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Project prioritization quandary: Will index cards do the job?

Whether they’re using formal project scheduling systems or informal index cards pinned to the wall, midmarket companies are taking steps to standardize project prioritization. But are these efforts enough to address the endless list of projects in their queues?

Seventy-five percent of the 236 respondents to a recent survey said they have project queues with three to 12 months’ worth of work in them. And most (71%) are maintaining only one type of project queue for all types of projects.

So if you’re a midmarket company facing a high demand for projects with limited resources, how can you effectively streamline the project prioritization process?

Some companies that still have money to spend are investing in project portfolio management (PPM) software to address the project prioritization issue. But not every one has the budget to purchase costly PPM software.

One company I spoke with recently invested no money in a very basic project scheduling system they developed themselves.

At XanGo, a global nutrition company with 650 employees, they have an informal project scheduling system they call the “project backlog.” The way it works is that each project team has a list of projects and they are managed in their own individual “war rooms.” In any given war room, you’ll find a wall of index cards listed under one of three headings: current, current plus one or current plus two. All projects are scheduled in two-week cycles. So if your project is listed under current, then it’s scheduled to be done in two weeks. Those listed under current plus one would be concluded in three weeks (two weeks plus one). And finally, if your project falls under current plus two, it will be completed in four weeks (two weeks plus two).

Although very basic, this system seems to work at XanGo. In addition to using the index card system, the company also uses Agile development to prioritize the application development process.

XanGo is actually in the minority for midmarket companies using Agile development. According to our recent PPM survey, only 20% of midmarket companies are using agile development. However, of those that do, 76% say it has made the application development process faster.

So whether they’re using index cards or formal PPM software, midmarket companies with limited resources and budgets need to invest in some type of project scheduling system to better allocate resources and complete projects on deadline.

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Most people in IT that I've known (executives included) are not skilled in goal setting/management. I found this out the hard way myself - especially as a self-employed consultant where every minute counts. Managing goals and making the best use of your time are the two things that all of this project prioritization stuff boils down to. [A href=",289483,sid1_gci1353107_mem1,00.html"]IT project goal setting and management[/A] are llearned skills that must be practiced over and over again. It also takes some self-discipline to work all out on the highest payoff tasks rather than [A href=""]goof off half the time[/A]. I truly believe that if IT professionals set reasonable goals, take them seriously, and manage their time wisely they could take control of their projects and not be faced with these dilemmas.