Which projects should you focus on first?

Continued from:

“Get Your Projects Under Control…”


If you have too many projects going at the same time, pick the best ones to focus your resources on: but how do you do that?

If no other factors are in play, choose the projects that mostclosely look to be near completion. This can be difficult, given that“90% done” syndrome ; you may focus on a 90% done project and find itis more like only 10% done in reality(!), at which point I would dropit and move on to a more promising project.

Other factors can be applied in selecting projects sub-set; theydepend a lot on how much information you have on your projects, and caninclude:

Business Value or Return On Investment:if you already have some notion of the value of a delivering a project,especially a cost-benefit analysis, you can try attacking the projectswith the highest value if that is something your business managementwill appreciate. Many companies are good at defining value or benefitup-front, but only the better companies take the time after a projectis complete to confirm if the benefits really were realized. If youcompany does not do this yet, suggest they start, but avoid this factorfor selecting the projects subset until they do start.

Project Priority, which can be determined basedon a combination of Business Value and/or other Project Drivers. Thisis often a weighted calculation where values are assigned based on howwell a project addresses items such as ‘increased sales’, ‘improveddecision-making’, ‘better customer service’, etc. . Each project has apriority value to compare to others, and highest-priority projects areinitiated first.
If you have a Priority value assigned for your projects, but it reallyhasn’t been the key factor in initiating projects, then start using it;that’s pretty obvious, I know. What is more likely is that priority didplay a part in initiating projects, but has not carried over todecisions made during projects. If your projects are now executingout-of-priority order, see if re-ordering them will help in fasterdelivery and increased business value.

– When all else fails, Ask. (Or just start withAsk). It will be no big secret if you have many projects underway withno ends in sight. It is also likely that many current stakeholders maynot have been involved when some of the projects were started. So, youcan meet with these stakeholders to determine what their currentpriorities are and which projects are of most value to them.
The usual issue with this approach is: who should I ask? In a perfectsituation, I look for the person highest in the organization whose spanof control covers all departments who sponsored or are impacted by theprojects.
However, this person could be senior enough in the company that theymay decline to help you, preferring to delegate to their reports.Querying and meeting with this group may give you the priorities youneed; or, it may illustrate any politics or power struggles that areon-going, for which you may be able to facilitate a resolution or atleast  a compromise…or not. In the latter case, it may be necessary toescalate this back to groups’ common manager for resolution.

So, one or more of the above factors may assist youin identifying the best sub-set of projects to first target for quickcompletion. If no strong values or priorities can be discerned, I woulddefault to those that can finish the fastest.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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