Shifting Project Priorities: Ending the Hassle with Digital Triage

  • Monica Rivera 07-15-2020 Read time (6 min)

Shifting Project Priorities: Ending the Hassle with Digital Triage

Digital teams encounter a difficult stage when project priorities are constantly changing. And unfortunately, this phenomenon is not rare.

Many corporations are familiar with this problem. With changing priorities, teams and employees are expected to perform jobs quickly for short-term periods or even work under their seniors who insist priorities be shifted towards their ongoing project. This is all too common in the corporate world – and rightly so.

Projects are prioritized based on the urgency and nature of the order. Some are prioritized based on a first-come-first-served basis or according to which one will reap the most profit. Because of this, the company’s macro goals and overall well-being are not catered to, and many teams wanting to further their own agendas or projects are never given an opportunity.

The digital team is of extreme importance when it comes to project shifting. A larger team would cater to the demands better than a smaller one, but what about the backlog of work that’s ignored? One of the best ways to deal with changing project priorities is to prioritize the incoming work better, despite
the size of the team.

The solution? Using digital triage to shift project priorities.

How Projects Are Generally Prioritized

Organizations utilize the Hierarchy of Purpose when it comes to prioritizing projects. This tool has been aiding executives and entrepreneurs to strategically plan, prioritize and execute their initiatives. It usually means to define the following:

  • Purpose: What is the purpose of an organization? Is the strategic vision fulfilling that purpose?
  • Priorities: What are the organization’s priorities and will the current decision help achieve the future vision in mind?
  • Projects: Is the current project aiding the company’s vision? This helps to decide which projects to pursue and which ones to discard?
  • People/Teams: Which teams and/or employees are skilled enough to tackle the task at hand? How can they be arranged to achieve success?
  • Performance: Performance indicators are linked to inputs, which beget the question – are the inputs going to promise increase performance and better output?

Digital triage, however, is the more innovative way to incorporate these timeless factors to ensure seamless performance and results.

What is Digital Triage?

Derived from forensic investigation, the concept of digital triage relies on prioritizing the most critical projects first. For instance, in an emergency room, life-and-death situations are dealt with immediately versus patients who come with complaints of wounds or non-critical medical emergencies.

In other words, the first-come-first-serve approach is not the best one to use. Critical projects are not deemed critical due to their supervisor; rather, they’re important because of what is demanded; teams can objectively decide which project requires immediate attention. Other projects can be put on hold, simply by seeing what is asked of them by comparing project briefs.

Using digital triage to shift project priorities is becoming a popular way for corporations to deal with their workload and also manage their departments in an efficient manner. After all, there will be times when an organization is faced with a crucial task which requires everyone to shift their focus and deliver results.

Prioritizing With Digital Triage: Being Better at Shifting Project Priorities

The digital triage was built on the premise that each team should be tackling a single task at a given time. Switching between tasks and projects is extremely harmful to an organization’s productivity, agility and consistency in the long run.

Corporations can decide how many teams to assign to a given task or project depending on the number of resources they can gather, but experts recommend to split the digital team into two streams— the Optimization stream and the Innovation stream. One can focus on smaller tasks, while the other can tackle complex and long-term projects. Each team will be assigned a stack of work to be done, and within the stacks, the jobs will be prioritized on a point system.

Although fairly novel, digital triage has a foolproof strategy that makes it one of the best ways of dealing with shifting project priorities.

Defining Criteria
Defining criteria for project shifts is highly important. Ideally, a corporation should divide their criteria equally to serve the business’s goals and the users’ goals. It’s important to include user oriented criteria to keep the project relevant in the eyes of the users.

Organizations should decide on a definitive list of business priorities, especially for their digital channels. Identifying key audiences and prioritizing them will also serve as a guide to chart out the best objectives and prioritize them accordingly.

Assigning Points to Categories
After the objectives have been set and priorities are arranged in accordance, organizations must apply points to the categories; for example, assigning the highest points to a critical user group and so on. Even rating the effort exerted in a project becomes mandatory. Particular categories can also be weighed to match certain business goals to encourage achieving them through the project.

By assigning points, corporations can see how projects serve their objectives. It also makes shifting project priorities quite easier and less of a hassle.

Sorting Through Critical and Non-Critical Projects
When new projects come in, they can be assessed and allotted to their appropriate place in the stack, depending on how critical they are to the objectives. This process can be a little tricky because least-rewarding tasks/jobs are always stacked near the bottom, which gives them lesser chances of being considered.

But at the same time, it also helps to separate the weaker ideas and highlight the macro goals of the organization.

Assigning Tasks
After the previous steps have been performed, the project can be divided amongst the relevant teams before setting up digital triage.

As discussed above, projects can be broken down into smaller tasks, and teams can be divided into streams to tackle the job.

Is Digital Triage Really As Great As It Sounds?

As great as it sounds, using digital triage to shift project priorities comes with its drawbacks. Superficially sorting projects isn’t sustainable in the long term, after all, minor projects are also projects that need to be completed.

No Commitment to Deadlines
Digital triage completely ignores the idea of deadlines. Projects are sorted according to their importance and weight in points, which means teams cannot commit to specific deadlines. This presents a problem in the long term for the company’s turnover rates and also affects the organization’s culture.

Various teams like the digital teams or design teams work alongside other departments and it hampers their ability to efficiently produce content if project schedules are haywire. However, a way to incorporate deadlines can be done by making the project stack visible to everyone in the organization so that all teams can be on the same page.

Objections to Point Allocation
Not everyone will agree to the way the points are assigned to the projects and tasks. The organization is a mix of different people and teams, and each has their own agenda they’d like to further. This can result in disagreements about points being too less or too many for certain tasks.

However, this can be curbed by setting up a committee that can decide point allocation and how projects can be conducted. It’s an objective way to decide which project should be prioritized and which one should be put on hold.

Clashing Agendas
Despite adopting the best way of allocating points and priority to projects, there will still be dissent. Some managers and project heads may continue to insist that their project should be pushed to the top of the stack and resources and teams should be delegated to their job.

This tricky situation can go either way: if the individual insisting has seniority and tenure, chances are that their project might be pushed to the top even if it may not be the most critical one; or, negotiations can take place to accommodate the said project within the stack’s hierarchy. Either way, not everyone will like how their project is being evaluated by the point system.

Why Organizations Stull Pursue Digital Triage to Manage Project Shifting

Despite its challenges and loopholes, digital triage is still being employed by corporations to channel their workload. Teams are also benefiting from the organization of projects awarded by digital triage and are continuing to find ways to implement it in better ways.

Better Results
Working on one project at a time means lesser time invested in a project. This also means that lesser resources are wasted as the teams assigned will be dealing will smaller tasks at one time. This intelligent way of prioritization is a way to ensure that projects are completed in the least amount of time possible and finished with the highest quality of work.

Increases Engagement
Digital triage creates opportunities for engagement for almost all teams in an organization. Because the tasks are broken down into smaller ones, teams are divided into streams and work is arranged according to priority, an organization’s teams get a chance to bring their skills to the table. It also provides a
learning opportunity for everyone and creates a more cohesive culture.

Opportunity to Present Projects
If a team’s project wasn’t catered to before, chances are that with digital triage, they can be. Projects that are prepared well and proposed intelligently have good chances of being considered, which means higher points on the stack. In other words, digital triage does present an equal opportunity to corporate employees to fulfill their departmental agendas.

Introducing Digital Triage: Prioritizing Better

Setting up digital triage isn’t as complicated as it sounds. It’s an objective process of prioritizing work, and works on the principles of transparency and consistency. For organizations which have struggled to efficiently plan their projects, it’s very welcomed.

Gathering a Team
Using digital triage to shift project priorities isn’t tough if you have the right people on board. The team you choose will decide how to assign points, which projects to deem critical, and how to arrange the teams.

People in positions of power and holding senior titles should be approached, because more influential people on board means lesser push back and dissent. Presenting the idea of digital triage is more likely to work well if you have a good proposal ready. It’s crucial to have the right people on board for digital triage to work smoothly, otherwise constant clashes and disagreements of project planning will affect an organization’s productivity.

Establishing Objectives
Digital triage is a way to implement projects in a way that serves the business’s objectives and the user’s objectives, too.

For each team, the business’s goals may differ, and with various departments trying to push their goals as the macro goals, setting objectives can turn out to be a lengthy but rewarding procedure. It’s essential to establish objectives that are resilient to changes and have longevity because they will guide how projects will be prioritized and shifted.

Establishing a Point System
Which projects are important?

How many points do critical projects get?

Deciding an efficient point system can be a bit tough. Companies may run into challenges pertaining to the criteria of point allocation and prioritizing within that criterion, and it can become difficult to objectively debate on this. Coming to a mutual understanding about point allocation shouldn’t depend on what the majority vote for; rather, all teams’ inputs should be considered.

The Takeaway

Organizations and researchers will always come up with more efficient ways to handle their business dealings and improve how business is conducted.

Digital triage is just one of the newer – and more efficient – ways of tackling the workload presented by various ongoing projects at one time. Although it comes with its drawbacks, it seems like a very clear path to productivity.

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