How does your organization decide which projects they should commit to? Do you rely on your gut feeling for projects or pick the projects that sound the most exciting? Whether you have a detailed process for evaluating projects or if you like to shoot from the hip when making decisions, there’s one crucial question you should ask yourself about every project you commit to: Why are we doing this project?
If you looked at all your projects and asked yourself why your organization was doing them, you might get some very mundane answers. Maybe you’re doing a project because it was a pet project of one of your decision-makers or maybe you’re doing a project because you’ve done projects like that in the past and they’ve always been successful. These are extremely common answers across organizations, but honestly, they’re not good enough. We can’t just do projects because we like them or they worked in the past. Every project needs to bring your organization forward so you must align projects to strategy.
Align Your Projects to Strategy
Organizations have a limited amount of time, resources and budget to complete projects. This means that if we want to reach our strategic goals, we have to carefully use our resources. When we don’t consider why we’re actually doing a project, we risk three things: (1) wasting resources, (2) losing sight of the focus of the project and deviating from its original purpose and (3) falling short of the corporate goals we set to help the organization grow and evolve. The answer to why we’re working on a project should be that the project helps us obtain our goals in a specific way. But how do we make sure that every project we work on helps us reach our goals? A quick litmus test on your projects can help you understand why and if you should be doing a project.
The Strategy Alignment Litmus Test
There are many ways organizations can determine how aligned a project is to strategic goals. One of the most common is to develop a scoring system, but if you’re just now thinking about strategy alignment or if you’re looking to redevelop your system, we recommend taking the first step and starting really simple. Here are three questions you can use to determine why you’re doing a project:
Which Strategic Goal Does this Project Align With?
This seems like a simple question, but so often we commit to projects before considering the answer. Asking ourselves this question can ensure we are working on relevant projects, but it’s also crucial for building a balanced project portfolio. Imagine your organization had three strategic goals for this year. If you committed to a portfolio of projects that only supports two of the goals, you’re going to miss the third goal. Or, if one goal is more important than the others, you would want that to be reflected in the types of projects in your portfolio.
How Closely Does this Project Align with a Strategic Goal?
When we know a project aligns with a specific goal, we can then determine how closely aligned or how well it supports that goal. There are so many scales you can use to measure this, but a good starting place is low, medium and high. Thinking about how well a project supports a goal also helps create a balanced project portfolio. What if your project portfolio only contained projects with a low or medium alignment? It would probably be difficult to reach your goals. Considering how well a project is aligned can also help you make decisions on whether to approve a project. If you had to choose between a project with low alignment and high alignment, you’d probably go with high alignment.
Is this Project Required for Regulatory Compliance?
If you are in a regulated industry, you’ll likely have compliance projects. Your organization might choose to make specific goals related to compliance or you may just accept that compliance is a top priority all the time. Because compliance is mandatory, asking ourselves why we’re working on a compliance project is easy. We do them because we have to if we want to operate in this industry.
Taking Strategy Alignment to the Next Level
Asking yourself these questions about why we’re doing projects is incredibly powerful, but to get the most out of these insights, you need a tool that can help you visualize these answers. Meisterplan is a project portfolio management software that helps organizations stay focused on their strategic goals and build relevant project portfolios. When you use Meisterplan to align projects and track strategic goals, project teams will be able to focus on project-specific goals, management will have a big picture view of what work is underway to help them reach all their goals and PMO leaders can create and manage balanced project portfolios. Because project-strategy alignment is important for everyone in your organization, Meisterplan has several views to support this information.
Our Goals overview breaks down the current project split between goals and allows you to drag and drop projects to a specific goal to assign the project to that goal. In this view, you can quickly see the number of projects, total costs, projected benefit and workload associated with each goal. This view makes it easy to identify if the project portfolio is unbalanced. Is one goal taking too many resources? Is a goal consuming the majority of the cost? Does the goal with the biggest benefit have the fewest number of projects? All of these questions can be answered quickly so you can take action and adapt your projects before it becomes a bigger problem.
For people in your organization that want transparency into project-strategy alignment, but don't need details like cost and workload, Meisterplan can display projects and goals in a Roadmap . The Roadmap displays projects in a timeline that can be grouped by certain project characteristics. When you group the projects by Business Goal, you can see not only which projects are aligned to what goal, but when they’re scheduled. This view is ideal for decision-makers who need a big picture view or for sharing throughout the organization to project teams to keep them informed of company strategy.
The Roadmap can also be grouped by Strategy Fit, which is an incredibly powerful way to see what impact the projects in your portfolio will have on goal achievement. Projects with a low Strategy Fit have a low alignment to their corporate goal, while a project with a high Strategy Fit has a very high alignment to its corporate goal. Decision-makers and PMO leads can use this view to build a balanced and impactful portfolio or use this view to justify adapting project plans if they don't support reaching corporate goals.
See What Meisterplan Can Do
Creating powerful project portfolios is what Meisterplan does best. To see how Meisterplan can not only support project-strategy alignment but also help you with things like capacity planning, new project intake and project reporting, take our self-guided product tour.