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5 key strategies to decide which projects to scrap or keep

Once time and resources have been committed to a specific project, it can become tough to determine whether to scrap it and shift plans. Here are strategies to help you choose.

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Image: lucadp, Getty Images/iStockphoto

What may seem like the perfect project today can quickly change tomorrow; that’s been the case in many companies over the last year. With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting almost every industry, businesses have had to take a second look at their projects and decide which ones to keep and which to scrap. Here are strategies to help your company decide. 

SEE: Tableau business analytics: Tips and tricks (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

1. Identify external and internal environmental changes

Companies and projects are seldom unaffected by environmental changes such as the pandemic. Understanding the impact on existing projects requires putting some projects on pause to isolate the types of environmental changes and where they pose a risk. Some of the risks may not signal the need to scrap a project, while others might prompt the need to either modify the project’s parameters or make any continued efforts a waste of time and valuable resources.

SEE: 22 project management training courses that help you master Six Sigma, agile and scrum (TechRepublic)

2. Determine the impact on strategy and direction 

Once environmental changes have been identified, it’s essential to determine the impact on existing projects and your company’s overall strategy and direction. This helps to determine if the existing project’s scope can be updated to meet current strategies or if the company direction has completely shifted. If your company’s internal environment changes and the organizational strategy and direction have shifted too far from its previous position, it may impact the entire portfolio. If this is the case, a much more strategic overhaul of all initiatives is needed. 

SEE: Project Management Institute unveils free, 45-minute course for teams (TechRepublic)

3. Identify how your customers’ needs have changed

While environmental changes may not directly impact your company, they can indirectly impact it when a customer’s needs change. Keeping up with your customers and what’s happening in their environments helps identify projects that may no longer be relevant. At the very least, it will make it easier to isolate changes and emerging risks and opportunities. It also demonstrates to your customers that you are on top of things and care about meeting their shifting goals and objectives. It’s better to let a customer know sooner that a project may no longer serve their needs than to disappoint the customer later down the road after costly resources and efforts have been wasted.

SEE: 9 quick tips for managing businesses and projects during uncertainty (TechRepublic)

4. Re-evaluate strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats

As a general rule, it’s always a good idea to conduct a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis when changes occur. What might be a weakness today could turn into a strength. Some environmental changes can also take something that was previously a threat and turn it into a new opportunity. The key is getting ahead of those changes to recognize how it affects your entire organization and its project portfolio. A SWOT analysis should be conducted annually and potentially more often as circumstances warrant. Projects that don’t play toward taking advantage of an opportunity, reduce risks, leverage strengths or counter risks may need to be put on pause or scrapped altogether. 

SEE: 6 ways to rebuild trust with frustrated stakeholders (TechRepublic)

5. Identify delivery gaps

Every company should re-assess gaps in their ability to deliver products and services to stakeholders throughout each environmental change. This doesn’t just apply to operational gaps but also resourcing, scheduling, procurement and others. Any company can have a well-laid-out plan and the best talent, but without being able to stay on top of delivery gaps, it becomes nearly impossible to achieve success. If delivery gaps are temporary, a project may need to address risks or be put on pause. When gaps are not able to be resolved, it’s better to scrap a project. 

The key to determining if a project should be scrapped is to develop strategies to identify environmental changes and take action in a timely manner.

Also see

This post was written by and was first posted to TechRepublic

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