When discussing project prioritization, Ralf Finchett Jr. uses the example of a couple at the grocery store. The wife tells the husband that he cannot buy beer because it is not in their strict budget. In the next isle, the wife picks out a face cream that is twice the price of the beer. This makes the husband ask why she needs that expensive cream and he can’t have his beer. She tells him the cream makes her beautiful, so it is a necessity. He retorts by telling her the beer makes her beautiful as well, and it is half as expensive. Flinchett uses this example and asks the reader to consider the real-world business applications of the story:
How many times does an organisation go with an idea that is expensive, has been well packaged and sold to them, so they convince themselves that is the only way. PMO’s working at a portfolio level, often fall for the trap of prioritising a list of projects, but in most cases the issue lies with every project being accepted in some way. The result is every project going on ‘the list’ and it’s a matter of the order which those projects appear on ‘the list’. Sooner or later, the sponsor of that ‘lower priority’ project either forgets about it, or submits it under a new name!
The article suggests that the primary role of the PMO is to get to the root of things and to facilitate decisions. When you step back and assess what the problem is, perhaps you will find a simpler and more cost effective way of remedying it. Going with traditional practices simply because they are tradition could be wasting money. Prioritization will become easier after reviewing common practices for gaps and techniques that just don’t work anymore. Remember the beer and the face cream. Just because it comes in a pretty box and costs twice as much does not mean that works any better than the cheaper alternative.