How do you prioritize your work? Do you have a process to figure out what to do first or to identify the work that will bring the most value to the business? If your answer is “no,” keep reading; and if you answered “yes,” there is always room to improve. You may be surprised by what you find below.
First, let’s acknowledge that it’s not easy to establish an effective prioritization process when your PMO and teams are in high demand. In fact, according to PMI’s 2018 Pulse of the Profession report, while 87 percent of PMO directors characterize such processes as “very important” or “essential,” only 12 percent state that they are already “excellent” at prioritizing initiatives.
This disconnect points to the struggle PMO directors face to identify and enact an effective prioritization process. But we’ve pulled together a list of steps to follow to make the process much easier.
Keep in mind…
Regardless of how you currently score and prioritize work, you should be able to look at each initiative or project and answer one crucial question:
“What is the real value or benefit of this work and how important is it relative to other projects and initiatives?” [block quote]
As a Savvy PMO, you must be able to continuously improve and move with agility to deliver the business outcomes that matter most. Even if your current process may seem effective, there is always room for growth—simply follow the four steps that we will outline in this blog series. Let’s start with the first step in the process.
1. Get confident.
Prepare to prioritize—effective prioritization and scoring requires two things:
- An established process; and
- Just enough governance involving the right people, timing, criteria, and methods.
As a Savvy PMO, you should consider setting up and using a checklist to assemble the right group of people for an effective prioritization process. Include the elements: who, what, when, how, and how often.
We’ll help you get started by defining each element in a checklist of our own below.
Who will have a say in the prioritization process?
As a Savvy PMO, you are confident in how you evaluate prioritization drivers to make objective decisions. You’ll want to identify the individuals who have the necessary expertise to properly evaluate such prioritization drivers. Keep in mind—this should include knowledgeable stakeholders from other teams and departments.
What are your prioritization drivers?
These must be based on your company’s business goals, and with that, leadership buy-in is essential. Consider criteria such as financials (ROI, NPV, Expected Cost, etc.), business objectives (strategic alignment, customer focus, risk reduction, etc.), and driving factors (complexity, efficiencies, legal compliance, etc.).
When is the best timing for prioritization?
The “once-a-year” prioritization exercise is no longer realistic—you should establish a prioritization schedule from the start that is driven by the nature of the work and stakeholder involvement. Savvy PMOs constantly re-evaluate and adjust their priorities to suit the shifting needs of the business.
How do you best aggregate work for evaluation and prioritization?
What is your scoring frequency?
- Annually/Quarterly—focus on key initiatives or large projects. Using scoring in the portfolio planning process enables your organization to better understand and document the relative importance of strategic projects and initiatives. The benefit? Better prioritization decisions and implementing a baseline for evaluating new work.
- Monthly or more frequently—Savvy PMOs face constant change. That being said, they continuously iterate, revisit assumptions, and adjust as needed. By collecting work requests and prioritizing regularly, the organization is able to adapt more quickly to new information and demand as well as exploit emerging opportunities.
- Ad Hoc or Ongoing—With any ad hoc requests, PMOs determine if a project has enough merit to replace projects in flight. This is where your scoring frequency comes into play—ongoing is relevant to those organizations that have a steady work intake and include prioritization as part of the request workflow process. These organizations pull projects in as capacity and the schedule allow.
How often do you conduct scoring?
Determine your work intake process, then recognize how best to aggregate work for evaluation and prioritization. By working from a centralized intake process, you have the ability to prioritize and plan a portfolio you can deliver based on capacity. Be sure to re-prioritize frequently—Savvy PMOs reevaluate and manage the plan on an ongoing basis.
Once you’ve properly prepared for prioritization (nice alliteration there, huh?), you’ll be ready to move on to step two. We will continue this blog series with part two in the coming weeks, but for a preview, here are the remaining steps we will discuss in depth:
- Gain knowledge: What prioritization scoring method best suits your organization?
- Be persistent: Continuously act, evaluate, revise, and evolve
- Make the case: Realize the payoff of maximizing business value
Can’t wait for the rest of the series? Learn all about each of the above steps by downloading the full eBook, “The Savvy PMO’s Guide to Prioritization.”