How to prioritize projects when everything is important – 7 easy steps

How to prioritize projects

It may seem obvious to say this, but no matter how big your organization is, what you do or how many people you have – you will always be asked to tackle more projects that you can do given the resources you have.

Without a way of prioritizing your projects you run the risk of working on the wrong projects or taking on more projects than you can deliver. Or even end up selecting a portfolio of projects that pulls in different directions and has no balance.

The problem is, project prioritization is often neglected or done badly. And you need to prioritize your projects to ensure you are selecting the right projects to work on.

Here are some tips to help prioritize your projects in 7 easy steps.

1. Create a list of all your projects

First start by pulling together a list of all the projects you are currently working on. Then add to this list any projects you have already approved or agreed to work on.

2. Review any project requests

As new projects get requested run the slide rule over them and check there is enough information for you to review them. Some key pieces of information you need for each project request are:

  • An estimate of the work involved.
  • The types of skills it will need.
  • Any deadlines it must hit.
  • The value it brings to your organization.

3. Decide what important means to you

There are many techniques you can use to prioritize your projects but the one I would recommend using is project scoring. It is simple to set up and will help you prioritize your projects based on the value they bring to your organization.

How to set up a project scorecard

Choose the criteria you want to score your projects on and provide a series of responses for each. And for each response assign a score.

how to set up a project scorecard

Here are some example criteria to help you get started:

  • Cost savings
  • Revenue increase
  • Risk
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Strategic fit
  • Increase market share
  • Technical complexity

Rather than basing project selection on “who shouts loudest” or gut feeling, project scoring creates a level playing field for decisions on projects.

4. Review each project and assign a score

The next step is to review your projects as a team. It is important that you get the right mix of people involved in the evaluation. So you may need to involve some tech people, sales and finance alongside the leadership team.

Take each project in turn and using your project scoring criteria choose a response for each. 

So in the example below we have reviewed the CRM Upgrade project and decided it will cut costs in the range $0-100K, provide no additional revenue, is low risk but will not contribute to customer satisfaction.

How to prioritize projects spreadsheet template

You can build a simple project scoring template in an Excel or a spreadsheet.

Identify any urgent or mandatory projects

Sometimes there are projects that you have to do even if they seem to provide little immediate value to your organization. So this could be due to things like changes in law or new regulations. It can be helpful to identify these separately.

5. Review your ranked projects

You should now have a list of projects ranked by score. The rankings should help inform your priorities, but a second step should be to sense check your projects to see if any external factors need to be considered.

For example, are there any projects that depend on each other or clusters of projects where it would make sense to work on them at the same time? If so, adjust your priorities to reflect this.

Prioritized list of projects

Responses to questions calculates a project score which can be used to prioritize projects.

Portfolio planning and resource management is easier with Kelloo

Get better visibility into your projects and your teams workload to help you prioritize better.

6. Check your resource capacity

The next step is to work out if you have sufficient resources to run your projects. This is called resource capacity planning.

Capacity planning takes your list of projects ordered by priority and compares this to your resource availability. It will show you which projects you need to cut, defer or where you need to hire more people.

Resource capacity planning and project prioritization work together

Here is how you do this.

For each project you should have an idea of:

  • The type of skills needed (for example Project Manager, Software Developer).
  • An estimate of the work involved (days per month is a good level to do this).
  • A rough timescale of when the project needs to happen. 

Starting with your highest priority project first, allocate resource availability to the project. Then to the next priority project and continue in turn.

Eventually you will allocate all of your resources and end up with some projects you are unable to assign resources to.  These should be your lower priority projects.

You can take a deeper dive into the capacity planning process here.

Optimize your project timings and resources

Try shifting the timings of your projects or the types of people working on your projects. This can help free up resources to work on higher priority work.

7. Say no to projects

Now you can start having difficult conversations about which projects are not going to make the cut. But saying no to projects means you give your higher priority projects the greatest chance of success and means you don’t overwork your people.

Without project prioritization and capacity planning it is impossible to demonstrate which projects you have the bandwidth to do.

Prioritize projects

Prioritize, rank and capacity plan your projects in Kelloo

Prioritize and capacity plan your work easily in Kelloo

Capacity planning is the hardest part of the project prioritization and selection process. A scoring model can be easily built in a spreadsheet. But trying to build a capacity plan in a spreadsheet is near impossible.

And that is where capacity planning software like Kelloo can lighten your load. With Kelloo, easily run through different project selections, priorities and resource options and see which works best for you. The beauty of using Kelloo is that you can see in real time the impact moving project dates, re-organizing priorities or hiring people has on your resources and ability to deliver projects.

heatmap

Kelloo capacity plan heatmap

capacity vs demand analysis

Compare capacity and project demand

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