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Forget Everything You've Learnt About Project Delivery, Part 5: Evaluating and Prioritizing Projects

Forget Everything You've Learnt About Project Delivery, Part 5: Evaluating and Prioritizing Projects

How do organizations prioritize projects? Usually badly!

Every organization wants to do more projects than it can do in the timeframe.

Some years ago I mapped my organization's planned projects (in the annual plan) in terms of which were completed (<20%) or commenced but not completed (<26%). This left over 50% of planned projects not even started.

Few will disagree that aligning your projects to your strategic direction makes sense; but few organizations have any means of objectively measuring this alignment

With the oversupply of opportunities, how do organizations prioritize? Usually badly!

Various options have been tried — first past the (approval) post until you run out of money or resources; the projects with the greatest benefits; the projects with the greatest risk-weighted benefits value; projects with the greatest salesperson behind them, and so on.

What's missing is the link to the business' strategy and imperatives — "What (projects) do we need to do to achieve our most important strategies and plans."

Few will disagree that aligning your projects to your strategic direction makes sense; but few organizations have any means of objectively measuring this alignment.

Without it you are often dependent on the quality of the business case (which we've already seen is not a good basis) or some other factor to decide what does and does not get done.

An effective 'strategic alignment matrix' should allow each project's strategic contribution to be measured objectively and compared across projects, allowing competing projects' relative contribution to be evaluated and then prioritized.

Developing a strategic-alignment matrix isn't simple, but does allow the organization to 'do the right projects' and know which projects it can stop when a higher priority project needs to be done.

Another dimension rarely understood is the 'capability' dimension. Trainee hill climbers would not think of tackling a major mountain, yet firms regularly start to undertake projects way beyond their capability to deliver. The more innovation and external change involved the more advanced and sophisticated business project delivery capability is required.

To measure your firm's capability and then assess each project's capability level requirement requires new processes; but it allow projects beyond your capability to deliver to be culled at the approval stage.

So, if you cannot demonstrate your project's strategic alignment, its contribution to current business strategies in an objective manner, you need to hassle the business to put a strategic alignment process in place (and use it consistently). Then you'll be doing the right projects.


For more information on Prioritization go the PMO section of www.project-sponsor.com.

Click here for the introduction to the series "Forget Everything You've Learnt About Project Delivery"

Click here for the last article in this series "Forget Everything You've Learnt About Project Delivery, Part 4: Benefits Identification and Business Cases"

Jed Simms is CIO magazine's weekly project management columnist. Simms, founder of projects and benefits delivery research firm Capability Management, is also the developer of specialized project management and project governance Web site www.project-sponsor.com

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