If there ever was an issue that was common to almost every organization, it’s that there is too much going on. There is tremendous pressure to do more, try more and hopefully succeed more often. Some change projects (for example, in healthcare) are non-optional and are driven by regulatory requirements. Others are “good ideas” designed to streamline processes, take out costs, and increase efficiencies.
Regardless of the stimulus, the net result is that people have the sense that they are spinning out of control. In our change management training programs, we talk about how one turn of the strategic initiative wheel at the top creates constant spinning of the change wheel further down the organization. We see organization after organization working on countless projects that are chasing limited resources. Often times, there seems to be no clear line of sight as to the total number of projects that are actually in play, where resources are being spent or whether the initiatives are a priority or not.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? We are betting it does. So the question becomes... how can we go about fixing this epidemic, prioritization problem? Is it simply a matter of investing in portfolio management software?
Based on our 25+ years focused solely on helping organizations accelerate change project implementations, we’ve compiled a few best practices to assist organizations that are either looking to re-design or to create a Portfolio Management solution. Software may be part of the answer, but technology alone is insufficient. It’s a people and cultural change issue as well, and requires a people-focused solution!
Step One: Know Everything Your Organization is Working On!
The best starting place is to complete an inventory of every existing and proposed project within your organization. It is imperative to include projects that are in the pipeline as well as current initiatives. Your list should include what is going on at all levels of the organization, as well as the time frames for completion.
Tip: Consolidate all projects into a single master schedule to provide the visibility required to make informed decisions on capacity to implement and resource capability for existing and new projects.
Step Two: Categorize by Project Type
Once you have a full list of projects, the next step is to categorize your projects by type. Remember, depending on your strategic priorities, some categories are going to be more important than others. Examples of standard project-type categories include:
Tip: When you are looking at enterprise-wide changes, it’s critical to map the categories to your strategy so there is a link between strategic direction and where your resources are being spent.
Step Three: Prioritize by Applying Consistent Selection Criteria
Often, one of the major mistakes made by organizations is that they do not use consistent standards to determine project prioritization. We encourage organizations to use factors that touch on all five of the AIM success metrics; on time, on budget, all business, technical, and human objectives met. Examples of prioritization criteria include (but are not limited to):
Initiatives with the greatest potential ROI
Projects that are the most urgent
The inter-dependence of an initiative with other critical projects
Initiatives that are high-risk, high gain
These criteria can then be weighted to ensure mandatory/regulatory projects will be automatically included, while projects with questionable business value can be eliminated. Afterwards, using the agreed upon consistent selection criteria, decisions can be made on which projects should be funded and which should not.
Tip: Communicate the output of your process to Authorizing Sponsors to make sure they understand the rationale behind the selection of approved and funded projects along with their accountabilities to Sponsor, resource and prioritize selected projects into their daily work.
Ready. Set. Implement!
While the above three steps may not be a magic fix for the prioritization problem, they can certainly provide the structure, processes, and tools needed to support better decision-making and the ability to do a much better job of sequencing implementations over time.
However, once you have created your prioritized list, the real work of implementation begins! This is the time to ensure you have a realistic “Implementation Plan” and not just an “Installation Plan” for all your projects.
Tip: It is imperative that your executives understand the difference between installation and implementation. Use our Mini Guide to Installation vs. Implementation to educate your leadership team.
By using a structured Change Management Approach such as IMA’s proprietary, Accelerating Implementation Methodology (AIM) you’ll be well on your way to implementation success for all of the prioritized projects within your portfolio.