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Project Proposals: Means and Methods for Project Selection

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Projects just don't happen by themselves.  Before projects begin, the underlying "concept" must be proposed, evaluated and approved.  This is project selection, and as a process, it must be designed to ensure that project proposals are evaluated fairly and objectively, with a focus on business value and project viability.  That's the goal - now how is it accomplished?  Read on for more.

As a management process, project selection is accomplished through standardized practices that establish parameters and boundaries for how projects are to be proposed and selected. Standardized practices set the stage through pre-defined steps and related “viability criteria” - forming the basis which all proposals are evaluated and measured.  This paves the way to consistent, informed and timely decision making (a.k.a the ultimate goal).

What is a project proposal?  The project proposal is the initiating trigger of the project selection process.  Whether it comes in the form of a verbal proposal, simple project request form, or documented business case, the project proposal is the vehicle by which the initial project "concept" is presented.

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:

Project 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.

Project 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. 

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