Managing a list of projects for stakeholders who all feel their projects deserve your full attention can be overwhelming. If it is your responsibility to figure out what is a priority and what should come next in the line of seemingly critical projects, four factors must be taken into consideration: urgency, cost, unforeseen events, and resources and alternatives.
Urgency should be the main factor in deciding which project to address first, but first urgency must be defined. What are the benefits, and the risk factors? What is the cost of inaction? If the cost of not doing the project is detrimental to the business, your only alternative may be to proceed. Allocate your resources accordingly and determine the time that will be required to complete these priority projects.
What happens when the cost is a major factor? Utilizing a project management tool can help you determine how much a project will cost, but do not forget to compare that number with the cost of not doing the project. (There is always a not-doing cost.) Next, you will want to determine which projects can be completed in the least amount of time. Tools you can use to make these decisions include activity-based costing, analogous estimating, parametric estimating and three-point estimating such as PERT (program evaluation and review technique).
Once you have answered the questions of urgency and cost, you will need to analyze how unforeseen events could impact active projects. Are upcoming policy or program changes planned? Has anything changed since the project was added to the queue? If so, will any of these scenarios change the urgency or cost of your projects? These are all questions that need to be answered while reviewing your open projects.
Resources and Alternatives
An activity-on-arrow chart can help you determine projects that might be connected. Getting a view into the connections enables you to properly allocate resources and even assign projects based on specialization. This can free up other resources that you can allocate to unrelated projects, which helps reduce the bottlenecking of projects in the queue. In addition, performing a critical-path analysis makes it easier to map out each necessary task required to complete a project. This also uncovers project areas that may be dependent on others. Next, see if there are alternatives to completing the project as it was initially laid out. When in doubt — and if you do not have the bandwidth to perform these analyses — seek the help of a project manager.
Think through all the factors mentioned above, and then consider the cost of outsourcing to a qualified project manager who is skilled in making such decisions. This may seem costly, but spinning your wheels and getting stuck due to inaction can have higher price tags. Also costly is the risk of missed opportunities.
Putting your organization in the best position to remain agile and productive has never been more critical. When making project planning and management decisions, be sure you are not wearing blinders and contemplate each perspective in moving forward with the work.
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