Which Kind of Project Are You Working On Now?

I'm trying to clean up the project portfolio management book for technical review, and I realized the other night (well, morning, when I woke up), that I'd missed explaining a key idea.

We all work on several kinds of projects:

  • Projects that maintain the organization, the kind we need to run. These projects “keep the lights on,” as a CIO said recently.
  • Projects that help grow the capabilities of the organization or the offerings of the organization.
  • Projects that create new business or transform the organization.

You can work on any or all of these (not at the same time, please!). Especially in this economy, I would do as little as possible on keep-the-lights-on projects, avoid normal growth, and see if I couldn't transform my business. But that's my strategy, and fits my risk-taking approach, not yours.

Do you know what kind of project you are working on? Should you be?

7 Replies to “Which Kind of Project Are You Working On Now?”

  1. At this time I am working on projects that create new business. The funny thing is that I am suggesting ideas that I have been suggesting for years. I am now talking to a new group of people, and this group wants to do something different and make money at it. The prior group wanted dearly to maintain the status quo while their salary grew with inflation and age.

  2. Another voice for new business project here. However I don’t consider these categories as “this one I want and that one I try to avoid.” I think I appreciate diversity and new experience thus I like to change project environment from time to time.

  3. As Lee Iacocca once stated, you’ve got to keep the lights on while you’re in the process of transforming the business. Depending on the nature of that business, you either need to keep new products in the pipeline (pharmaceutical firms or gaming software) or come up with a totally different business model. All projects are necessary. Sometimes a critical project will involve conforming to changes in the legal or regulatory environment. That’s a “keep the lights on” project that may be more critical than anything else you’re doing, but usually adds nothing to the bottom line.

  4. I work on neither of those project types. I am quite annoyed that you are forgetting an important class of projects: product development.

    The purpose of any commercial organization is selling products. No products, no sales, regardless of how perfect or crappy the IT organization is.

    So if you are listing “several kinds of projects” we may be working on, you definitely need to include product development.

    I have heard people claim that product development is part of “projects that help grow the offerings of the organization”. IMHO, those people just don’t know what they are talking about. Product development is not to help the organization, the organization is there to help making and selling products (to make money).

    1. Frank, why do you think product development doesn’t fall into those categories?? Some products keep the lights on, e.g. releases of an “old” product. Some grow the company (releases you can get revenue for). Some help you see another way of doing business. I must be missing something you’re seeing.

  5. I think that the emphasize on the word ‘Organization’ made your description feel like it applies to an internal IT department.

    Being in a small business, I would prefer:
    1- Projects that are generating direct revenues (e.g. what you sell). These should be top priority.
    2- Projects that are helping the company’s internal organization (Internal Wikis, Ticket/Backlog system, T&E tracking, Accounting system as well as infrastructure). These are not generating revenues, but they help being more efficient. Some are out of the box, some are custom.
    3- Projects that help selling/promoting your products (Company’s web site, Public Blog, Demo site, Beta site). In other words, projects outward facing, but not generating direct revenues.
    4- Projects that help the future of your product line (R&D, Migration to new platforms, …). These are internal projects not (yet) generating revenues.


  6. Frank,

    I’m a Product Manager and IMHO, you have no clue what you are talking about or you’re so egotistical you believe your category of works needs to be specifically highlighted. How you can possibly NOT consider product development to be something that helps grow the offerings of the company or for that matter also something that more holistically creates and transforms a company?

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