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Steve Pulman

How to choose the right project

Posted in , by on June 15, 2015 and has no comments yet

When faced with a range of projects for your organisation to carry out, it can often leave you wondering how to even begin deciding! There might be pressure from the CEO or shareholders to focus on a particular business area, or anything that can make quick financial gains. A business unit might be insisting their project is the next to carry out because of customer demand or changes in the market. You might also be left with no choice because of legislative or industrial requirements or technology upgrades.

Whichever category your dilemma falls into, assessing and choosing projects based on a few simple criteria will always result in better outcomes, although not everyone might agree of course! If your organisation already has a PMO, then much of the headache can be taken out of the ‘choice’ because, if set up correctly, the PMO will have strict guidelines and priority measures for the organisation. Read our post about PMOs and their benefits to organisational projects.

Steps to choosing the right project

With or without a PMO, it’s a worthwhile exercise looking at each new project or potential piece of work (that you know will probably result in a project) within the following parameters:

Does it align with the business?

What are the strategic goals of the business and how does this project fit in – or not?

Can you or the sponsor prove the value to the organisation/stakeholders/board members etc.? If it doesn’t align with the business, what’s the motivation for wanting to execute it and do all parties agree on this?

Do the numbers add up?

Even if everything else seems in order, will the budget be there for the duration of the project? Can the return on investment be established? If more resources were needed, where would they come from?

Can the right team deliver?

The ideal situation is that the project manager is part of the proposal and review process so that they can understand all the concerns and expectations from the outset. For many businesses, this just isn’t possible, but it is still imperative to have the right team on board if you decide the project goes ahead. According to CIO Magazine there are some fundamental criteria for selecting the right project manager for the job, including:

  • Problem foreseers and problem solvers
  • Highly organised and focussed
  • Robust leadership skills
  • Excellent communicators at all levels
  • Pragmatic (but not overly analytical)
  • Empathetic – understands their stakeholders’ motivation

What is the change management approach being adopted?

If the answer is ‘we don’t have one’ then this is an immediate red flag. Change management and project management must go hand in hand for successful projects to get off the ground. At Asq, we strongly believe that only when change and project management occur simultaneously can the business truly benefit. Read more about our project and change management approach here.

Which project management methodology will be followed?

This is always a personal choice in each business and it will often depend on the in-house project manager’s preferred method or the external consultancy you use. While there are arguments for each method, at Asq we remain on top of them all and apply the right approach when needed. We don’t believe one size fits all because each project is different and each approach needs to meet the unique requirements of the organisation and stakeholders.

Things that can put the project selection process on a detour:

  • Internal politics – a push for a certain projects to go ahead, or not, for personal reasons
  • One project sponsor having more power than others and able to leverage more internal support
  • A CEO or board of directors pushing for something on their own agenda that is unknown to the organisation
  • PMO not being given all the facts with which to make a decision
  • External reasons such as change of CEO, merger, acquisition, market conditions etc.

How to work on the ‘right’ project can often be a daunting task for many of our clients. Wanting to make it a success and improving organisational outcomes can sometimes mean a misguided approach is adopted and internal (or external pressure) applied on top does nothing to help either.

If you’re struggling to determine the best course of action for your projects, let’s talk – the Asq team of project and change management experts will be able to bring some clarity to the project management minefield!

Also, our next Asquarterly event is coming up in a few weeks so reserve your place here.

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