Tame the Project Backlog
Take charge of your backlog of unstarted projects.
- Unmanaged project backlogs can become the bane of IT departments, tying IT leaders and PMO staff down to an ever-growing receptacle of project ideas that provides little by way of strategic value and that typically represents a lack of project intake and approval discipline.
- Decision makers frequently use the backlog to keep the peace. Lacking the time to assess the bulk of requests, or simply wanting to avoid difficult conversations with stakeholders, they “approve” everything and leave it to IT to figure it out.
- As IT has increasing difficulty assessing – let alone starting – any of the projects in the backlog, stakeholder relations suffer. Requestors view inclusion in the backlog as a euphemism for “declined,” and often characterize the backlog as the place where good project ideas go to die.
- Faced with these challenges, you need to make your project backlog more useful and reliable. The backlog may contain projects worth doing, but in its current untamed state, you have difficulty discerning, let alone capitalizing upon, those instances of value.
- Project backlogs are an investment and need to be treated as such. Incurring a cost impact that can be measured in terms of time and money, the backlog needs to be actively managed to ensure that you’re investing wisely and getting a good return in terms of strategic value and project throughput.
- Unmanageable project backlogs are rooted in bad habits and poorly-defined processes. Identifying the sources that fuel backlog growth is key to long-term success. Unless the problem is addressed at the root, any gains made in the near-term will simply fade away as old, unhealthy habits re-emerge and take hold.
- Backlog management should facilitate executive awareness about the status of backlog items as new work is being approved. In the long run, this ongoing executive engagement will not only help to keep the backlog manageable, but it will also help to bring more even workloads to IT project staff.
Impact and Result
- Keep the best, forget the rest. Develop a near-term approach to limit the role of the backlog to include only those items that add value to the business.
- Shine a light. Improve executive visibility into the health and status of the backlog so that the backlog is taken into account when decision makers approve new work.
- Evolve the organizational culture. Effectively employ organizational change management practices to evolve the culture that currently exists around the project backlog in order to ensure customer-service needs are more effectively addressed.
- Ensure long-term sustainability. Institute processes to make sure that your list of pending projects – should you still require one after implementing this blueprint – remains minimal, maintainable, and of high value.
- 13 companies contributed to this research and wish to remain anonymous.
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Get to Action
Start here – read the Executive Brief
Read our concise Executive Brief to find out how a more disciplined approach to managing your project backlog can help you realize increased value and project throughput.
Create a project backlog battle plan
Calculate the cost of the project backlog and assess the root causes of its unmanageability.
Execute a near-term backlog cleanse
Increase the manageability of the backlog by updating stale requests and removing dead weight.
Ensure long-term backlog manageability
Develop and maintain a manageable backlog growth rate by establishing disciplined backlog management processes.
Module 1: Create a Project Backlog Battle Plan
- Gauge the manageability of your project backlog in its current state.
- Calculate the total cost of your project backlog investments.
- Determine the root causes that contribute to the unmanageability of your project backlog.
Key Benefits Achieved
- An understanding of the organizational need for more disciplined backlog management.
- Visibility into the costs incurred by the project backlog.
- An awareness of the sources that feed the growth of the project backlog and make it a challenge to maintain.
|1.1||Calculate the sunk and marginal costs that have gone into your project backlog.||
|1.2||Estimate the throughput of backlog items.||
|1.3||Survey the root causes of your project backlog.||
Module 2: Execute a Near-Term Project Backlog Cleanse
- Identify the most organizationally appropriate goals for your backlog cleanse.
- Pinpoint those items that warrant immediate removal from the backlog and establish a game plan for putting a bullet in them.
- Communicate backlog decisions with stakeholders in a way that minimizes friction and resistance.
Key Benefits Achieved
- An effective, achievable, and organizationally right-sized approach to cleansing the backlog.
- Criteria for cleanse outcomes and a protocol for carrying out the near-term cleanse.
- A project sponsor outreach plan to help ensure that decisions made during your near-term cleanse stick.
|2.1||Establish roles and responsibilities for the near-term cleanse.||
|2.2||Determine cleanse scope.||
|2.3||Develop backlog prioritization criteria.||
|2.4||Prepare a communication strategy.||
Module 3: Ensure Long-Term Project Backlog Manageability
- Ensure ongoing backlog manageability.
- Make sure the executive layer is aware of the ongoing status of the backlog when making project decisions.
- Customize a best-practice toolkit to help keep the project backlog useful.
Key Benefits Achieved
- A list of pending projects that is minimal, maintainable, and of high value.
- Executive engagement with the backlog to ensure intake and approval decisions are made with a view of the backlog in mind.
- A backlog management tool and processes for ongoing manageability.
|3.1||Develop a project backlog management operating model.||
|3.2||Configure a project backlog management solution.||
|3.3||Assign roles and responsibilities for your long-term project backlog management processes.||
|3.4||Customize a project backlog management operating plan.||
Drive Organizational Change from the PMO
Tame the Project Backlog
Define and Deploy an Enterprise PMO
Create Project Management Success
Develop a Project Portfolio Management Strategy
Grow Your Own PPM Solution
Optimize Project Intake, Approval, and Prioritization
Manage a Minimum-Viable PMO
Govern and Manage an Enterprise Software Implementation
Develop a Resource Management Strategy for the New Reality
Select and Implement a PPM Solution
Prepare to Successfully Deploy PPM Software
Enhance PPM Dashboards and Reports
Set a Strategic Course of Action for the PMO in 100 Days
Focus on Project Management Essentials
Avoid Project Management Pitfalls
Increase Throughput by Driving Completion and Closure
Empower Decision Makers Through a Project Portfolio Office