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

How to prioritize projects

What should you do when you have more projects than you can handle? Deal with the quick wins or do the smallest projects first?

Well, the easy answer is none of the above. Instead, you need to focus on the projects that will provide the most value to your organization.

In this article, we lay out a simple 7-step process that will get your project prioritization working like a dream.

Table of contents

Why is project prioritization important?

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 than you can deliver. The simple fact is, you can’t do everything. So you need to work out which projects to tackle by weighing up the relative pros and cons of each.

In a recent PMI Pulse of the Profession report, it was clear that the very best organizations have far higher project success rates. The top performers deliver 7x more projects on time than poor performers. 

One thing highly performing organizations do differently from "the rest" is they have a focus on strategically managing their portfolio and their resources. They ensure that projects are aligned with strategy and that their resources are deployed to support the most important projects.

Benefits of using project prioritization to select projects

Here are three key benefits organizations who use project prioritization receive:

  • Optimal resource allocation: Most organizations have limited resources, including time, budget, and manpower. Prioritization helps allocate resources optimally by focusing on projects that bring the most value.
  • Improved strategic alignment: Prioritizing projects ensures that the initiatives selected support the organization’s long-term strategic objectives. It helps keep the organization focused on projects that contribute to the bigger picture.
  • Avoid project overload: Without prioritization, organizations can take on more projects than they can handle. Prioritization helps prevent project overload.

Project prioritization process

Project prioritization doesn’t have to be complicated. We suggest you focus on four main questions when prioritizing projects:

  • How each project aligns with your business goals.
  • What projects are mandatory or urgent.
  • Do any projects depend on others being completed first
  • Do you have the resource capacity to do the projects.

1. Get a list of all your projects

First, get a list of all your projects and a summary of the goals, rough cost and work estimates and the kind of resources they need. Apply a quick quality filter – if any don’t have this basic information skip them for now.

2. Assess each project for business value

Next, you need to review each project and decide how valuable that project is to your business. High-value projects could be those that reduce costs or increase revenue. But they could also be projects where the benefit is not so obvious such as improving customer service or improving brand recognition.

So you need to decide what valuable looks like for your organization. Here are some criteria you could use when assessing the value of a project:

  • Likely cost savings
  • Anticipated revenue increase
  • How risky the project is
  • Technical complexity
  • Does it improve customer service
  • Does it improve your brand

Once you have decided upon your criteria, you need to review each project and see how it measures up against your criteria. 

We think the easiest way to do this is using a project prioritization scorecard. And here is how the scorecard looks in Kelloo.

project scorecard for project prioritization

Who should be involved in the prioritization process?
It's 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.

3. Identify mandatory or urgent projects

Now it’s time to take the prioritization process one step further. Run through your projects and look for any that are urgent or mandatory. These projects may have not ranked highly in your initial assessment but they may be things you just have to do to keep the lights on or for regulatory reasons.

4. Identify dependent projects

This can be tricky to do, but it is worth spending the time on this so you don’t end up starting projects that get blocked by other work. So identify any projects that need to be completed before others can start and prioritize them higher.

Portfolio planning and resource management is easier with Kelloo

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

5. Check your resource capacity

The next step is to work out if you have sufficient resources to do your projects. This process is called resource capacity planning. This is a key step in the prioritization process as there is no point considering a project if you don’t have the people to do it.

Capacity planning compares the resource needs for each project and compares this to the resource capacity you have. If you have a shortfall, you either have to hire more people, adjust the timing of your projects or put projects on hold.

Here is how the capacity planner looks in Kelloo. The bars indicate the total resource needs for that month and the green fill shows the overall level of resource capacity for that month.


6. Refine your project timings

The chances are when you look at your resource capacity – essentially the resource bandwidth you have to complete the projects you will have a shortfall. So the next step is to adjust the timings of your projects to free up resources for your highest-priority projects.

7. Learn to 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. A great tool to do this is the priority view in Kelloo. All your projects are ranked by priority and the red cut-off line shows which projects don’t make the cut due to resource constraints.

Prioritize projects

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 using a spreadsheet. But trying to build a capacity plan in a spreadsheet is nearly 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.

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