you to define project pipelines. This feature can be especially useful for companies providing products or services with very tight quality control procedures.

Here is a perfect example: Since I love baseball so much (and, since it’s October!), let’s imagine that your company manufactures baseball bats. Most of your orders come from two key distributors. When a distributor places an order, you have 30 days to source the materials, schedule production, make the bats, package and palletize the units, and deliver to their dock. There are many contingencies that go along with each step and, in the past, you’ve had difficulty with certain departments (which will remain nameless) doing their jobs. To improve your company’s workflow, you decide to set up a pipeline specifically for fulfilling distributor orders.

Once built in Insightly, you can reuse the pipeline for subsequent orders. No more scrambling at the last minute to fulfill an order. Your project pipeline keeps everybody on track, every single time.

Better yet, you’re able to achieve the much-needed visibility that you so desperately crave.

5. Could We Automate the Delegation Within Our Project Pipelines?

For the sake of discussion, let’s keep with the baseball bat example. After you run a few orders through your pipeline, you begin to realize that specific tasks happen during certain phases of production – regardless of order volume. For instance, during the sourcing stage your team must always do the following:

  • Select the correct vendor
  • Prepare the purchase order
  • Route the PO for internal approval
  • Submit a deposit
  • Track inbound freight
  • Pay the balance to the vendor

As we saw in the recurring task section, it’s inefficient for your team to waste time with manual task entry. Unfortunately, these are not technically “recurring tasks,” as they only happen when you have a project going.

Here’s some good news: As an Insightly user, you can harness the power of activity sets to reduce unnecessary administrative work. Simply configure your activity set for the correct pipeline phase, create your task templates, save your settings, and you’re done.

Now, each time a project advances into the sourcing pipeline phase, all tasks will automatically be created on your behalf. You can even auto-assign them to specific users in advance (or do so manually when the project changes phases).

6. How Will We Create Scalable Visibility?

As your team buys into your delegation methodology, you’ll likely witness an explosion of productivity – particularly in the volume of created and completed tasks and projects. This is, of course, great news, but it can also be overwhelming.

Luckily, your Insightly account makes it easy to track and report on your team’s productivity. Jump over to your reports and play around with the various task and project reporting options. Keep in mind that your reports will start out at a relatively high level, but you can always filter and drill down into the exact data points that you need.

Need to find out how many tasks an individual team member has completed? Want to see who is doing the most amount of work?

Insightly lets you build interactive charts and graphs with your data, making it easier to know who is performing – and, who could stand to pick up the slack.

Think Before You Delegate

As you can see, taking a structured approach to delegation can mitigate confusion and improve the productivity of your entire staff. It can also help you achieve even greater ROI from your Insightly subscription.

So, before doing any further delegation, assign yourself a task to think through these six questions. It might just be the most impactful task you ever create!