How Is the Delphi Technique Used in Project Management?

It’s no secret that project management requires decision-making, planning, and shared understanding amongst stakeholders, but sometimes that’s easier said than done. 

When it comes to reaching a consensus during a project, it can feel impossible. But what if there was a technique you could use to help solve the impossible?

That’s where the Delphi Technique comes in. We’ve rounded up the basics of the Delphi Technique, how it applies in project management, and the benefits and drawbacks of using it. 

What is the Delphi Technique?

According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), the Delphi Technique was developed in the 1960s due to changing technological environments and the impact this had on assessing and forecasting the future.

To put it simply, the Delphi Technique is used to make decisions about complex issues based on individual opinions. In this method, a group of experts writes down and shares their thoughts about a problem with a facilitator. Each expert’s view is compiled into a summary report by the facilitator. 

The experts then review the information and provide updated predictions to the facilitator to produce a new report. This process continues until participants reach a consensus or agreement on the topic.  

How to use the Delphi Technique

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Here’s a rundown of how to use the Delphi Technique: 

  1. Determine the problem you want to solve. What is the problem you are trying to solve? Be as clear and specific as possible. Understanding the issue at hand will inform who the experts are.
  2. Identify and engage your experts. Now that you know what you’re trying to accomplish or answer, you should have a good idea of who you need to include in the process.
  3. Select a facilitator to manage the process. Choose a neutral person who has enough understanding of the topic to understand the conversations and compile results without bias.
  4. Start the process. Use questionnaires and surveys to gain an understanding of experts’ views and consolidate information.
  5. Create a summary report. Once you’ve gathered the group’s responses, you should remove irrelevant information and consolidate the results. Circulate the report back to the group to contemplate their peers’ ideas before the next round of questioning.
  6. Ask more questions, summarize the results, and repeat. Cycle through as many rounds of questionnaires and surveys as you need until a consensus emerges. In between, continue to create anonymized reports to share back with the group to use in their considerations.
  7. Reach consensus and find the way forward. Once your group of experts reaches an agreement, you should analyze the results and create plans to address future risks and opportunities accordingly. 

The Delphi Technique isn’t an exact science — it’s a process. You might need only two rounds of questionnaires to reach a consensus for more minor problems but upwards of 10 rounds for more complex ones. Regardless, keep the desired goal in mind: achieving agreement based upon expert viewpoints and guidance.

How is the Delphi Technique used in project management?

Sure, reaching consensus is essential in projects, but where exactly do we see the Delphi Technique used in project management? The method is commonly used for both scope management and risk management

Using the Delphi Technique for scope management is valuable because it can help stakeholders reach an agreement on the scope of any given project. This helps eliminate big reasons for project failure, such as lack of clear requirements and inadequate planning.

For risk management, the Delphi Technique can help project teams predict and better prepare for future risks. That’s what the method was created to do in the first place: to help forecast for the future and get ahead of potential issues.

Delphi Technique examples

You’re probably getting a grasp of using the Delphi Technique in projects, but let’s run through a quick example related to scope management. 

Let’s say your business is kicking off a multi-phase project. You are going to implement a Project Management Office (PMO) and a customized project management methodology across your organization. 

Your experts, or key stakeholders, will likely have different views on what’s needed. They might also want other elements from the PMO, such as resource allocation, a template library, or project reporting assistance. 

You would use the Delphi Technique to reach a consensus on the scope of the PMO implementation as the initial phase of the project and then prioritize the elements of the following phases. 

The advantages of using the Delphi method

Successful projects require stakeholders and project teams to be on the same page, and that’s what the Delphi method can do for you. Here are the advantages of the Delphi Technique

  • There’s potential to meet consensus rapidly. Have you ever been in a project meeting and needed to make a decision quickly but couldn’t get everyone in the room to agree? It happens to all of us. The Delphi Technique can help you achieve consensus and do it quickly, depending on the issue at hand.
  • Less “groupthink” and more individual contributions. Sharing opinions, especially in a professional setting, can be challenging, particularly when there are a couple of dominant speakers in the room. One major perk of this method is that anonymized answers allow everyone to express and share their opinions freely.
  • It’s cheap and quick to conduct. It’s relatively easy and inexpensive to use the Delphi Technique. You don’t need a lot of fancy tools or expensive materials to achieve results — just some time and a way to write down and compile ideas.

The drawbacks of using the Delphi analysis

As with any technique, you might experience some challenges with the Delphi Technique along the way. 

One key challenge: While it’s possible that you can achieve consensus quickly, it could be a long and tedious process to reach an agreement. If multiple rounds of questionnaires are required before your group hits consensus, you could fall behind schedule and put your project at risk

Another hurdle is that the technique is designed to help you reach a consensus, but just because your group agrees doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve found the best or the right way to solve a problem. Don’t be mistaken – level-setting opinions and getting everyone on the same page is a huge win, but it’s worth noting the difference between consensus and identifying the best possible solution. 

Using Wrike for the Delphi Technique 

As we mentioned, you don’t need any fancy tools or a big budget if you want to use the Delphi Technique. However, once you’ve reached a consensus about a particular problem related to a project, a project management tool may come in handy to help ensure you follow through with what all experts have agreed upon.

With Wrike, you can follow up on action items from your Delphi method analyses and put together full project schedules. The Delphi Technique can help you determine the next steps of a project, and Wrike will help ensure you stay on track to achieve those next steps without fail. 

Ready? Get started today with a free trial of Wrike.

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