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The Stakeholder-Weighted Approach to Project Prioritization

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In this article, we will explore an agile project prioritization model that simplifies the process of prioritizing and delivering projects in a rapidly changing environment. We’ll discuss how not all stakeholders hold the same level of commitment in an agile setting and why it’s essential to weigh their priorities accordingly.

Understanding Stakeholder Commitment

In an agile environment, stakeholders vary in their level of involvement. To illustrate this, consider the analogy of a bacon-and-egg breakfast. The chicken is merely involved in producing the egg, while the pig is fully committed. Similarly, when creating a prioritization chart, it’s crucial to prioritize according to the level of commitment of each stakeholder.

Priority Based on Stakeholder Weight

When prioritizing tasks, the needs and priorities of dedicated stakeholders should carry more weight than those of involved stakeholders. For instance, a task that is a high priority for the customer holds more significance than something desired by the CMO. However, prioritizing tasks is not always a sequential process based on priority rankings.

Agile Projects Prioritization

Agile, primarily an approach to project management, emphasizes incremental development, allowing tasks to be adjusted and revised throughout the process. While the focus in agile is usually on maximizing outcomes for dedicated stakeholders, not all aspects of project execution, including prioritization, always align with this approach.

Existing Prioritization Models

Several popular prioritization models are available to address this issue:

  • The MoSCoW Prioritization approach categorizes priorities into four buckets: “Must,” “Should,” “Could,” and “Won’t,” and ranks them accordingly.
  • The Kano model determines priorities based on their impact on customer satisfaction, considering the existence and implementation of features.
  • The relative weighting model uses various factors, such as feature value and a scorecard from the product owner, to determine priority ranks.
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While these models have proven effective, they still involve a degree of subjectivity in task prioritization.

Prioritization Based on Stakeholder Priority

To prioritize tasks based on stakeholder equity, follow these steps:

  1. Create a comprehensive list of stakeholders for each project, including external (customers, suppliers, etc.) and internal (product owner, marketing, finance, etc.) stakeholders.
  2. Assign a priority weight to each stakeholder on a scale of 1 to 100. Dedicated stakeholders should receive higher priority weights, while those lower in the hierarchy should have lower weights.
  3. Generally, customers would receive higher scores than the CMO, who, in turn, would score higher than the product marketing specialist.
  4. At the end of each sprint cycle, compile the list of pending tasks and calculate the weighted average of their impact on different stakeholders. The tasks with the highest weighted average are usually the most significant and should be addressed in the next sprint cycle.

It’s important to note that this model also involves subjectivity. Assigning a high priority weight to one stakeholder or a very low weight to another can significantly impact the weighted average. Therefore, consider reassigning priority weights to stakeholders after each sprint cycle or periodically to ensure fairness.

Implementing the Project Prioritization Model

Apart from the subjectivity in priority weight, another challenge is that some stakeholders may be less vocal than others. To address this, rely on your analytics team as a proxy for the customer. By analyzing customer behaviors and identifying areas for improvement, you can ensure customer-oriented tasks are included in the project cycle. For example, fixes requiring the tech team’s involvement can be incorporated into the next sprint.

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Advanced versions of this model may also consider turnaround time and risk factors when calculating priority. For instance, when building an onboarding platform for suppliers, you can choose between manual integration or automating the extraction and transformation processes using a next-gen platform. Both options have their risks and benefits, and a robust prioritization model should account for both the turnaround time and risks associated with each task.

Setting the Agenda Straight

Implementing this model can lead to more engaging sprint meetings. Determining the risk factor of a task or deciding if a customer is truly three times more important than a product owner can be challenging. However, embracing this outcome-driven approach ensures a more rewarding experience for your most dedicated stakeholders. After all, in case of failure, these stakeholders have more at stake than those who are merely involved.

In conclusion, by employing a stakeholder-weighted approach to project prioritization, you can better align tasks with stakeholder priorities, optimize outcomes, and drive the success of your agile projects.

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