Managing Fluid Priorities in Your Business Intelligence Competency Center

In the immortal words of Jamie Oswald:

His words are the inspiration for this post on fluid priorities in Business Intelligence Competency Center (BICC) or BI Project Management. I’ve often found that one of the most difficult things in setting up a BICC is getting people to agree. Strange right? Especially since it’s so easy to do for everything else in your life. Oh wait, that’s not quite right.

We all live in a world of too many projects and not enough resources therefore project priority is a major issue and driving force in your BICC. But as Jamie said, if everything is “priority one” doesn’t that mean that nothing is really a priority? It’s kind of like highlighting every line of a text book. If it’s used everywhere, the highlight loses it’s meaning. So what do you do? How do you prioritize your work? Your team’s work?  How do you get BI customers to agree on what’s important? What is your criteria for determining importance?

First, you must have a system. You could go the route of assigning every project a priority number in a ranking system.  Seems simple but it requires a lot of agreement and discipline to maintain the list as new projects are added to the mix. Also, at what point in the project lifecycle do you continue to allow that ranking to change, if at all? I’ve seen organization who have also tried to have the priority number increase as a project moves through its lifecycle. Again it’s an option, but I think it’s one that requires a lot of structure, governance and maintenance.

Relative importance is a hard number to quantify. Everyone has a number one priority (often more than one) and frequently what’s number one today isn’t tomorrow’s priority. Perhaps adding additional criteria to the equation can help can help mitigate some of the hard to quantify aspects of priority setting.

Here’s alternative approach to consider:

  1. Rate your projects on additional criteria with a 4 point scale 0 – 3
  2. Add the individual scores together and sort ascending
  3. The lower the number the higher the priority

Ideas for additional criteria:

  1. Importance – Abandon the sequential numbers – go for a 3 point scale like high (1), medium(2), low (3)
  2. Impact – Global (0), Regional (1), Department (2), Individual (3)
  3. Project Size – Small (0), Medium (1), Large (2), X-Large (3) (T-shirt size criteria to be determined by your organization whether it’s a duration range or work hour range)
  4. ROI – I can’t really qualify this one for you. It depends on your finance goals but you understand the method

Some other things to consider:

  • Make sure you don’t forget about the little guys.  Save room in your plan for smaller projects that might not have the biggest impact but will earn you a lot of good will in the community.
  • Ensure you have enough time in your planning process to send out a proposed plan for negotiation before you commit.

Granted this could still result in projects with the same score but you now have additional criteria to help you with the decision process. This approach extends your criteria for importance, past feelings, emotions and, well, passed the people who prioritize through escalation. It allows projects without direct correlation to have a comparable scale to be measured by. The most important thing to remember with priorities is that there is a point of no return on projects for changing priorities. Continuing to change priority once something is already in process can lead to projects being started and abandoned. Or worse, nothing ever being finished. And if there is a legitimate business reason for deprioritizing something in process, you need to make sure you fully understand the consequences to that project, other projects and most importantly your team.

Overall it’s a difficult topic to manage and these are just some ideas to help the conversation to get started. I look forward to your additional insight.

-B

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