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Project Prioritization as a Savvy PMO

Part 2: How the Savvy PMO continuously prioritizes by taking action, evaluating, revising, and evolving

Project prioritization as a savvy PMO

In our previous post on prioritization, we talked about the importance of prioritizing your work. We also covered the groundwork you’ll need to know before implementing project prioritization methodologies of your own.

Today, we’re going to take it a step further. If you’re new to prioritization, this post will help you learn how to identify and implement a mechanism that’s compatible with your business. If you already know a thing or two about project prioritization, you’ll learn ways to improve your existing approach or discover if there’s a method that would be better suited for your organization.

Regardless of whether you’re still learning how to prioritize projects or you’re a seasoned veteran, you can walk away from this blog knowing how to become a Savvy PMO. Here’s how.

Gain Knowledge.

Previously, we talked about the who, what, when, and how of project prioritization.

  • Who has a say in your prioritization process?
  • What are your drivers?
  • When is the best timing for prioritization?
  • How often are you prioritizing work?

Now, it’s time to choose a prioritization process that works to deliver the best results. It may require a little experimenting to find the right method to match the needs of your PMO and organization. Feel free to try different scoring approaches and make any adjustments you need to ensure the prioritization method represents your organizational goals as accurately as possible.

Remember, you can take a few steps at first to start simple and develop over time. Begin by collecting feedback, for example, and use that feedback to enhance prioritization. If you need help kicking off your project prioritization, use these three options to help you get started.

Rank Order or Sequential Prioritization.

The Rank Order technique prioritizes work by assigning it a value from 1 to 10, or by labeling work as High, Medium, or Low Priority. The advantage of this method lies in its simplicity. It’s easy to categorize work while offering high-level agreement on your priorities.

Of course, simplicity comes with drawbacks of its own. This method doesn’t include guidelines for prioritizing work, which can lead to arbitrary prioritization and inconsistency throughout the organization. This approach can also be difficult to use in projects that involve large amounts of work because there aren’t always clear guidelines for starting tasks and determining cutoff points. For example, if there are 7 High-Priority tasks in the list, teams may not know which task to start first and which task to end on when they can’t complete all 7 tasks.

Calculated or Weighted Scoring.

For this approach, projects are given a numerical score derived from their categories. Every category is assigned a weighted score based on its importance, and the higher the number, the greater the priority. If the organization believes strategic value is more important than risk, strategic value is assigned a higher weighted score.

There are several benefits of using this approach.

  • It’s easy to set up and can provide a clear-cut guideline for assigning priority
  • You can easily prioritize work by using the WSJF (Weighted Shortest Job First) calculation
  • Stakeholders can give input when scoring categories for projects
  • You get an average weighted score that represents the interests of stakeholders and other important groups

One thing to keep in mind when using this approach, however, is that it can overlook resource constraints completely. The top-ranking projects may score well because they align with the needs of your organization, but that doesn’t mean your organization has the capacity to take on high-ranking projects.

Constraint Analysis.

This approach uses an optimization parameter, financial and date information, and resource constraints to prioritize and schedule work. It’s a popular and effective approach among Savvy PMOs because scores factor in both human effort and financial resources. This means you can make a more informed decision by factoring in both types of resources when you’re prioritizing work. With that said, this project prioritization scoring model requires up-to-date data and good resource and capacity planning for optimal results.

Now that we’ve looked at some popular project prioritization methods, let’s see what you need to do in order to make the approach you’ve selected succeed.

The Changing World of Work eBook

Be persistent.

Be ready to continuously act, evaluate, revise, and evolve. The Savvy PMO is grounded in reality when creating their prioritized list. Try to limit the work you include to priorities that can actually be achieved. If you’re not using constraint analysis scoring, choose work based on your schedule and the resources you have available, and don’t overdo it. Stick to those priorities that can be realistically delivered, and if low-priority work has to wait, move it to the backlog until the current cycle has been completed.

But you’re not just any regular PMO, you’re a Savvy PMO so you are constantly looking forward by:

  • Monitoring progress to verify everything is on the right track
  • Evaluating whether the outcome of your projects reflects your prioritization. If not, the savvy approach is to re-adjust your prioritization method and ranking criteria, and then, try it again
  • Being adaptable by keeping your project prioritization plans aligned with business drivers as they change over time

Ensure you constantly improve on your prioritization plan by getting insights from work that stalls or is no longer aligned with your company strategy (document the reasons why and be mindful as you prioritize for the future). From there, you can create an action plan to free up space for higher-value work that pushes your company closer to their goals and objectives.

Make the case.

The Savvy PMO realizes the payoff of maximizing business value through project prioritization and continues to score and prioritize their work accordingly. But, what value do these tactics bring, exactly?

Effective prioritization can transform your company in several different ways, including:

  • Improving decision-making through an objective, systematic workflow that removes biases and boosts consistency
  • Bringing the focus to the highest value work, allowing you and your organization to prioritize and re-prioritize work as soon as initiatives diverge from company objectives
  • Lowering risk by having teams focus on work that helps with achieving established goals and objectives
  • Assembling teams that deliver high-value work and identify dependencies more effectively
  • Demonstrating the importance of your PMO by delivering value based on strategic outcomes rather than project outputs

That’s not all. Effective prioritization increases the success rates of your strategic projects and programs while helping senior management stay aligned with organizational goals. You can’t get any savvier than that.

As a Savvy PMO, your next step should be to implement a project prioritization process that takes your organization forward. You can learn more about prioritization and how to accomplish it by downloading our eBook, “The Savvy PMO’s Guide to Prioritization”. This guide will give you the pragmatic steps to take to build an optimized prioritization system that connects plans and delivery with your organization’s goals and company culture.

Don’t forget to complete the Savvy PMO Prioritization Checklist. This will help you evaluate your current prioritization process and look at several ways you can improve its effectiveness.

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Linda Roach
Written By

Linda Roach champions solutions marketing at Planview, partnering with customers to articulate their business challenges and to quantify the value of implementing change. Linda leads Planview's agile go-to-market team for portfolio and resource management. During her tenure, Linda has helped drive Planview's market advancement and significant growth through marketing leadership roles. Previously, Linda held positions at Pervasive Software, VTEL, and Kodak where she led go-to-market initiatives for new products and product line expansion. Linda holds a BS degree in Chemical Engineering from SUNY Buffalo.