Saturday, March 14, 2009

IT Governance: Prioritizing Projects

We've been working on building a consistent, simple process for evaluating and prioritizing requests for IT projects. Historically there seems like there has always been an order of magnitude more projects than there are funds or staffing to tackle. But how to sort through this onslaught of needs to sort out the real priorities?

We've used evaluation matrices for some time to facilitate structured conversations and make decisions about hiring staff and for selecting IT products. The matrices ensure that the information needed to make a decision is complete, and provides the opportunity to capture the relative values of criteria through weights. In poking around the web, I found several processes like this one that use a similar process for reviewing projects. Subsequently we've develop a relatively simple process that looks at both reward and risk associated with a request, and tries to make the scoring as quantitative as possible.

The fascinating part of this is that running a collection of requests through such a tool can be quite enlightening. For example, one of the first things you discover is that often requests are too vague to score accurately, and that they need to be broken down into smaller efforts that start with a feasibility/analysis stage. This helps to explain why prioritizing always seems so hard - it's because in many cases there just isn't good information to make a decision!

You may also discover that small projects with quick turnarounds, small resource needs, and limited risk score well. To a certain extent this makes sense, and lines up well with the principles of good project management.

The most important thing in my mind is that it provides a way to have a thoughtful discussion about priorities - it's critical not to let the tool take over, it needs to facilitate the real issue, which is clear communication.

No comments: