Project Prioritization and Selection: “Juggling School” for Project Workforce Managers

What if the attention and resources required by one project–the "squeaky wheel," as they say–starve another project that happens to be more critical? This happens all the time in companies that lack the right processes. Strategic projects can easily take a back seat to "pet" projects, or work that happens to be more crisis-driven.

I was recently interviewed for an article that has been published on "’Juggling School’ for Project Managers: Seven Reasons to Overhaul your Project Management System." This article focuses on project prioritization and selection. (There is also a chapter in the book, Rise of the Project Workforce, that goes into detail on this topic.)

In the article, I described seven major advantages to prioritizing and selecting projects using a five-step process that is described in the book. Below is a condensed version of these seven reasons for implementing processes around project prioritization and selection. Click here to read the article in its entirety.

  1. It allows you to organize your company’s best interests. Like an iTunes playlist for your projects, the project portfolio puts access to the most valuable projects in one place. Managers can compare projects, make funding decisions, and report on and analyze a collection of projects in one entity.
  2. It takes the guesswork out of project management. Implementing project prioritization and selection processes elevates decision-making to a more strategic viewpoint by aligning and assigning projects with business priorities. It also helps optimize resource allocation.
  3. It provides guidance for new projects. It helps you add new projects to your queue without misallocating resources to them. At the same time, it helps you allocate enough time and manpower to ensure quality results.
  4. Risks are assessed from a global perspective on their overall impact. New risks can be assessed more thoroughly and with respect to how they will affect the company as a whole. The steps you’ll use to organize your project portfolio will help you weed out those projects that contain too much risk to pursue.
  5. It helps you know when you have the resources and when you don’t. The system allows you to balance your resources.  Your ranking system will help you see when resources need to be reallocated, and the weighting and ranking is there for everyone to see.
  6. It is less time-consuming than juggling projects. The great thing about this system is that it doesn’t need to be constantly poked and prodded. In fact, it is important not to upset the portfolio too frequently by constant prioritization and resource balancing. We recommend you have a minor review each month and a major portfolio review once every quarter.
  7. It makes people more accountable. If a project doesn’t receive the funding or manpower it needs to be successful or if it fails for some other reason, leaders will know what went wrong where, and can address those issues with the appropriate employees. But more importantly, be sure to establish a framework for continued process improvement so that lessons learned and metrics obtained may be used to improve future project selection, estimation, and ranking decisions.

Today’s businesses–especially enterprises that manage hundreds of projects–can no longer afford to prioritize and select projects in a haphazard manner, or by allowing "pet" projects to carry the day. A company without these processes is destined to stray from its strategic vision, and lose its ability to compete.

You do not have to invest in a large new software suite to accomplish the above. There are simple tools out there that can help you automate this process; even using a few in-house developed spreadsheets and manual project value data collection is better than status quo.

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