Every Projects leader needs to master the ability to strategically prioritize projects. This essential skill helps managers develop solid action plans for completing the many tasks on their team’s plates. When adjusting to evolving factors is the only constant, as in the highly competitive world of tech, it’s especially critical for tech leaders to have a strong handle on prioritization.
To help, 15 members of Forbes Technology Council shared the questions they ask themselves and their teams to determine which projects to tackle first.
1. Which project will improve the end-user experience the most?
In this time of smaller technology budgets and reprioritization of projects, I always encourage my team to evaluate which projects will improve our end-user experience the most. These are not always the projects with the most immediate ROI, but they are critical to the long-term success of the company. – Steve Taplin, Sonatafy Technology
2. What’s the opportunity cost to do this?
The primary question we ask with every technology project is, “What’s the opportunity cost to do this?” Technology projects are always a trade-off, and completing one always means delaying or canceling another project. Going through the list of priorities and reviewing which other projects will be missed helps our team prioritize everything that is going to slip. – Anthony Presley, Custom Business Solutions
3. How does this impact our customers?
When prioritizing tech projects, it’s important to ask, “How does this impact our customers?” The highest priority should be given to projects enhancing the customer experience and/or solving customers issues. Fully digital businesses are able to pivot products and services to solve customer issues, even if it’s not the company’s core business. This is the sweet spot for tech projects. – Kerrie Hoffman, Get Digital Velocity; and FocalPoint Business Coaching, a Hoffman Advantage Company
4. What is our ability to execute our strategy?
First, we look at our ability to execute strategy by ensuring that we have the right people, resources, and partnerships to help us achieve our goals. Second, we focus first on the overall ROI of the investment and how it aligns with our strategic goals. Third, we focus on how the technology will be adopted to ensure that we realized the expected value of the investment. – Steve Reasner, LIFTinnovate
5. Will this support our multi-year strategic plan?
Every initiative, be it technology-related or otherwise, needs to support the multi-year strategic plan. When prioritizing projects and efforts, their impact and hierarchy are solely based on how implementing them will get the organization closer to achieving those goals and objectives. Everything else is secondary and can be potentially tabled. – Danny Acuna, Danvir Consulting
6. Does this project align with a short- or long-term business goal?
Innovation is a top priority, and our engineers have cutting-edge expertise and the ability to develop exciting new products and features. But before we embark on any new project, we always make sure it’s in alignment with either a short-term business objective or our long-term goals and vision. – Yinglian Xie, DataVisor
7. Will this project lead to new learning opportunities?
Will the project lead to us learning something new? Will it enhance our understanding of a new technology that will be widely adopted in the future? This is important because, as a technology company, it is imperative to our relevance to stay abreast of new developments and how they can benefit our clients. – Debarshi Chaudhury, Quantilus Innovation Inc.
8. Will it provide multiple value streams?
Will this technology provide multiple value streams? When time or resources are limited, prioritize the technology that maps to the most use cases. Otherwise, development of the technology that your team is most excited about will get prioritized, and that often results in innovation without impact. – Suzanne Russo, Pecan Street Inc.
9. How will this enable our team to do better work?
From an “internal customer” perspective, the best question to ask is, “How will this enable our team to do better work?” Get your project in front of the users early and prioritize the projects that have the largest impact on the employee experience. There are a lot of ways to measure that, but the key here is to focus on the outcome over the output. – Logan Brown, Visible
10. Will our customers pay for this?
Is it something your customers are asking for? Is it something they will pay for? I’ve certainly been guilty of prioritizing my own preferences in the past, anticipating that customers would be as excited for the new product or feature as I was. In many cases, they aren’t. Talk to customers in advance, review your customer feedback and prioritize based on what themes bubble to the top. – Sean Herman, Kinzoo
11. Will this strengthen our core or expand our use cases?
Strategic prioritization is a difficult exercise because businesses have multiple conflicting priorities. For example, do you invest in a feature that makes things simpler for existing customers but may not address new uses, or do you invest in features that expand your market? We use a framework where we split our investments between strengthening our core and expanding our use cases. – Krishna Subramanian, Komprise
12. Where does this fall on the Eisenhower Matrix?
Where does this project fall in the Eisenhower Matrix of “urgent” versus “important?” Projects that are urgent but not that important often get prioritized when it should really be the other way around. If the pandemic taught us one thing, it’s that innovation is born out of crisis. So the question becomes, how do we create urgency in a non-crisis situation to continue to drive that same innovation? – Anneka Gupta, LiveRamp
13. What tools do our engineers need?
We must continually ask our engineering teams what tools they need to accomplish the task of enhancing the resiliency and agility of business operations, products, and services. If they’re empowered to tap into their creative problem-solving skills, instead of spinning cycles coming up with workarounds to roadblocks, much more innovative solutions will come to fruition. – Joshua Bixby, Fastly
14. Do our customers need or want this?
I will typically think of two questions in this area. First, is this a “need” or a “want” for both our existing and new prospective customers? Next, what will it take to get a good and release-ready product to market in terms of time and cost? We try to get a solid and reasonable product to market to address a customer need as soon as possible, and then work on future revisions as needed. – Nate Cote, Kanguru Solutions
15. Why is this important to our customers and to us?
For every idea that comes into our product queue, I ask, “Why is this important to our customers?” and “Why is it important to us?” These questions help us prioritize effectively using a weight matrix approach, which bubbles to the top those ideas that we believe will bring the best value overall. It also requires us to truly understand what is important to our customers. – Kathy Keating, TextUs