Categories: Project Management
Have you ever had a really good idea that you were excited about, that you couldn't wait to start, only to have it go nowhere? I've had more than one hobby that went into limbo and became an "interest" because it was a good idea, but the timing wasn't right. I'm sure I'll get back to one or more of them, but now is not the time.
Have you noticed that we have similar behaviors at work, often with one difference? A good idea becomes a project and resources are assigned to it, but when it loses priority it never actually stops. Nobody says, "This isn't a good idea right now." Instead, people work on it when they have time, assuming it doesn't impact anything. Don't get me started on multi-tasking… but multi-tasking isn't the only concern. Activities involved in both testing and implementation tie up people and resources, and not just those performing the work. A desktop software implementation can distract people working on other projects, as well as resulting in issues that can stop work until they are resolved.
This post is only partly about organizational multi-tasking and project prioritization. It's also about efficiency, or at least the illusion of efficiency.
My work is primarily in IT, so there will be an IT focus in what I write, but I will try to tie it back to the business, as well.
IT is expected to be efficient. It often feels like people think efficient IT means working on all requested projects and getting them all done on time and within budget. That doesn't feel very efficient to me. Can you see the connection to "good ideas?"
A company can have employees working on a lot of projects. Some strategic, some compliance enabling, others required to keep the lights on, and then a bunch of good ideas. The company can hire more people and buy more equipment to keep everyone working efficiently on all of the projects. Eventually, however, there will be conflicts. A natural bottleneck occurs with testing and implementation. When you have interdependent systems, your dependencies limit the amount of separate changes that you can effectively test or go live with at any given time. If you really want IT to be efficient, you need to insert a bottleneck in the decision-making process in order to limit the amount of work in the project pipeline to match the amount of output your organization is able to effectively deliver. (Think of Portfolio Management as one step toward making this happen.) Over time, you may be able to enlarge the testing and implementation bottleneck, at which point, you will be able to increase the amount of work in the pipeline.
So far, we've just been talking about IT projects. Now, consider a company, like the one I work for, that has global markets. This means global marketing projects and global sales events that also impact the web, mobile, CRM, and ERP systems, among others. The windows for testing and production implementations just got a lot smaller. Should these activities be considered as part of portfolio management?
Is that good idea you're working on a good idea right now, or would it be a better idea to work on it when it is a better fit with other priorities your organization is pursuing? Or, not at all? Does being a good idea automatically mean that it deserves to be executed?