You can’t do it all – thoughts about prioritization

Eventually in your career you come to the great realization, you can’t do it all, especially all at once. Hopefully you make this realization before you take on too much stuff, or are forced to take on too much.

So what is prioritization, and why do I need it? Emergency personnel do it all the time, its called triage. Where can I get the best bang for my buck? What is the project or item I need to accomplish most?

If you look at a house, yes you may want a new kitchen, even need a wall painted, but the foundation is crumbling, so the foundation should get your attention. Is it sexy? no. Will it be the best place to improve the value of your house? probably not. Is it was is needed to be done, so everything else is that much better? Absolutely.

The same goes for business, If you have a shiny new product and a simple plain old replacement of a PC, 99 times out of 100 the decision will be for the shiny new product. The other 1%? its either the boss’s computer that broke, or the new computer is needed for the shiny new product.

So how do I prioritize my team’s projects? I go through the following items.

  • List out all of your projects
  • Figure out how much time each one will take
  • What is the ROI on each project?
  • What will I get for that time/money investment? (rank on a scale of 1-10)
  • Rank items on what your boss thinks is most important (1-10)
  • Rank items on their perceived political important (1-10)
  • Rank the items on need for keeping the lights on (1-10)
  • When was the project requested?
  • When is the project due?

Once everything is prioritized, try to let everyone you can know your priority listing. People will not like being told they are not the top priority, and everyone will want to jump up in the queue. Unless it is something that can be done while waiting for another project task to complete, try to work the list in order as much as possible.

I know what you are thinking, that’s great Kraig, but as soon as I create this list, my Boss comes along agrees with it and 30 seconds later sends me an email changing everything. Yes that happens, and it happens far too often. Do you still put in a budget for next years activities even though you don’t know what you will actually accomplish? Do you skip planning all together because well plans change, and your business doesn’t have time? Prioritization and planning go hand in hand. They will change, but it gives your troops a great idea of what is important and why.

No one ever said it was easy to be an IT Manager.


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