Case Study : Prioritizing Projects at D. D. Williamson

Assignment Instructions  – Case Study 1: Prioritizing Projects at D. D. Williamson (Chapter 2)

Read the case titled: “Prioritizing Projects at D. D. Williamson” found in Chapter 2.

Write a 3-5 page paper in which you:

  • Critique the prioritizing process at D. D. Williamson.
  • Suggest at least one (1) recommendation to improve the prioritizing process.
  • Create a scenario where the implemented process at D. D. Williamson would not work.
  • Project five (5) years ahead and speculate whether or not D. D. Williamson will be using the same process.
  • Justify your answer. Use at least four (4) resources in this assignment.

Sample Answer

Analysis of the prioritizing process at D. D. Williamson

D. Williamson was going through some major problems in the form of project delays before they decided to work on a process to achieve effective prioritization that ensured timely and successful completion of projects. One of the major challenges that the organization faced was the fact that for its small size the D. D. Williamson managed an oversized portfolio of project that exceeded not only the company’s resources but also their ability to effectively track progress from a senior level and push for timely completion(Prioritizing Projects at D. D. Williamson, 2013).It also occurred that most of the projects that experienced delays and cost overruns were often the big and critical ones that had the capacity for game changing in the industry and for the organization. The ratio of project cost to project value is a significant element that should be present and at the forefront of the criterion used in project prioritization, as it communicates what is important throughout the organization (Firesmith, 2004).From the beginning, D. D. Williamson got their criteria rating right but needed to simplify it owing to the changes that they were needed to make based on the recognition and willingness to address the challenges they were facing with non-performing projects.

The simplificationof criteria rating was initiated to focus on the perceived likelihood that the project would face challenges that would need the involvement of senior level to solve, the team’s cross-functional nature, and the level of expected impact on corporate objectives. The criteria narrowed expectations and focused to five areas: targets to be achieved in three areas; sales revenue, additional sales in natural colors and return on capital employed, repeatability of project in other areas and risk of project barriers to completion(Prioritizing Projects at D. D. Williamson, 2013).

The goal at D. D. Williamson that led them to the prioritization process that they have now settled on was the need to achieve dramatic increase on the success rate on critical projects also known as the “Vision Impact Projects” or the VIPs at the organization(Prioritizing Projects at D. D. Williamson, 2013).As D. D. Williamson worked through the process to find a working approach to project prioritization, management support emerged as one of the key pillars towards the achievement of success in project management. From this realization, the organization decided on allocating a maximum of two projects to their senior management sponsors, based on resource estimations and a set of criteria. In Project Portfolio Management, choosing the right projects to fund is one of the most important steps especially as companies face increasing internal and external pressure to cut costs while remaining effective(Firesmith, 2004).Explicit prioritization of requirements is one of the characteristics of excellent requirements. The process of prioritizing should thus engage not only the internal team working on the project but also the customer for whom the project is being delivered to, bringing the essence of collaboration to the fore since satisfactory delivery of a project also depends on customer or market feedback on the deliverables.

In addition to this, the organization realized the need to have a central point that facilitates projects, an agenda towards which they decided to hire a continuous improvement manager to act not only as the key resource for project facilitation but also serve as the project office(Prioritizing Projects at D. D. Williamson, 2013). Feedback from this office will shed light on projects that need to be initiated, continued, revamped, or done away with, a process. Since the feedback loop takes time to give actionable information due to the nature of the projects in question, the continuous improvement manager will be able to anticipate needs, time actions and sequence them in order to ensure that success is ensured(Makhani, Khan, & Soomro, 2010). In their assessment, this hiring decision turned out to be a good one since in the previous year they were struggling in their attempts to monitor continuous improvement projects that totaled 60 projects. These changes in project prioritization delivered the desired outcome of improved success rate with more than 60% of the projects coming to an end close to the results, financial investment and expected dates.

In particular, the big projects that are investment heavy, involved complex design and implementation processes experience success rates that were much better. This is because of the sharp focus the Vision Impact Projects receives from the Global Operating Team, which, with the help of the continuous improvement manager is charged with reviewing the progress on the project plans(Prioritizing Projects at D. D. Williamson, 2013). The ability to spot a project that is going off plan has improved significantly, enabling the organization to swiftly put it back on track either by offering help with negotiations, changing external and internal priorities, or resource reallocation.This is particularly useful since the market is constantly morphing as consumer demands change within windows of opportunity that narrowing faster than ever before, requiring organizations to add, remove or reshuffle projects regularly(Makhani, Khan, & Soomro, 2010).

Another added advantage of this project prioritization process is that project managers with Vision Impact Projects in their docket would enjoy the increased focus and interaction with senior management. Owing to its wild success at the organization, the project prioritization process has been applied to research & development projects and customer oriented projects in other departments in the company.

Two recommendations to improve the prioritizing process

At the core of corporate operation management strategy is the benchmarking role of project priority strategy. To come up with a more accurate scoring model for the five weighted criteria ranking system that D. D. Williamson uses presently, it would be useful to assign points to projects not only based on the value of the project but also the value to cost ratio. Improving the design of the scoring approach used by the company will help them to avoid the logical flaw created by focusing exclusively on the value or impact of the project without drawing a relationship between the value and the cost involved.

Another area that would benefit from improvement is how the definitions used by the company are developed. Since they recently developed the project office that will handle project facilitation, and being the central point for all projects, this office would be beneficial to the organization a data-collecting unit. The data and information collected all the projects should then be used not only as feedback to about project progress but also define information requirements better. This project information will go a long way even in the preparation of future project proposals that will be tabled for consideration and it will be of value to the company if the proposals are rigorous with forecasts and estimates that are supported by analysis and sound reasoning.

Scenario where the implemented process at D. D. Williamson would not work

In a scenario where a company has resources that supersede the number of project that need to be carried out, then applying project prioritization process would be futile. In such a scenario, the company would be in a position to do everything related to all the projects all at once since the projects would not be competing for resources. The question of how best to utilize the energy or resources of the company would not arise since there would be enough if not more than enough for all the projects proposals being presented to the company. Since all the projects taken up by the company would have met the ultimate objective of the organization, it would be fiscally irresponsible not carry out all of them since the resources to ensure completion would otherwise be underutilized.

This scenario would also render the need to compare relative importance of criterion as required in a prioritization matrix would not be needed, rendering the entire project prioritization process void and ultimately redundant. A project prioritizing process as a tool helps project managers to make necessary trade-off decisions and resolve conflicts, which would not be an issue in this scenario.

Speculation as to whether or not D. D. Williamson will be using the same processin five years’ time

Based on the wild success achieved so far by the five criteria prioritization matrix used to prioritize projects at D. D. Williamson, it is highly likely that this process will still be in use at the company in the next five years and beyond.This is because, in an effort to maximize the opportunities and potential for drastic project improvement, D. D. Williamson is in fact applying the project prioritization process to other areas and departments within the company(Prioritizing Projects at D. D. Williamson, 2013). The bottom line remains that no matter how big D. D. Williamson grows in the next five years and even beyond, it is improbable that they will ever have sufficient resources to carry out all projects available to them; prioritization of projects will always take place.

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