Selecting Projects that Provide Value to an Organization
Each day, projects are selected within an organization for a variety of reasons and not all of them have straightforward purpose or value. The role of a project manager is to understand and illustrate why the project was prioritized in order to align the project team toward executing the initiative that has been made by leadership. In order to draw enough justification to select a project, every organization needs strategic business goals, which offer a purpose and a prioritized hierarchy of potential added business value. For this article, Cooley LLP's business value has been defined as the net-benefits recognized by the user which is measured in both monetary and non-monetary metrics. This could be as simple as saving time on a workflow, reducing costs by retiring a legacy platform with an enhanced product, addressing a security vulnerability, creating a competitive advantage, or reducing waste.
At Cooley LLP, project selection encompasses a multitude of processes and workflows involving budget, mission, risk vs. reward, stakeholder agreement, timing, resources, and the overall impact of the inherent value. Our method is structured in order to give a voice to outside departments, provide a defined plan that identifies business value to the organization, while also solving a problem or need. It is intrinsically important to involve users who will directly benefit from the proposed solution in order to ensure they are not only stakeholders in the process but are given a platform to provide valuable feedback to the solution. They are, after all, who we are trying to solve a problem.
The Project Manager's role at our Firm, is to bring clarity to that vision by providing a structured purpose. We strive not only to keep up with innovative technology which our clients both develop and adopt, but also to ensure our internal users have access to the latest solutions to enhance their day to day workloads. Our challenge is to mindfully and methodically select solutions that bring value, modernization, and smooth user adoption.
The Firm’s PMO, is devised of a team of 10 people (Project Managers, PMO Manager, PMO Director, and CIO) who collaborates with Directors and Partners throughout the Firm semi-annually to analyze requests, which have been submitted through an automated project intake process, evaluate funding, and match up solutions to strategic business values. This results in an amalgamated list of approved and budgeted projects for the year. The project intake forms provide the PMO with preliminary information that highlights the problem to be solved and the benefactors of the solution. Projects must have a Sponsor who assigns key performance indicators, helps drive and champion the initiative, and build corporate confidence and interest. Once a project has been approved, the PMO Manager identifies current and future Project Manager workload and bandwidth to identify a Project Manager to take the lead on planning and implementation. This process give consideration to individual Project Manager skillset cohesion and overall team balance.
Additionally, at Cooley LLP, the PMO align incoming requests to overall strategic portfolio goals. Results include:
- Galvanizing and differentiation of the Cooley brand as a leader in technology
- Driving growth (geographic, industry, or legal experience)
- Acknowledgement and addressing of client requests and requirements
- Advancing our customer-centric approach
- Strengthening our security and regulatory adherence posture
- Fostering an environment of collaboration, innovation, and productivity
It is important to note, innovative projects are not siloed to a subset of departments here at the Firm, but are rather a shared, collective responsibility. No individual department is a single-sourced user and technical owner of a product, meaning there is joint accountability for the success and continued operation of the product. While our PMO is relatively young, our reputation has already had a positive impact firm-wide. As an organization, the PMO is regarded as new standard for delivering results that meet user’s needs, providing insight and transparency, improving processes, all while balancing customer and stakeholder satisfaction. Our goals are to deliver long-term business value that aligns with our client base and provides a competitive advantage compared to other law firms.
In the end, the true measure of project success doesn’t simply boil down to being on-time or even within budget. While these two metrics are vital, the successful implemented solution, which the project originally promised, and the added value provided to the organization are a Project Manager’s ultimate goal at Cooley LLP.
Allison R. Kennedy, IS Project Manager
MS – Information and Communication Technology with a concentration in Project Management
PMP, March 2018