Part way through my career, I was asked to work on a change activity. One of its goals was to bring together the business priorities for a suite of about 100 software development initiatives which supported the end offering of products and platforms.
This was a great learning exercise, so part 1 of the post covers “what did I learn?”
Answer the “so what”?
Don’t invest too much time without first gaining a clear understanding of the purpose and intended outcomes from the exercise. Stakeholder contribution to this type of exercise is highly important and although I found stakeholders generally supportive, their main concerns were “What is going to happen in 1 week, 1 month or 6 months’ time as a result of this work?”
Projects and program briefs come in all shapes and sizes. Even with best intentions, the result is likely to be imperfect due to misunderstandings and the level of information available. By being pragmatic and giving fast feedback, the value obtained will track the 80/20 rule. As an example, it is very important to get the top 10 project rankings correct, but another thing entirely to try and fine tune project priorities lying in the 50th to 60th rankings.
Note, I am not suggesting there should be no clarifying dialogue between parties along the way, just that the act of providing the feedback ‘fast’ is a good way to flush out any major misunderstandings.
Decisions require preparation
It is hard to get time from senior stakeholders and harder still to sync their diaries to meet at the same time. A direct discussion of priorities is a challenge without having first developed the proper context. So, the approach for establishing priorities is likely to be an important point for the senior stakeholders along with the consequences of any decision options.
Therefore it is worth establishing a small core team to build and test a prioritisation framework and drive the significant ground work prior to any proposal. More on this in a later post.
Present versus future
“If we don’t secure today’s business then there is no tomorrow”. People tend to attribute higher value to items appearing in the immediate future rather than those slightly further away. This is natural and also a consequence of the time value of money or NPV. However, it is a bad sign when all risk and change gets pushed forward (delayed) further into the future. A balance is necessary and the core team should take care of the present vs. future investment balance according to the industry change clock cycle.