After considering a variety of options, the team narrowed them to two possible approaches. The first approach was to implement the order processing and shipping module of the ERP system and use the software provided by the customer to automate the process. The other approach was to implement the software provided by the customer to automate the process within its existing legacy system.
The next step was to perform a cost benefit analysis of both options. This is shown in Table 2-3.
Implement order processing and shipping module of ERP system and use the software provided by the customer
Resource costs Training costs
Implement the software provided by the customer with their legacy system
The team selected the first option. This option was determined to be the superior solution in that it contained all the benefits of process automation, was relatively quick with the customer-supplied software, and gave the company a foothold into the ERP system, which it would need to start implementing within a year anyway.
Project selection is similar whether a company is selecting one project or a portfolio of projects. Project leaders need to be able to articulate the business case for a potential project so that all key stakeholders can understand its value. In this situation, the project aligned so well with CSM's mission that selection was almost a given. The more interesting decision in this project selection was which approach to take. CSM was appropriate in first considering several potential solutions and then looking hard at the last two when the others did not appear feasible.
This same approach can be used when there are many more potential choices. First a team needs to brainstorm all the potential approaches (which can sometimes be numerous). Each participant should feel free to offer any approach without fear that it will be criticized. This is important since some ideas that first appear impractical may later prove to be worthwhile. Moreover, this sets the tone for free and open discussion on the project.
Once all potential approaches are listed, the team needs to have a method of quickly screening a large number of choices down to a small number that can be analyzed in detail. Sometimes project participants perform this screening by asking questions about which approaches are not feasible. If there are quite a few choices to be considered, a second method worth considering is multi-voting. In multi-voting each participant can vote for whichever approaches he or she prefers. The group then progressively removes first the really impractical approaches and then the practical but not quite ideal approaches. A key to multi-voting is to try not to remove more than half of the potential approaches at one time, which can result in good choices being removed along with impractical ones.
Once there are few enough potential approaches left that it is practical to perform detailed analysis, each alternative should be examined based on relevant dimensions. The dimensions that are often considered include:
Strategic and/or commercial value
Stability of requirements
Opportunities for learning
Fit in the portfolio of current projects
Before committing to a project, a company might use four different frames of leadership (political, human resources, traditional management, and symbolic) as lenses through which to view the project. Certainly an ethics check is necessary for all projects. A look at the broad picture or external environment is also necessary: Are there political, economic, or social issues? An internal look at the project's impact on the development of resources and relationships between and among all stakeholders is also important: How does the project build expertise for associates? What impact will it have on suppliers? Regulators? Other customers? Competitors? It appears that none of these factors is an issue in this case.
A Project Leader Needs to:
Consider different potential projects or approaches based solely on their merits
Have the courage to accept or reject projects and approaches based on their merits
Exercise the wisdom to make the right choices.