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Prioritizing Projects Leads To More Impactful Solutions For Customers

Kristin Watson, Senior Vice President, Global Technology Development, MiTek

Prioritizing Projects Leads To More Impactful Solutions For CustomersKristin Watson, Senior Vice President, Global Technology Development, MiTek

In a world full of rapidly changing technologies and a plethora of proverbial “shiny objects,” prioritization is key. Assuming we have limited resources (whether funds or human time/skills), data-based decisions will maximize effectiveness. We can create momentum by focusing resources on well-defined initiatives rather than the frequent but ineffective launch of iterative solutions that never fully satisfy customers. Choice over churn.

Prioritizing the right investment of time and resources into technology that furthers the business is critical. In addition, the right technology can create a more efficient construction process.

MiTek collaborates across the building industry to enable and accelerate transformational breakthroughs in design and construction, both on-site and off-site. We create and supply software, services, engineered products, and automation to the building construction industry to support each phase of the design, make, and build process.

Since joining the company in April 2021 as the Senior Vice President of Global Technology Development, I have steered the company toward defining and developing

approaches to guide us through complex processes as we expand our innovation capabilities. For a company with many facets and a global footprint, the first step was prioritization.

“What are we prioritizing?”

Often, it’s easiest to prioritize projects versus broader ongoing initiatives. Projects, by definition, have start dates, end dates, defined scope, and identified resources. This allows the prioritization process to feed into a well-defined resource management engine. While “maintenance of business” 

and more reactionary efforts could be prioritized, they often require a baseline of support to handle both the urgent and important everyday tasks of supporting our business, making them necessary and not open for resource trading.

At MiTek, we view the “what” through the lens of improving efficiencies for our customers and prioritizing projects that leverage technology for greater digital collaboration. We believe this will help achieve our vision of transforming the building industry with better building solutions and enable our partners to work better together to transform global communities and meet the demand for smarter, more affordable, and more sustainable homes and buildings.

“Where do we prioritize?”

Whether you’re seeking to ensure focus in R&D, manufacturing, or other business operations, it’s important to involve all relevant stakeholders in a common forum. This may look like the more traditional monthly meeting (now, often conducted virtually) or could take on a more fluid presence with virtual collaboration tools.

When should we prioritize?”

Timing of prioritization will depend on the flexibility and dynamics of your business. For most companies and functions, a monthly check in would be plenty. However, in other settings, weekly meetings may be necessary. A manufacturing environment where robust Kaizen efforts are leaning out high-turnover equipment may demand more frequent sessions. On the other hand, a quarterly cadence may provide enough guidance for longer-term initiatives in some research settings.

“How should we prioritize?”

The first step considers all stakeholders to understand the criteria most important to them. Here are some likely examples:

• Financially-based – whether gross revenue, NPV, ROI, or another financially-based metric is included, one or more should reflect the financial impact it will have on the business

• Strategic – aligning to corporate or division/business goals will result in moving the needle in the direction the business is headed, whether it’s growth in a specific geography or with a certain customer segment or in a unique technological area

• Capability-aware – understanding if this project leverages the team’s core competencies or extends beyond will impact the risk (level of difficulty) and potentially the timeline

Some of these criteria may be more important than others and may get higher weighting. Understand those trade-offs with your stakeholders. All projects should be meeting a specific customer need, whether that’s an expressed need or latent; that impact would be reflected in the criteria noted above.

Next, rate each of the projects according to the criteria. This is best done with a cross-functional team to ensure consistent treatment of each project across the criteria.

Finally, rank the projects according to the ratings you set. Although doing this data-based process allows for a dispassionate view, there are likely nuances in your ratings that would trump the algorithm calculation. Your team can then decide whether to tweak the algorithm, tweak the rankings, or leave as-is. The discussion of this decision can be very valuable, but ensure the team is not just “fixing” the results to get the desired outcome.

A cross-functional team of MiTek team members called a Project Decision Team (PDT) meets monthly in a stage-gate process to continually evaluate the priority and progress of key initiatives and monitor markers that indicate whether the project is on track. We have been able to leverage key talent across the organization by selecting project “owners” from a variety of functions including software development, engineering, and marketing.

Projects submitted to the PDT require a strong business case as well as a feasibility analysis and financial projections. This approach provides better visibility of projects across the global company, narrows focus on the most valuable projects, enables data-based decision making, and increases accountability and predictability in delivery.

Once a prioritized list of initiatives is established, it fuels important decisions about resource allocation to ensure we’re focused on the most impactful solutions for our customers and the most meaningful results for the company. Even though these decisions can often be uncomfortable (curtailing the churn and perhaps ignoring a “shiny object”), the process provides benefits, and it’s worth it.

Remember, focus will get you farther.

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