A Method to Prioritize Projects

For a manager to know when to allocate time and resources to a project, it is necessary to identify the value of the project to the organization. Assuming that completing the highest valued project will provide the most effective outcome. By assigning a priority to a project, the value to the organization is being set.

There are times when there is a small number of project or resources, and it is very easy to determine which projects are more important than other. In the enterprise setting, this is not the case since there are many project and forces that come into play.

Presented here is one possible way to set a value on a project in a portfolio as it relates to the entire organization. It does not address resources.

Calculating Priority

To ensure that the priorities are assigned consistently, a method to calculate the priority can be devised.  The method described below will calculate a base priority, and then an extended priority.  The base priority can be used to determine initial priority, and the extended considers additional factors that will modify the base priority.

Base Priority

The base priority is calculated as:

Base Priority = Audience x Project Type  x  Importance

These factors each have a weighted value to produce the product.  Their product determines the base priority.

Audience

The audience is the group that will benefit from the completion of the project.  The some audience examples are the Enterprise, the IT Department, or another business unit or their constituents.  Additionally, other items can be factored in to adjust the outcome.

Audience

Type

Definition

Weight

Enterprise The enterprise or a large constituent group will be served by the completion of  this project.

10

IT Department

Projects geared toward this project would benefit the IT department in performing their mission within the enterprise.

1

Departmental The target audience for a project geared toward this audience would be a single department or their constituents.

0.1

Project Type

 The first thing to consider in the project prioritization is the project type classification.  The classification is related to the service or system life cycle. Emphasis is put on maintaining stable and available systems as the primary goal of the organization.

There are four project types in order of precedence retirement, maintenance, enhancement, and innovation.  There are times when a project may appear to span two project types.  In these cases, the higher precedent project type should be assigned to the project.  Examples of this are most likely system maintenance that also includes enhanced features.  The maintenance aspect of the project needs to be emphasized.

Project type can also be affected by the length of time a project lingers as inactive or incomplete.  Again in most cases the project type will change to a higher precedence.  Examples for this might be a later version of an application is released by a vendor, contract, or support expiration.  These events could cause a project listed as an enhancement to become a maintenance project, and so forth.

Project Type

Type

Definition

Weight

Retirement System or Service is to be removed.

5

Maintenance System upgrades, patching or other system work necessary to keep the system or service in good health.

1

Enhancement New features or functionality to be added to an existing system or service.

.5

Innovation New systems or services

.1

Retirement

At some point systems and service reach a time in their existence when they are no longer necessary.  This could be that it has been superseded by another system or service, or the usage of the system, service has dropped to a level that no longer justifies the expenditure of resources to maintain, or the current system is no longer supported by the vendor but is being replaced with a new system.

Retirement has the highest precedence for a couple of reason.  First of all, retiring the system will free up the resources necessary to maintain the system or service.  Additionally retiring a system will help to reduce the expenditure necessary to keep it running.  For this reason, retirement project

Maintenance

Once a system or service is in service, there are tasks that are necessary to keep them running.  Most of these are business as usual, but occasionally a larger maintenance task such as a system upgrade may require a project.  A system upgrade that completely displaces an older system is most likely still a maintenance type project if the vendor is still supporting the currently running system.

Enhancements

If a project primary purpose is to add additional features or functionality it is an enhancement project type.  There will be times when an upgrade project will bring enhancements, but this is not the primary reason driving the project.  These cases would not be enhancement projects.

Innovation

Projects that implement a new service are innovations.  Of the project types, these have the lowest weighting.  This ensures that as an organization we are focusing our effort on maintaining our current systems and providing stability and reliability before moving on to the next thing.  There will be times when an innovation becomes and imperative, but this is can be controlled with other weighting factors such as importance.

Importance

There are three levels of importance for a project.  They are:

  1. High Profile/Important
  2. Routine
  3. Exploratory

Importance is the designation of how important a project is deemed to be for its implementation.

Project Type

Importance

Definition

Weight

High Profile/Important Project with a high visibility or urgency to be completed.

100

Routine Projects that are neither of high profile or an exploratory nature

10

Exploratory A project to explore options or no driving deadline identified for completion.

1

High Profile/Important

These projects either have a high visibility or have an urgency to be completed due to external forces.  This could be a high-profile stake holder or that not implementing the project would cause harm to the University or the services CSSD offers.

Routine

Projects that are neither of high profile or an exploratory nature are routine.

Exploratory

If there is no need to have a fixed deadline for a project or it could be a proof of concept it would be an exploratory project.

Calculating

                                                                Base Priority Scale

Priority

Range

Meaning

High
  • 100
Takes precedent over all other project priorities and all other activities except for critical problem resolution.
Moderate

10 – 100

Normal importance to be interpreted as normal course of business.
Low

< 10

As time permits.

Extended Priority

The extended priority takes into additional factors that are determined to affect the priority of the project.  These factors may change during the life of the project, subsequently changing the priority of the project.  Some of the factors to consider might be Executive directive, an unmovable deadline is pending, if the project supports the mission of the IT department or enterprise,  other projects are dependent upon the completion of some or all of project being evaluated, and possibly the status of the project.

Executive Directive

There are projects that have been deemed highly important by the executive level of the enterprise.  This factor indicates an executive importance applied to the project.

Executive Directive

Directive?

Definition

Weight

yes

The project is deemed important by the executive level of management .

100

no

10

Immutable Deadline

An immutable deadline is one that cannot be moved.  This could be a scheduled event or an expiration of a contract that would be costly if missed.

Immutable Deadline

Deadline?

Definition

Weight

yes

A deadline exists that cannot be missed.

25

no

No deadline

1

Mission

Sometimes projects are proposed and/or championed that do not meet the mission of the department or institution.  This flag indicates this, and should offset an over enthusiastic champion.

Does it support our mission?

Definition

Weight

yes

The project supports the mission of the department or enterprise

1

no

The project does not support the mission of the department or enterprise.

0.000001

Dependent Project

To account for projects that require some or all of a project to be completed before they can be completed, their priority is used to adjust the importance of a project.  If the project dependingupon this one has a priority greater than 1, it is used as a multiplier for the dependent project’s priority.

Project Status

Project status may vary from institution to institution.  For this example the values will be used are Green, Yellow, and Red.  A status indicator is used to warn a project sponsor to imminent danger that may exist for project be completed on time and within budget.  If the project is in peril the priority of it needs to be elevated to try and bring it back on track.

Current Status of Project

Definition

Weight

Green

Project is on track.

1

Yellow

Issues are imminent that may prevent the project from completing successfully.

10

Red

The project has go off track and will not be completed successfully without intervention.

50

Extended Priority

Priority Scale

Priority

Range

Meaning

Very High

50001+

Takes precedent over all other project priorities and all other activities except for critical problem resolution.
High

10000-50000

Takes precedent over other projects of lesser priority and may require additional effort to accomplish.
Moderate

10-1000

Normal importance to be interpreted as normal course of business.
Low

10-100

As time permits.
Very Low

<10

As time permits.

To give a scale to priority, ranges of values are assigned from Very Low to Very High.  It is important to keep the actual numeric value in view since there can be multiple problem with the same priority.  This value help to show the importance of the project.

Examples:

Upgrading Remedy System from 5.0 to 6.0

Project Type:     Maintenance (1)

Importance:       Routine (10)

Modifiers:           Departmental System (0.1)

Priority = 1 x 10 x 0.1 = 1 (Low)

If it were decided that the project had a high importance (100) rather than routine, then the priority would become:

Priority = 1 x 100 x 0.1 = 10 (Moderate)

Another scenario for this project would be that the Vendor no longer support version 5.0, so the upgrade to version 6.0.  This would change the project from Maintenance (1) to Retirement (5) since version 5.0 has been retired and needs to be replaced by v 6.0 to maintain support.  Without changing the importance the priority would become:

Priority = 5 x 10 x 0.1 = 5 (Low)

Your thoughts?

This method is presented as a possible way to set priorities.  I welcome your thoughts and comments.

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