A Guide to Project Prioritization

Have you ever had what felt like a million to-dos on your plate, and every single one was needed ASAP? For project managers, this is a seemingly perpetual state of existence. Of course, the problem is that you can only focus on one task or project at a time. That’s why project prioritization is such a crucial skill for PMs to develop.

In this article, we’ll explore how to prioritize projects quickly and efficiently so you can spend less time organizing project priorities and more time executing and overseeing the actual work that needs to be done. We’ll also discuss some tips for streamlining the project prioritization process using intuitive project management software

Why project prioritization is important

“Do more with less” has become the de facto mantra for most modern companies. Project managers are constantly being saddled with more and more projects, all of which are seemingly of the highest priority. The irony is that when everything is an urgent priority, nothing actually gets prioritized, which leads to stalled projects, blown deadlines, and missed opportunities. This is why organizations need a clear system for project management prioritization. 

Project prioritization helps project managers and their teams know precisely what to focus on from one day to the next, which increases efficiency and productivity. Naturally, when efficiency and productivity increase, project success rates will improve as well. In fact, research suggests that organizations that actively prioritize projects deliver 40% more value than companies that do not engage in project prioritization. 

Here are a few more key reasons why project prioritization is so important: 

  • Strategic alignment
    The project prioritization process helps ensure that all projects are strategically aligned. Naturally, non-strategically aligned projects will be eliminated entirely from the project queue, which can save your organization major resources. 
  • Higher ROI
    Projects that are aligned with strategic goals will also deliver more “bang for the buck” in the form of higher returns on investment.
  • Resource allocation
    Finally, project prioritization helps ensure that resources aren’t stretched too thin between multiple low-value projects. 

Common challenges of project prioritization

One of the most common challenges associated with project prioritization is the sheer number of open projects within an organization at any given time. Staring down a list of 100 or more projects that need to be reviewed and prioritized is a daunting task for any project director or manager. However, the flip side is that only by evaluating each project according to your prioritization criteria can you truly determine its value and whether it should be pursued or scrapped entirely.

Another common challenge is dealing with competing internal criteria for determining project priority. Some organizations delegate project prioritization to individual departments. The trouble with this approach is that it often leads to a disjointed portfolio full of projects that may or may not align with the overall organizational strategy, even if they would benefit that department. This is why creating a set of project prioritization criteria at the organizational level is so important.

How to prioritize projects: top tips

Here are our top tips for project prioritization:

  1. Determine your prioritization criteria
    Naturally, every organization and company must determine its own criteria for project prioritization depending on its values and strategic goals. However, here are a few ideas:
    1. The project’s estimated ROI
    2. Amount of resources required by the project
    3. The number of strategic goals the project satisfies
    4. The financial risk involved

      With Wrike Resource, you can quickly and easily view resource allocation to see exactly where your organization’s resources are being utilized and where they can be shifted to as priorities change.
  2. Compile project data
    With your project prioritization criteria in place, it's time to start gathering your project data so that it can be scored. To get a deeper understanding of the proposed impacts of individual projects, you may need to meet with department heads, your business analyst, the PMO, and other directors or executives.  

    Of course, having a central repository to store all the data you’re collecting will not only help you stay organized as you prioritize, it will also make sharing information and seeking input from managers and directors a breeze. With Wrike, you don’t have to worry about keeping up with documents and spreadsheets that are stored in multiple locations.  
  3. Purge non-essential or non-strategic projects 
    In the process of gathering project data, you will likely uncover a handful of projects that are clearly non-strategic or non-essential. Eliminating those projects from the queue at this point will save you more time and frustration during the project scoring phase.  
  4. Utilize project scoring to prioritize those that made the cut
    Finally, it’s time to score those projects that made it through the purge. Once all projects have been reviewed and scored based on your organization’s prioritization criteria, it’s simply a matter of ordering them from highest priority to lowest. 

How to streamline the project prioritization process with Wrike

Project prioritization is infinitely harder when teams and departments operate in silos. Without access to clearly defined project criteria and strategic goals, department heads are left to design projects that only serve their most immediate needs. This is precisely where Wrike helps organizations streamline the project prioritization process. 

With Wrike, your department heads and team leads can see all the projects that are already underway. This prevents project duplicates and ensures the most efficient resource allocation. Additionally, Wrike helps facilitate quick communication between project managers and directors for project coordination, status updates, and new or changing requests. 

If you’re ready for an easier way to prioritize projects, get started with Wrike today with a free two-week trial.

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