If your organization has a consistent project intake & selection process, kudos to you. But if your intake process happens only once a year, is mostly focused on hard dollar consuming or capital-oriented projects or takes more than two weeks to complete, my condolences.
Let’s look at each of these practices in turn:
1. Annual project selection: I am a strong proponent for strategic planning and the need for organizations to try to establish a medium-long term initiatives plan that looks beyond the next quarter but you cannot expect that projects identified at the beginning of your fiscal year will still all be valuable and prioritized appropriately by the third or fourth quarter of that year. The frequency of portfolio reviews needs to be tuned to how often reasonable project requests are submitted.
2. Don’t purely focus on hard-dollar or capital-intensive projects. In nearly all services organizations and a significant percentage of product organizations, resource availability is a primary bottleneck to throughput and a critical source of project schedule risk. Given this, your project selection process needs to consider all projects especially those that consume internal resources. You might be better off initiating a project that costs money, but can be mostly delivered using external resources (assuming of course, this project will deliver real business value!) instead of one that costs little but consumes critical internal resources.
3. If your project selection process takes more than two weeks to complete from the moment that reasonable project requests have been submitted, you are encouraging the genesis of “stealth” projects. In addition, since most strategic projects have time sensitivity, the longer your governance committees spin their wheels in making decisions, the greater the likelihood that the market viability or business benefits of these projects will be reduced. I am not advocating impulsive decision making – what I am recommending is a combination of a consistent, objective approach to evaluate projects in a rapid fashion, combined with a stage gate process that is able to kill off poorly performing or low value projects in a timely manner.
Traditional approaches to project intake & selection are losing their value unless you happen to be work for a company that operates as a monopoly (or at worse a very limited oligopoly). Of course, even a monopoly situation won’t help if the market for your products or services is shrinking.