Three simple questions for project selection

Art & Blue Sky By Phil Roeder on flickrNeil Pearce just published a very nice piece titled “It is all about The Customer“.

Go read it.

In the article, Neil argues that IT needs to focus on projects that focus on The Customer.   He writes:

Too often we in the IT department are seen as being out of touch by other people within the business and make strange decisions where we do IT for the sake of IT are often at the heart of it. This doesn’t mean that you don’t experiment to learn if something has value, but does everybody really need the latest iPad to figure out if it has a business benefit? Technology is great but it is an enabler to make lives better for Customers and profits for the business. We need to and must want to use our technology, process and people skills to make better products and generate wealth for our investors.

Emphasis is Neal’s…but I would have emphasized the same things :)

I wrote a comment on the post that I thought worth sharing and expanding on here.  A snippet of what I wrote is:

At a previous client of mine, I helped them come up with the following three questions for deciding whether a project gets the green light (or the red light if its already started).

1.) Is the project needed for base infrastructure? Note: These are the ‘un-sexy’ projects that must be done to ‘keep the lights on’.

2.) Does the project help us meet one of our strategic goals? How?

3.) Does the project deliver real, measurable, value to the customer? How?

Using those three questions helped my client cut back on a lot of pet projects and non-essential projects. In fact, those three questions led to the hiring of more IT staff because there was more budget available for the necessary projects.

My three questions above are simple and simplistic by design.

Too many times we tend to get wrapped around complex systems and processes, especially when making decisions about what project to fund. Too many times politics comes into play in those decisions as well.

The above three questions worked (and still work) for that client because they understood the value of simple rules and everyone in the organization (at the highest and lowest levels) believed that these rules were worth following.

I’ve seen many projects get funded because they were the pet project of someone on the leadership team…but the project had zero affect on the ability of the business to deliver value, revenue and profit.

With these three simple questions, and the fortitude to follow them, this client was able to cut back on those pet projects and focus strictly on those that were absolutely critical to the company and its clients.

By focusing more on the critical projects, a side benefit was realized for the IT group – the IT budget started to grow instead of shrink as the business realized that the money spent (wasted) on pet projects could be better spent on improving IT capabilities.  Needless to say…the CIO was happy. He was able to increase staff and implement training programs again…something he hadn’t done in many years.

All because they started asking three simple questions.

Photo credit: Art & Blue Sky By Phil Roeder on flickr

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  • http://www.neiljpearce.com Neil Pearce

    Eric I like the fact that as a result of your client asking the right questions more was spent on IT, and improving the business capabilities to deliver value back to the Customer.

    • http://ericbrown.com Eric D. Brown

      Thanks Neil – that was an unintended consequence but I’ve since implemented similar questions with 2 other clients and they’ve too seen more funding coming into IT based on savings from non-essential projects.

  • http://www.theeffectiveitleader.com Jovan Normandia

    Your three questions Eric are especially important when you need to avoid unnecessary customization. Too many times I’ve run into clients that want to develop client facing technologies to be unique with no clear-cut advantage against competitors or increased value to customers over already existing solutions.

    Instead of just saying “No” asking these questions help business leaders see you as part of the process instead of the obstacle in the way of business development.

    I’ll be adding these to my tool box!

    Cheers!

    • http://ericbrown.com Eric D. Brown

      Glad you liked them Jovan. These simple questions can provide some serious insight into projects.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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