Project Management: 4 Questions To Ask Before Starting Any Project

Be sure the projects you're working on are the right projects -- before you start

For most organizations, keeping people busy isn't the challenge, it's keeping people busy doing the right things. Evaluating every potential project based upon pre-determined metrics ensures that the business value of every project will be evaluated objectively, regardless of the stakeholder. Making knee-jerk reactions to the demands of influential stakeholders can be expensive. Spending valuable resources working on projects that provide minimal value can be catastrophic.

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Establishing a process that requires every potential project to demonstrate its value based upon pre-determined criteria gives executives confidence that they are making well-informed project decisions. Here are 4 important questions that should be asked when evaluating any project:

1. What are the high-level objectives of the project? It's not uncommon for a project to morph into something very different from what was originally intended. Specifically identifying the goals of every project helps project teams, sponsors, and stakeholders stay on track.

2. What are the estimated costs of the project -- and the anticipated rewards? Without the answer to these questions, it becomes difficult to determine if the potential project will provide any business value, let alone the greatest value.

3. Does the potential project align with the mission, vision, and values of the organization? Individual projects must represent the execution of strategic direction if the desired result is to maximize every dollar spent in the pursuit of the greatest ROI.

4. What are the risks associated with pursuing the project under consideration? If potential project risks can be identified and evaluated while in the consideration process, actions can be taken to mitigate risk and increase the probability of success.

In a perfect world, every potential project that provided business value would be pursued. However, anyone doing project-based work understands that there is always more work to do than there is time or resources to do it. This is why establishing a method for evaluating every potential project is so important. Measuring and considering every potential project based on the 4 questions listed above is the first step to effectively managing demand -- and an important component of project success.

Ty Kiisel writes about project management issues and best practices for @task Project Management Software.

For more project management advice, see:
Project management: Scrapping a doomed project
Four things project managers can learn from base coaches
Prioritizing IT projects

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