Senior executives who oversee IT and technology are facing a conundrum. Resources, already in short supply, are being spent on day-to-day business operations, preventing organizations from making headway on big-picture innovations and long-term projects. How can organizations “think big” while ensuring everything at the top of their agenda gets taken care of?
The past two years of economic, environmental and social disruption have led companies to reexamine their business and operating models, product and service delivery models and more. At the same time, companies have been pushed to accelerate innovation and transformation plans while increasing their backlog of projects.
We only need to look at companies such as restaurants and retailers that quickly shifted to digital and touchless customer engagement and saw a huge business advantage, compared to those that failed to adapt swiftly. Companies that struggled to prioritize projects, or those who chose the wrong projects to focus on, didn’t fare as well.
One such company had a large backlog of compliance-related requests. They built automation that could help address the backlog and were able to clear it in a few days. But the influx of requests slowed dramatically after a change to the compliance regulations, eliminating the need for automation. The company’s efforts—and resources—would have been better spent elsewhere.
Organizations that want to remain competitive should focus on optimizing how they measure ROI and prioritize projects to meet shifting demands as strategy evolves.
Set priorities and evaluate often
The ability to move the needle and successfully complete priority projects requires a focus on the right projects and ROI goals, along with the ability to be flexible and work in an agile framework. Here are six ways companies can change the game when prioritizing projects.
Ensure alignment with business objectives
Think strategically when setting priorities and pick the activities and projects that bring the greatest value for the effort. Often when addressing the topics strategically, you eliminate the need to address some of the more tactical items—ultimately reducing the amount of wasted effort and resources.
Have the right people at the table
IT teams can no longer operate in a silo from the C-suite and board. Decision-makers from business and IT leadership must have open lines of communication to ensure well-informed priorities and objectives. This is not exclusive to senior leaders; the IT professionals executing the work should be represented as well since they can provide clear insight into the timelines and work required to execute priority items. Further, ensuring IT teams are well informed on overall business objectives helps to ensure the work remains aligned over the long run.
Don’t let perfection be the enemy when setting ROI goals
Initial goals may have to be qualitative rather than quantitative, but as long as the team’s efforts continue to move the needle toward the desired outcome, satisfactory progress is being made. If an activity isn’t driving additional revenue or increasing customers, it might not be worth pursuing.
Be willing to get better over time
If automating a portion of a process can lead to significant time, resource or cost savings, do it now rather than waiting to automate the entire process. Setting ROI goals can be challenging when there is no direct cost or direct benefit. Relevant data might not be available at the moment but can be collected over time so quantification and measurement of ROI can be achieved and can get even better.
Evaluate priority projects frequently
Timing prioritization on an annual or biannual basis is over. Today, companies should be prioritizing by quarter. There’s a short time frame to prove that something is bringing value, so companies must be agile and willing to reassign time and resources quickly if needed.
Address planned and unplanned work
In addition to automating repetitive tasks where possible, companies must proactively look at and reduce unplanned work as much as possible. The best organizations are able to get unplanned work under 20%. If the same things “break” repeatedly, fix the root cause of the problem so it doesn’t keep bubbling up. This eliminates critical-person syndrome and creates capacity to take on new developments, address technical debt, improve customer experience and more.
To be successful and achieve key transformation goals in the coming months, companies must be focused, flexible and creative. Taking a careful approach to prioritizing projects based on fluctuating client preferences and business objectives will allow companies to shift readily for short-term objectives while staying on track for critical long-term priorities.
This blog was originally a Forbes’ Technology Council post.