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I work in a startup where there is a huge list of projects/epics to do. Of course, we have to choose which are the best ones (the most valuable) in order to launch a release for this project. Even if the CEO has the last word, we want to choose with all the team (developers,marketing,HR,designers...).

We have try the planning Poker to put value on each project, but it can became a little messy with 20 people.

Do you know any tools/games/techniques to help team choosing most valuable project ?

PS:this question can also be ask with a Product Owner who wants to involve the team in the ordering of the users stories

  • Management by committee? Is it doable - yes. Is it optimal - NO. People have been perfecting management for ages and have come with some brilliant ideas like unity of command. Too many cooks spoil the broth, y'know... – Deer Hunter May 14 '13 at 8:15
  • +1 for the early engagement of the often-ignored stakeholders who actually "do the work" – Doug B May 14 '13 at 13:10
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TL;DR

You need to build consensus around "value" and select a methodology for comparing projects in the product portfolio against each other in a way that is inclusive of all your stakeholders.

Define Value

The first thing your organization needs to do is define "value" in the context of your group. Value will be defined differently by each organization and each stakeholder, so you need to build some consensus first.

Prioritization Categories

Prioritization can be done in a lot of ways, but in my opinion these boil down to just a couple of broad :

  1. Prioritize the low-hanging fruit.
  2. Prioritize based on cost/benefit.
  3. Prioritize based on contractual or compliance requirements.

Tools/Techniques

There's no "One True Way™" to prioritize anything, but in most cases I think that cost/benefit analysis is the right way to go. If you decide to go that route, then I think that relative weighting is a good approach.

Mike Cohn describes his web-based relative weighting tool this way:

Relative weighting is a prioritization approach that considers both the benefits of a feature and the cost of that feature.

If you have no other drivers, then using a technique like relative weighting might be good fit because it's somewhat quantitative, while still allowing for subjective fudge factors in various aspects of the estimation process.

The real key, though, is to build consensus around a set of priorities that aren't based primarily on political capital. ROI and cost/benefit analyses are often great options for exactly this reason, and relative weighting can really help in that regard.

Your mileage may vary.

  • Do you know some example of value definition consensus ? – gallain May 14 '13 at 11:36
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I think you need to make a distinction between choosing projects and evaluating projects.

Choosing which project to execute is best done by a single or at most a limited number of decision makers. This helps to promote clear accountability for the decision. In a start-up environment it may be the CEO alone, in a large company it may be a portfolio committee.

Evaluating projects can be done with entire teams, and I think this may be where you are trying to go. The entire team isn't going to make a decision, but they are going to inform the decision makers. What I have seen done in this context is:

  • Have small teams document what the end product of a project will be, and come up with a rough (High/Medium/Low type) estimate for the overall benefits to your company and the overall costs. Costs and benefits should include more than just $$, but should also address ease of implementation, risk, effort required, future reuse of the product, reputational enhancement, etc etc
  • Have the larger team take a closer look at the projects and conduct a sanity check. You can prioritize based on initial estimates of costs and benefits. Those that pass the sanity check can be investigated in more detail if necessary to refine the cost/benefit estimates.
  • Continue to progressively elaborate on the project products, costs and benefits until you get to a point where you have a manageable amount of work.

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