3 Steps to Better Prioritization and Faster Execution

Many organizations are challenged by their customers’ increasing velocity of change. They suffer from anemic corporate metabolism. My hope for the new year is that businesses resolve to improve their rate of change and adaptation.

Corporate metabolism is the term I use to describe the speed at which organizations can make decisions, adapt, and evolve. While things progress faster than ever before, corporations still struggle to empower themselves to change.

This week, let’s consider a simple system to enable your organization to prioritize more effectively when planning. The system is based on prioritizing all your planned efforts by three factors: time, impact, and resources. For each factor, let’s assign a score from 1 to 5, with 5 being the best and 1 being the worse.

Time: How long will it take to execute a project (a change, a test, or full scale roll-out) until its completion? This includes staff hours/days to execute and the number of calendar days until the project’s impact would be recognized. A score of 5 would be given to a project that takes the minimal amount of time to execute and to realize the impact.

Impact: The amount of revenue potential (or reduced costs) from the execution of your project. Will the project impact all of your customers or only certain segments? Will it increase conversion rates by 1 percent or by 20 percent? A score of 5 is for projects that have the greatest lift or cost reduction potential.

Resources: The associated costs (people, tools, space, etc.) needed to execute a project. Keep in mind: No matter how good a project is, it will not succeed if you do not have resources to execute an initiative. A score of 5 is given when resources needed are few and are available for the project.

Next, take each factor and multiply them (don’t add them because these factors are orthogonal) for each project. The best possible score is 125. Tackle and complete the highest-ranking projects first. Meet weekly with a cross-functional group to evaluate the status of each project. Be prepared to re-prioritize regularly; once a month or at least once a quarter.

To illustrate how you might implement this prioritization system, let’s use several tools identified in this post, “99 Free (and Low Cost) Tools to Improve Your Website,” on my blog.

Consider Treepodia. It will take a retailer’s XML product feed and for a low monthly fee, it will turn those feeds into automated videos. It will then distribute the videos through all the video channels (YouTube, Facebook, Metacafe, etc.) and then submit the Google and Bing video site maps.

Let’s assign a score for time, impact, and resources for a project using this tool.

Resources score: 5. It is simple to give Treepodia the feed (many companies already have such a fee for other shopping sites they work with) and implement their code (copy and paste) to host the videos and display the videos on your website.

Impact score: 5. This score assumes that there are currently very few competitors in most categories using video for all their products. This gives you a big time-to-market advantage and seems to boost conversion rates as well as search rankings. Google loves to serve these videos in its result pages; these videos jump out at searchers because they are displayed as thumbnails.

Time score: 5. This score assumes that you can have 100,000 videos produced and posted on your website within 24 hours. The entire project will take 4 to 8 man hours. Google usually indexes and ranks them in around three days.

Total score: 5 x 5 x 5 = 125. This is for companies that have a feed available and have few competitors using video. It would be lower for companies that may have to prepare a feed or have competitors also using video.

Let us compare this to running a general usability test:

Resources source: 4. It takes a bit of solid thinking to plan and write out the appropriate task you want your testers to follow. You then have to figure out who will be responsible to watch the tester videos. With UserTesting.com or some other usability tools (Loop11, FiveSecondTest, etc.), the cost is minimal.

Impact score: 4. The variable impact can only be determined once the tests are completed and all the projects that the test identified are ready to be prioritized. There is very little impact from the test themselves except from fixing the challenges identified in the tests. I usually dig out some great nuggets from these tests, so that’s why I assign it a score of 4. Your experience may be different.

Time score: 3. Getting tests back from UserTesting.com typically happens in a couple of hours. You then have to watch each test. I suggest getting between five to eight testers for most tests. Each video is usually 12 to 15 minutes long, so you can plan on spending two or three hours watching and annotating videos for useful information. Then you’ll need to spend several hours listing and prioritizing projects.

Total score: 4 x 4 x 3 = 48. Note: individual projects identified may rank much higher. If you limit this to running a test on a PPC campaign, you can bring the resources required to a score of 5 because UserTesting.com has predefined a PPC usablity test where you get three testers for $75 to search a phrase of your choice and evaluate you and three of your competitors.

Prioritization is key to success in an organization, but all the prioritization in the world doesn’t matter unless you can execute. Here’s hoping that 2011 is the year you get faster and more productive.

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