PMOs Should Stop Prioritizing Demand!


PMO Wisdom

Well, I just got off the phone with a consultant friend of mine, Roberto Camanho. He is grey-haired and wise. He is the Gandalf to my Mr Baggins.

And he took the rather controversial position that PMOs should NOT be in the business of prioritizing demand.

Haven’t I spent the last 150,000 blog posts telling you how important it is to prioritize your projects? Was he not listening?

It turns out that, not only was he listening, but he was also thinking and I think his thoughts are worth sharing.

Demand Management – the name says it all

People talk about “Demand Management” or “Prioritizing Demand”.

Put another way, demand is something to be defeated. It’s almost as if project requests are the hordes of Orcs streaming from Moria to overrun the good folks of the IT department who have taken up a defensive position in the “Helms Deep” meeting room.

With Gandalf shouting, “You shall not pass!”

Wave after wave of enemies are repulsed. Only “friendlies” are allowed through the defences. Friendlies, or very big Orcs carrying bombs…. I mean, senior executives with lots of power.

But what’s the point of this battle?

Why, to make sure that we “manage demand”. That we “rightsize” the portfolio, of course. This process lets us align our workload with our capacity to deliver. This means that we “land” more projects on time and on budget.

And that’s a good thing. Kind of.

Because, nowhere in this story, have we taken account of the strategic goals of the organization.

Balancing demand and capacity is not a goal, it’s a tool.

It’s one of the tools good PMOs use to improve the flow of projects (and business value) through the organization. Balance means that people can focus on delivery without time-slicing (which makes them much more efficient.)

Turning Demand Management Upside-down

The function of a project delivery organization is to deliver change. More accurately, projects exist to allow an organization to meet its strategic goals.

Put this way, the whole Demand Management concept is turned on its head. You’re not in the business of stopping projects.

You’re in the business of picking the best projects, the ones that will help your organization achieve its strategic goals… and that sentence is the whole point of this blog.

This is so important, I’ll say it again: you’re not in the demand management business, you’re in the business of picking the projects that will help you deliver on your organization’s strategic goals.

How to do this is a topic I’ve covered before. In fact, there is a definite “right way” to do project prioritization which is called AHP (analytic hierarchy process). This is HOW you ensure you’re picking the projects that support your strategy. Coincidentally, improving strategic alignment also helps improve your project success rates. 

The Tale of Five Frogs

So, now we’re all a little wiser so it’s time for a little riddle…

Five frogs sitting on a log. One decides to jump off. How many frogs are left?

Four? No. There are still five.

Deciding to do something and actually doing it are totally different.

So jump off the log. Do something about it. Spread the wisdom within your team and put some real thought into how to change the culture and processes around selecting projects. I’d recommend using AHP (whether you use our tools or someone else’s), but however you do it, take action, make the change.

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