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Planning Practices: Fast Tracking the Project Selection Process


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As a “high priority” management practice, the project selection process must be designed to ensure that project proposals are evaluated fairly and objectively, with a focus on business value and project viability.

Project selection is “fast tracked” through standardized practices that establish parameters and boundaries for how projects are to be proposed and selected. Fast tracking sets the stage for timely action through pre-defined steps and established “viability criteria” against which all proposals can be measured.  And this paves the way to consistent, informed and timely decision making (a.k.a the ultimate goal).

Getting Started: Making "Selection" Work

Every project begins with a proposal, but not every proposal can or should become a project. In a world of limited resources, choices have to be made. Not every project has viability. And, amongst those that do, any limited resources, (including people, time, money and equipment), must be applied judiciously. Consider the risks if resources are misapplied:

  • Valuable resources can be "used up" before projects are completed and finalized.
  • Resources might be used less effectively through assignment to projects of lesser value and priority.
  • Credibility and influence can be lost as perceived project failures pile up.

"Fast tracked" project selection is streamlined and standardized to produce consistent results with minimal process overhead. The key to fast tracked project proposals and selection decisions is the question of "viability" and the use of pre-defined steps and strategies (standards).  (Also Read:  Are You Ready for a Risky Project?)

Fast Tracked Selection Focuses on Viability

To maximize available resources, and avoid potential failures, project proposals must be evaluated and selected on the basis of overall viability.  In a business sense, project viability is the degree to which a given project will provide the expected return on investment.  Viability can be measured by three key variables:

  • Value:  The project must provide measurable benefit to the organization, in terms of revenue, cost reduction, productivity, or some other desired result.
  • Alignment:  The project must be consistent with, and supportive of, overall business goals and objectives (including technology goals).
  • Probability of Success:  The project must present a realistic opportunity for success, relating to outcome and process, and as can be measured by business, project management, and technology standards.

Fast Tracked Selection Relies on Standards

In order to develop selection practices that are fully “defined, aligned and approved” the following questions must be considered and addressed:

  • How will project proposals be submitted into the "pool" of potential projects?
  • How often will the project "pool" process be undertaken (yearly, quarterly, monthly)?
  • Who is responsible for managing the project "pool" selection process?
  • How will project proposals be reviewed and evaluated?
  • How will selection decisions be made?
  • How will selection decisions be approved?
  • How will selection decisions be communicated?
  • How will disputes be resolved?

Project selection is a cog in the project management lifecycle, but informed, effective selection decisions are essential to management success and the ability to deliver on time, on budget projects.  Selection steps kick things off, providing the basis for all of the planning and decision making that lies ahead.  You can never be reluctant to re-examine selection decisions as time passes and project circumstances change. That’s the whole point of a lifecycle approach to managing projects.  (Also Read:  Preparing the Project Request for Proposal).

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