Selecting and Prioritizing Projects

Most organizations don't have the luxury of performing every project that's proposed. Even consulting organizations that sell their project management services must pick and choose the projects on which they want to work. Selection methods help organizations decide among alternative projects and determine the tangible benefits to the company of choosing or not choosing the project.

Project selection methods will vary depending on the company, the people serving on the selection committee, the criteria used, and the project. Sometimes the criteria for selection methods will be purely financial, sometimes purely marketing, and sometimes they'll be based on public perception or political perception. In most cases, the decision is based on a combination of all these and more.

Most organizations have a formal, or at least semiformal, process for selecting and prioritizing projects. In my organization, a steering committee is responsible for project review, selection, and prioritization. A steering committee is a group of folks comprising senior managers and sometimes midlevel managers who represent each of the functional areas in the organization.

Here's how our process works: The steering committee requests project ideas from the business staff prior to the beginning of the fiscal year. These project ideas are submitted in writing and contain a high-level overview of the project goals, a description of the deliverables, the business justification for the project, a desired implementation date, what the organization stands to gain from implementing the project, a list of the functional business areas affected by the project, and (if applicable) a cost-benefit analysis (I'll talk about that in a bit).

A meeting is called to review the projects, and a determination is made on each project about whether it will be included on the upcoming list of projects for the new year. Once the no-go projects have been weeded out, the remaining projects are prioritized according to their importance and benefit to the organization. The projects are documented on an official project list, and progress is reported on the active projects at the regular monthly steering committee meetings.

In theory, it's a great idea. In practice, it works only moderately well. Priorities can and do change throughout the year. New projects come up that weren't originally submitted during the call for projects, and they must be added to the list. Reprioritization begins anew, and resource alignment and assignments are shuffled. But again, I'm getting ahead of myself. Just be aware that organizations usually have a process to recognize and screen project requests, accept or reject those requests based on some selection criteria, and prioritize the projects based on some criteria.

The project selection methods I'll talk about next are ones you should know and understand for the exam. However, keep in mind they are only one aspect of project selection in the real world. The individual opinion, and power, of selection committee members also plays a part in the projects the organization chooses to perform. Don't underestimate the importance of the authority, political standing, and individual aspirations of selection committee members. Those committee members who happen to carry a lot of weight in company circles, so to speak, are likely to get their projects approved just because they are who they are. This is sometimes how project selection works in my organization. How about yours?

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  • Longo
    Who is responsible for reviewing, selecting and prioritizing projects?
    1 month ago

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