DoMoreWithSharePoint – How to set Priorities

If you are going to leverage your SharePoint-implementation in a systematic way, your team may become very popular :-).
It is therefore be a good idea to define a way to determine the priority for every project upfront. Let me share our approach with you, so you do not have to invent this yourself. (And be aware this is a long post!)

Step 1: Select Dimensions
How to determine priority will be different for every organization, but here are some examples:

* Financial benefits, such as:
-Time saved
-Reduction of IT costs (e.g. legacy applications, licenses or data storage)
-Reduction in paper documents and dvd’s mailed by couriers
-Avoidance of travel

* Size of target audience
* Seniority of Project Owner
* Facilitating company-wide projects like Sustainability, One Company etc.
* Facilitating a certain functional area, such as R&D or Sales
* Time investment of development team
* Etc.

Stick to a few topics which are relevant for your organization and are easy to measure. This whole exercise should be aligned with your business priorities for maximum benefit.

Step 2: Discuss Definitions.
For each dimension you have selected,  check if you have enough information to be able to measure or estimate it quickly. Discuss this with relevant other functions where necessary. You may need to talk to your Finance team and ask them what the average costs per hour per employee are, the average dvd-by-courier or the average costs of 1 GB storage. Use conservative numbers, and one number per dimension, so you can apply these data in a consistent way.
Store these numbers and their source, so they are easily accessible for your team. We have used an InfoPath form to calculate financial benefits with built-in costs per hour/trip/GB etc. which we obtained from our Finance team.

For non-financial data, agree on how you are going to measure or estimate. In hours (time investments), numbers (audience size) or points (seniority), anything goes, as long as it is measurable and applied consistently.

Step 3. Set Scales.
For every dimension you have chosen, you determine the scale. For instance, for  target audience you can use the following 4 point scale. ( 3: highest priority, 0: lowest priority)
3:  Global audience, all employees
2: Audience per part of the world, e.g. North-America, South America,  Europe
1: Country or global functional group
0: Department or other group within one country

But you can also user numbers, e.g.

3: > 10.000 users
2: 1000-10.000 users
1: 100-1000 users
0: < 100 users

Keep the scales consistent for each dimension, e.g. a 3, 4 or 5 point scale, where 0  is lowest and 3,4 or 5 the highest priority.

Step 4. Apply Weighing.
If you think that financial benefits are important, but alignment with company projects is as well, you may want to include a weighing scale. Determine the relative weight of each dimension.

Step 5: Determine Prioritization.
At last, we can determine the priority for each project!

Each project is scored against the agreed dimensions, in the agreed scale, and with the agreed weighing. Add up the scores for each dimension. This will produce a number, which we have called the Benefits Score. Projects with a low Benefits Score will have a lower priority than those with a high Benefits Score.

We sometimes encountered a project that we all felt we had to do, but the Benefits Score did not reflect that. Some examples were a new screensaver (to align with a new internal branding), or a Blog setup for the CEO (which would give our Blog functionality a lot of exposure). In those cases, we had the option to add an “Intangibles Score” to add to the Benefits Score. It may sound like cheating, but we needed it to make sure our team was working on the right projects. We have used it in less than 1% of projects, though.

We have used a SharePoint list to score each project. We used calculated fields to automate the scoring.

Lost? Here’s what we used to calculate the Benefits Score for every project:
4 * Financial Benefits score (=Time saved + Travel costs avoided + documents/dvd’s saved + IT costs avoided)
3 * Target Audience score (the more customer-facing, the higher the priority)
2 * Required time investment score (less time needed > higher priority)
1 * Re-usability score (solutions which would be applicable for all businesses, received the highest score)
1 * Intangibles score (optional)
—————————— +
Benefits Score (between 0 and 33)

Some tips:
• Create a model that fits your organization’s needs and expectations.
• Develop common assumptions that can be consistently measured and applied. This increases credibility, and also makes it easier to prioritize a project.
• Be as objective as possible, focusing on benefits that you can prove by talking to the business.
• Get Business and Finance buy-off on your assumptions and calculations.
• Make it credible – focus on benefits people can relate to and easily understand.

If you are interested, but want some more information or advice for your particular situation, please let me know!