What are your project selection criteria?

Written by Stuart Easton

Missing Project Selection Criteria Like Chess With Missing Pieces


So, you’re going to make a decision to allocate a few million bucks to some projects. What selection criteria are you going to use? Go ahead, write them down.

Now look at the list.

Chances are you missed around half of the important criteria. Almost two thirds of us will have missed 4 out of the top 10 most important criteria.

That’s like trying to win a game of chess with no queen, no bishops and no knights.

This article is here to help.

Why Project Selection Criteria Matter

I’m not going to bang on too long about this. It’s kind of obvious, isn’t it?

If you don’t know what your criteria are, then you’re relying on gut instinct to select your projects which probably won’t work out too well and your decisions can’t be transparent.

But there’s another aspect of criterion selection. If you put your five executives in a room and asked them to write down the criteria they think should be used, you’ll get five different lists. Sure, there is likely to be some overlap, but there will be some significant differences too.

If you don’t poll all your key stakeholders, your list will be plain wrong.

Sources of Project Selection Criteria

You need a complete list of criteria...

First of all, brainstorming is a great tool for building a criteria list. Ask stakeholders what they think the criteria are. Everyone brings their own priorities to the table and applying a little structure to the brainstorming can really deliver a good list.

But you don’t need to stop there.

There are stacks of research out there that will help you identify criteria. According to Roberto Camanho, a researcher and consultant specializing in project prioritization:

“The research is deep and the criteria lists are useful. But you have to remember that researchers are looking for general patterns so they tend to come up with only top-level criteria. These are usually composed of sub-criteria and these sub-criteria are different for each business.”

For example, Camanho’s own research highlighted six top-level criteria that global companies based in Brazil use to prioritize projects; complexity, risk, technical feasibility, project performance, and stakeholder satisfaction.

Risk, however, might be made up of “Risk of cost overrun” and “Risk of failure”. In other words, high-level criteria are usually made up of sub-criteria and fleshing out these sub-criteria for your particular company is where you get the really “good stuff”.

Many analysts and consultants also have templates for project selection. Generally, we see some combination of financial return, risk, strategic alignment and time to results as the key criteria. But whatever you do, make sure your queen is on the board: build yourself a good list of criteria!

We have a list of more than 80 commonly used project prioritization criteria. These will help inspire you to come up with a list of criteria that is specific to your organization.

Download now: This free e-book has over 80 sample project prioritization  criteria

What next?

We’ve created this Ultimate Guide To Project Prioritization and Selection for you. This is the place to get the basics of how to do project prioritization properly and of how it can support strategic project selection.

If you think you could improve your prioritization process but are struggling to work out how to move it forward, a good starting point is figuring out where you are today. You can sign up for a free session where we will show you how to do this. This will help you clearly identify where improvement is needed and what the benefit of an improved prioritization process would be.

Download Sample Criteria for Project Prioritization

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