6 proven strategies for evaluating and prioritizing IT projects

Within most large organizations – as well as smaller businesses – time and resources are in short supply yet high demand, making project selection more difficult. Evaluating and prioritizing projects can be complex, but this vital first step can negatively impact the business if not assessed carefully.

Regardless of business size, industry or structure, many projects today are unfortunately still selected and initiated in a siloed department-by-department manner, without considering the overall strategic impact. What are the risks of initiating projects in this manner? Businesses run the risk of more than one area competing for the same project resources, including people and technologies, and also conflicting deadlines and goals. They may even risk some project outcomes negatively impacting other areas of the business.

All too often every department or unit deems their projects a top priority. The bad news is unless a business has unlimited resources, time and no real clear direction, it is impossible to assess all projects as top priority. The good news is, there are some proven strategies for evaluating and prioritizing projects.

1. Become involved in strategic level planning

The first step for a program, portfolio or project manager is to become involved in strategic level planning. Sit down with the leadership team to gain a full understanding of the direction of the business, the timing, and their overall vision; there is no such thing as too much detail here.

This may require more than one strategic planning session, and will provide valuable insights to help guide decision-making for programs, portfolios, and projects. Consider this similar to a roadmap or blueprint that will not only mark the desired destination but also provide additional markers along the way to follow, to help confirm if you are navigating in the right direction.

2. Identify project drivers

Projects can be driven by various factors like some of the ones below. Some of these drivers may motivate a business to initiate a project for the purpose of creating or enhancing something, meeting a requirement or hurdle, reducing the risk, removing an existing or potential problem, increasing revenues, offering an opportunity not previously available or simply streamlining a process. Talk with management to identify which of the following drivers are motivating each proposed project.

  • Competitive advantage
  • Cost savings/financial benefit
  • Operational efficiency/process improvement
  • Legislative/legal/ tax implications
  • Improving quality
  • Risk reduction
  • Growth/ business opportunities

3. Quantify strategic value

Ask management to discuss the various projects they are considering to determine the impact and desired project outcomes. This will help to better understand and quantify the strategic value, immediate and/or long-term impact as well as anticipated benefits of each project being considered. The risks of not starting certain projects on schedule will also have to be weighed carefully. For instance, some projects may be of great strategic value, and add numerous benefits, yet may not be top priority when compared to another project driven by legal, tax or legislative requirements.
4. Determine factors that may impact project success

Additional factors that should carefully be considered are the return on investment (ROI), budgeted funds, available resources, and timing, and if there are any dependencies or limitations (among other factors). Company budgets and timing are almost always limited, making it impossible to take on all project ideas conceived. Some projects may need to be put on hold if they depend on the successful outcomes of other projects, or there may be factors outside of the business’s control that could delay or prevent the success of one or more projects.

5. Create an evaluation and prioritization matrix

Once you have gathered all the applicable information from management and other sources, create a project evaluation and prioritization matrix to identify and rate each project in terms of criteria. Use a weighted scale (for example 1 to 5, with 1 = very low, 2 = low, 3 = medium, 4 = high, 5 = critical) to put a rating on each of the criteria in order to accurately evaluate the priority of each project.

6. Close the loop

After projects have been carefully weighted and prioritized, before initiating any of the projects sit down again with management and review the project evaluation and prioritization matrix, and any other findings, to ensure expectations are clear with all parties involved. This allows management an additional opportunity for added input, and to confirm if they are in agreement with your findings.

Source: CIO.com- 6 proven strategies for evaluating and prioritizing IT projects by Moira Alexander

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Does remote project management really work?

Remote project management may be a great alternative to traditional project management for most organizations, project managers and team members, but is it realistic? There are tangible advantages here, but this is not for the faint-hearted.

Does remote project management work? The answer, in general, is yes, it can. Will remote project management work for your organization if you have a top-notch virtual project teams? Not necessarily.

There are advantages to establishing virtual project teams for remote project management. Some may include the following:

  • Lower project costs due to technology advancements that bridge distance
  • Improved work/life balance for project team members
  • Increased efficiency and decreased travel time
  • increased ability to attract top talent

While these are definitely advantages, when it comes to knowing if remote project management is right for your company you should carefully vet several aspects. Below are some aspects that may impact an organization’s ability to execute a project successfully using virtual project teams, as well as some possible solutions.

Factors that may impede remote project management

Productivity degradation. Even the most dedicated project managers and team members can at times lack focus and have trouble staying on task, despite their dedication to the project.

Possible solutions:

  • Seek to build virtual project teams with members that not only have the required technical expertise but possess an intrapreneurial outlook and approach to their work. People who are intrapreneurial naturally possess a passion for what they do; they are results-oriented, resourceful, dedicated, independent, innovative and highly adaptable.
  • Expect a high level of professionalism and personal integrity from all team members. This trait should not be optional, as it drives the actions of team members throughout projects.
  • Foster exceptional organizational skills in all team members. If this is not a team member’s strong suit, additional training can be gained in this area to improve their abilities in this regard.
  • Clearly define the roles of all team members, establish schedules, and regularly monitor the status of activities and deliverables to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. This is particularly important with virtual teams due to various obstacles like distance, time and possible cultural and language barriers that may exist.

Location, distance or time zone issues. Project schedules can develop a bottleneck when negatively impacted by the distance between team members, time zone changes that impact fluctuating work hours, and even remote locations of work where communication is limited due to telecommunication servicing gaps.

Possible solutions:

  • Establish clear policies and protocols to address expected availability of team members throughout the life of a project. Whenever possible, determine a reasonable time and schedule for team meetings where all required members can attend in order to effectively manage the project. Due to time zone changes, this may only be a small window of time per week but can significantly aid in effectively monitoring progress and moving things along.
  • Ensure all remotely located team members have access to the necessary technologies to complete their required work on time, and have enabled them to communicate with key contacts as well as the project manager as needed.

Cultural and legal differences. In today’s global business world, many organizations have projects that span across multiple geographical locations; sometimes creating cultural and legal challenges that must be factored into the success of a project.

Possible solutions:

  • In the initial stages, it will be important to evaluate and address any legal or regulatory issues that may exist currently or in the future.These types of issues can easily and unnecessarily halt a project. Try to gain critical local and/or international legal expertise prior to proceeding with the project, which can mitigate the risk of the project becoming an expensive sunk cost.
  • Also prior to initiating a project, research and prepare for any cultural or language barriers that could crop up throughout the project. This is an area that is often highly underestimated but can often times create the potential to risk project failure due to misunderstandings.

Communication barriers. This is easily one of the areas most impacted in remotely managed projects because teams are not meeting regularly face-to-face, where it is easier to gauge facial expressions, body language and tone of voice simultaneously. As a result, effective and timely communication can be the most troubling for virtual project teams to achieve.

Possible Solutions:

  • Project managers will have to work exceptionally hard to establish trust with and among team members. Work at building virtual teams that feel connected and stay connected regularly. It may be helpful to talk with some other virtual project teams that have been successful in this regard. Also, find out more about your team members in order to establish common ground to help build a more cohesive team.
  • When possible set up the initial kick-off and weekly/bi-weekly meetings via video conference as people often feel more connected when they can see each other when they are talking.
  • Try to use different forms of communication depending on time and information sensitivities, timing differences, the nature of the message and even the audience.
  • Set team based rewards that are tied to team performance, not just individual performance.

Technology, data access and security issues. Having the right technology and tools available to all members of a project team is essential in ensuring a project is on schedule and on budget. This is especially true in remote project management. Projects can easily fall out of scope if team members cannot access the data they need in a timely manner. Projects and organizations can also be negatively impacted by security breaches that can put the client’s or internal company data at risk. This is another area often highly underestimated and overlooked.

Possible solutions:

  • Prior to project execution ensure the appropriate PM/other collaboration tools, access rights and permissions are identified, provisioned and tested for all project team members.
  • Establish clear security protocols for utilizing all company information, resources, technologies and external mobile devices.

Remote project management can work; however, there are numerous factors that impact the success of a virtual project team, including the industry, project nature and complexity, infrastructure, communications, technology and team dynamics.

Take a close look at your organizational goals and resources.The success will depend on how well all issues are sufficiently and appropriately addressed in the initial stages and how well your resources, knowledge and tools are leveraged to avoid any pitfalls. This may require some specialized situational team training to help improve on schedule management, effectively utilizing collaboration tools, and improving communications, processes, and protocols.

Source: CIO-Does remote project management really work? by Moira Alexander

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does remote project management really work?

Network management projects top list of 2015 IT initiatives

According to TechTarget’s 2015 IT Priorities Survey, 44% of enterprises are planning network management projects this year.

Andy McInerney was on vacation, relaxing at the beach, when an alert popped up on his smartphone. It was work.

McInerney, the data network and voice manager at Penn Mutual Life Insurance Co., read the email from a colleague in his company’s Houston office. They needed help. A rogue device on the network had been shut down, but staff members requested that access be restored to it for a meeting that afternoon.

McInerney fired up Cisco’s Meraki mobile app on his phone, accessed his network management dashboard and, within minutes, reinstated connectivity for the unauthorized device in the Houston office’s conference room. With just a few taps on a smartphone screen, the crisis of the day was resolved. McInerney resumed his vacation without further interruption.

“I can literally manage the network from my cell — from that little form factor, which I would never really do [as a standard practice]. I’ll use an iPad or MacBook if I’m home. But the point remains that I can be anywhere with Internet access and manage my 45 offices,” McInerney said. “They’re always reachable. My switches, my APs and my firewalls are always reachable.”

The fact that McInerney can oversee his network from anywhere reflects the extent technology has reshaped network management. But it also reflects the importance administrators and executives place on network monitoring and management, as demonstrated by TechTarget’s 2015 IT Priorities Survey.

The study, which polled 2,212 IT professionals worldwide, found that network monitoring and management projects tied for first place – with disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity — as the top IT initiative for 2015. A total of 44% of respondents selected those projects as ones they would pursue this year — up from 41% last year and 39% in 2013.

In Penn Mutual’s case, the insurer deployed Meraki’s network equipment throughout its LAN, WAN and wireless LAN (WLAN) in 2013 as part of a broader effort to add more flexibility and visibility to its network. It’s a goal shared by many enterprises trying to find smarter ways to manage networks that are being thrown curveball after curveball — everything from cloud computing to bring your own device initiatives.

Management is further complicated by the blossoming of “hybrid” operating models, which could mean a hybrid cloud computing environment, a hybrid of wired and wireless networking, a hybrid of corporate-owned and personal mobile devices, or all of the above, according to Amy DeCarlo, a principal analyst at Current Analysis. All of those things are putting pressure on network managers to implement new tools and best practices that help them keep up with more diverse network requirements.

“There are so many changes happening quickly, and IT managers are looking for something better than what they had in place. Their expectations are higher because the expectations on them are also higher,” DeCarlo said. “Sometimes it doesn’t necessarily involve big investments, but it may involve thinking strategically about specific elements in the network, having the right tools in place and having some way to integrate them so it’s a much more manageable environment.”

The fact that network management and monitoring share first place with DR and business continuity is also revealing, she added.

Read more at: TechTarget-Network management projects top list of 2015 IT initiatives by Jessica Scarpati