Sometimes, working in IT can feel like a never-ending game of Whac-A-Mole. Just when you think you’ve crossed something off your list, a dozen new tasks seem to crop up.
In the midst of competing user requests, departmental objectives, and tech emergencies, task prioritization isn’t easy. Part of an IT professional’s job is ruthlessly weighing company initiatives, security priorities, and resources against one another.
If any of this sounds familiar, this article is for you. Here, we’ll dive into how to prioritize competing tasks and ensure IT resources are spent in the most effective way.
What Is IT Project Prioritization?
IT project prioritization is the process of identifying the most crucial tasks necessary for achieving IT-related objectives. Effective prioritization boosts time management, organizational security, company profitability, and employee satisfaction, among other benefits.
With that said, each IT department will rank tasks according to unique factors. While some are driven by the need to maximize returns on investment, others may have more resources to work with. In addition, organizational size, industry, and risk factors will also come into play.
Most small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) operate on limited budgets and lean IT teams. For these organizations, it’s imperative that IT departments spend money, time, and energy on the right projects (and products) at any given time.
How To Prioritize IT Projects
Like all management tasks, project prioritization must be data-driven to be effective. IT managers need methods that capture data in a way they can analyze and act upon.
One such tool is the prioritization framework.
Essentially, a prioritization framework breaks up a project’s importance into scorable categories. Each project receives an impact rating for each category. The result is a measured system for determining each project’s overall importance and urgency. This allows you to compare, organize, and prioritize all the projects on your plate.
For example, a project’s impact can be separated into five categories:
- Potential impact on the business. Is this a mission-critical project that could negatively impact revenue if not completed, or is this a nice-to-have?
- Time to completion. Does this need to be completed immediately, or can it wait?
- Requestor position. Who requested the project? If it was an executive or the CEO, it’ll likely carry higher weight than an individual or external request.
- Resources Expended. Will this be easy to implement with your current resources, or will it require costly or hard-to-obtain resources?
- Cost. How much do you anticipate this project to cost? Often, it can be helpful to estimate cost per user rather than try to come up with a lump sum.
The framework will have a ranking system that allows you to assign a numerical value to each of the categories above for each project. For example, JumpCloud’s free IT priority matrix uses a 5-point scale.
Accounting for IT Project Expenses
It’s important to consider the scope of different projects as you prioritize them — especially when it comes to cost. Below are the most common expenses you will encounter as an MSP or IT admin:
1. Acquiring New Technologies
Modern technology solutions can be expensive. Some SaaS providers may even nest the most valuable features of a specific tool under its most expensive package. For example, some Zero Trust security tools only include single sign-on (SSO) integration with their highest-priced license.
2. Hiring and Training Employees for New Initiatives
When you acquire new technology, you have to train both your IT team and, in some cases, other non-admin users. A skill deficit can create a barrier to adoption.
3. Maintenance and Management of New Initiatives
After purchasing and installing new technologies, they will need to be managed. Plan to spend money on regular maintenance and repairing systems when they fail.
Start Prioritizing Your Projects
JumpCloud offers a free prioritization matrix tool for IT professionals. Try the free template (get started by following the link and clicking “make a copy”) to start taking stock of the projects on your plate and prioritizing them effectively.