Project Prioritization Process: Definition and Ranking Criteria

project prioritization processThe need for project prioritization appears when an organization has two or more either independent or dependent (portfolio) projects that are performed in parallel. In order to ensure the achievement of strategic goals and objectives, that organization needs to focus on right projects among the variety. But how can they do this? How to identify the most preferable projects for implementation at the given point of time? Finally, how to be sure that the right projects are being performed? In this article we are going to answer these critical questions. We will focus on definition of the project prioritization process, explain what criteria to use for ranking simultaneous projects, and summarize how to make project portfolios successful.

Prioritization Process

In simple terms, the process of prioritizing projects is an activity for defining what projects within a portfolio to perform in what sequence. It is an attempt to make the project portfolio more effective through identifying the most effective way of implementing the projects. Here’s a broader definition:

Project Prioritization Process is a structured and consistent activity that aims to analyze the current operational environment to identify any projects running in parallel within the same portfolio, develop a scoring model including ranking criteria, and apply that model to prioritizing the projects in order to determine the execution order that ensures the highest efficiency of the overall portfolio. The process serves as a framework for managing the effectiveness of parallel projects.

The process of project prioritization is complex and iterative so it can be repeated several times within the same portfolio lifespan. It is deliverable-oriented meaning that it produces some certain result that is vital for success of further portfolio management. The process ranks projects within the same operational environment in order to address multi-modal capacity and linkage gaps that may exist between the environmental components.

We divide the prioritization process into the following key steps:

  • Collection – you must collect and gather all the data about your projects.
  • Ranking – you must develop and use a ranking model that includes criteria for prioritizing.
  • Verification – you must approve the ranked projects.

In one of our next articles we will describe all the steps in detail. The key point of this article is to explain how to develop an appropriate raking model that could allow defining right criteria for prioritizing portfolio projects.

Establish Ranking Criteria

Below we suggest a list of measures you can use as ranking criteria for prioritizing parallel or portfolio projects. Please note the list is not full and can be supplemented with more items (for example, Safety, Integration, Connectivity, Mobility, Cost-effectiveness, Implementability, etc.). In this publication we describe the key criteria only. If needed you can develop your own criteria when doing your project prioritization process.

Efficiency. The measure of efficiency shows a project’s ability to produce the desired outcome with the minimized possible consumption of the resources available to the project. If the project is able to turn inputs into output consuming fewer resources, then this project appears to be efficient. Common formula for calculating project efficiency is:

Actual Output
———————————–  x 100%,
Standard Output

Changeability. It proves a project’s ability to realize the planned changes as well as to adequately react to any new changes that seem to be vital and important to project success. As the higher changeability is, as the greater impact the project has to the changing environment. This means your project is highly adaptable to the changes so the project gains more chances to produce the desired outcome under preset or altering requirements.

Manageability. This item determines how much a project can be led and directed using existing controls. The measure is characterized by:

  • Planning
  • Monitoring
  • Leading
  • Controlling

These characteristics determine whether your projects are manageable. Higher manageability entails higher effectiveness.

Coordination. This metric proves whether a project is well coordinated and whether it follows the adopted management plan. It relates to project effectiveness. The project manager coordinates the project effectively if this person is able to ensure that the project resources are used and consumed in pursuit of the specified goals and objectives. Remember: your project gets higher value if it is highly “coordinatable”.

Sustainability. It indicates whether a project is able to maintain continued development, without significant deterioration of the existing environment. Your project is sustainable if it generates the desired results without reducing its current productive capacity. Sustainable projects should obtain higher ranking.

Develop a Ranking Model

Now it is time to develop a scoring model that explains how you will do the ranking process. It means you need to decide which criteria to use and what data is required for the evaluation. We suggest you use all the criteria listed here. Also you can develop your own measures that fit into your specific portfolio. Remember: as more criteria you use, as more accurate and appropriate project ranking you are likely to get.

Now regarding the data required for ranking. Here’s a list of the data sources you need to review to get the data required for project analysis and ranking:

  • Current project status against plan (you can gain this data from status reports and meetings)
  • Deliverables accepted/unaccepted at any given point in time
  • Scope creep data
  • Stakeholder involvement level (can be retrieved from Stakeholders Matrix)
  • User requirements
  • Project goals and objectives and their status
  • Issue and risk logs
  • Team training and capabilities
  • Other important papers and records that explain the current performance of every individual project.

You must gather as much information on your portfolio projects as possible in order to get a clear picture of what’s going on in the portfolio environment. Below we give a project score table example.

project score table example
In this example, Project 3 gets higher score (320) as compared to Project 1 (222) and Project 2 (253). The Score column of the table is used as the basis to set priorities for the projects. Actually Project 3 gains the highest priority while the rest two projects obtain lower priority.

Please note we do not explain here how to calculate the data in the table. It is the matter of your project portfolio management team to decide what scoring approach or methodology to use for evaluating by the criteria. In the given example, we used our own method.


In order to summarize all the said in this publication, we can say that the process of prioritizing parallel or portfolio projects is complex and requires the management team great analytical capabilities. First, the team needs to identify what projects to rank, then develop ranking criteria, and finally create a model that explains how to measure the projects against the criteria and what formulas and parameters to use for the ranking. The process results in creating a prioritization matrix that shows the preferred execution order and sequence of the projects organized into a programme or portfolio.

You may also like...