Is this Project Worthwhile?


Not all projects should be done. Some projects don’t even rate discussion. But sometimes it’s a lot harder to tell when a project is worthy and should be considered. Here are some questions I ask when trying to evaluate when a project is worthwhile:

  • What business need does this project fill? (Does the organization obtain value from this business need)
  • Is this project a strategic project for us? What makes it strategic? (Does the strategic reason behind the project change the importance of the project?)
  • How does this project fit into all the projects we’d like to do? (Does this project make sense for us to do?)
  • Have we done a project like this before? Were we successful? What did it take for us to be successful? Do we have any doubts about our ability to do this project? What are those doubts? (Are we doomed before we start?)
  • Do we have the staff or other resources to do the project? (If we can’t adequately fund the project, what should we do differently?)
  • What is the effect of finishing this project on time, not finishing this project on time, or not finishing the project at all? What ripple effect does this project have on others?

I supposed if I wanted to make this easier, I could have arranged everything in a table with a yes or no at the top of each column, and you could just mark yes or no. If you have enough yes’s, the project is worthwhile. The problem I have with that approach is that when I ask the first couple of questions with a senior management team, the answers aren’t always yes or no. Sometimes the business need is clear. Sometimes the strategic importance of the project is to have a small project to practice a new set of techniques on. Sometimes the time constraints make the business need clear.

If you use other questions, I hope you post them in a comment. Knowing whether a project is worthwhile is a huge part of management’s necessary decision-making. Because if a project is worthwhile, it’s worth funding, staffing, and moving along. If it’s not worthwhile, it’s worth killing — quickly.

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