Project Prioritization: Make your choice: A) Rock B) A Hard Place C) Beyoncé

Woman sitting on a cliff between to mountains signifying making a choice between a rock and a hard place

Choices can be difficult. Apples or pears? Chalk or cheese?  Beyoncé or Skepta? Choosing between a rock and a hard place or how to prioritize the project portfolio is a problem that every portfolio manager knows well.

via GIPHY

Every project is different; they have different pros and cons and are frequently evaluated against differing sets of criteria. So, why, when we come to evaluate a portfolio (or several portfolios) of work, it’s believed necessary to have one, corporate set of criteria against which everything will be considered?

The tableau report on ROI shows the profitability of your projects in Meisterplan

Different Projects, Different Benefits, Different Assessment Criteria

Projects have different benefits, which are not always easy to measure quantitatively – some for marketing, some for finance, some for HR, some for IT… Risk reduction, PR enhancement, brand awareness, litigation avoidance – the list is extensive. Yes, you’re right, ultimately, most of these can probably be reduced to financial measures and quite rightly. If you can’t objectively measure the benefit of an initiative, then should we be doing it? Really? Honestly…?

However, forcing all your departments, business units, service groups, etc. to financially evaluate all of their proposed activity against one colossal set of criteria is probably going to lead to delay, argument and avoidance. So, why not let your groups handle project prioritization on their own? They can prioritize their proposed work within their own portfolio, against their own set of criteria.

However, forcing all your departments, business units, service groups, etc. to financially evaluate all of their proposed activity against one colossal set of criteria is probably going to lead to delay, argument and avoidance. So, why not let your groups handle project prioritization on their own? They can prioritize their proposed work within their own portfolio, against their own set of criteria.

The Group Phase of the World Cup – But for Projects

Only when the groups have done that (all of the scoring, arguing, analyzing the what-ifs on their own), do they take their choices into the ‘corporate portfolio’. Think of it as the group phase of the World Cup, before getting to the knockout stage.

This has a few advantages:

  • People stop trying to assign speculative financial values to proposed projects based on very dodgy arguments, just to get them through the first round of negotiation.
Screenshot showing how to prioritize projects within a portfolio in Meisterplan
  • Comparing apples with apples within an apple-based portfolio enables managers to decide their priorities on comparable arguments, using terminology, criteria and arguments that they understand and can support.
  • It avoids the 400lb gorilla tactic. Yes, there will be some huge corporate imperatives that will always be chosen, but if the marketing portfolio is critical to the business goals (and has been allocated some budget), then this ensures that the key marketing projects happen and are not kicked into the long grass by the ‘must do the IT infrastructure update’ gorilla.
  • Senior managers become truly accountable for their own portfolios of work. If they’ve argued for them, acquired the appropriate budget, motivated their teams and understand their alignment with corporate goals, then they’re more likely to be the champion for the portfolio.

This approach will result in separate portfolios of work, each prioritized with appropriate criteria. If there are five portfolios of work, there will be five #1, five #2, five #3, etc. This is fine – we bring the top priorities from each into our master portfolio for ‘what-if’ scenario planning. It means we can consider apples vs. chalk vs. Beyoncé.

Screenshot showing all project prioritized in Meisterplan

Each is important within its own universe and now we can look at them across the organization, to plan, schedule, allocate appropriate resources and come up with some feasible alternatives for the organization to consider.

The question for you, of course, is can you do that within your planning tools? Is it collaborative or siloed? Does it take hours or weeks?

Try Meisterplan – you’ll find it a joy to use and you can go home early. Listen to some Beyoncé, if you like.

By | 2017-04-26T09:35:31+00:00 March 6th, 2017|Categories: Project Portfolio Management|Tags: Prioritization, Scenarios|

About the Author: John Morrissey

John, one of our partners as Sandhill Consultants in the UK, has worked in both multinational organisations and SMEs, in public and private sector, as an employee and a contractor, in roles covering manufacturing, sales, new product development, operational and strategic marketing, finance, IT and business transformation. This has involved a lot (really, a lot) of projects, programmes and portfolios. As a consequence, he's often quite grumpy, but hides it very well. Being not very bright, he is a big believer in KEEPING THINGS SIMPLE.

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