In an environment where there’s no shortage of fire drills, how do you determine which initiatives to prioritize and get everyone aligned?

Well, the first point is prioritization is never done. You prioritize, and when your plan is locked in, plan for some change. You need to have an agile and business minded team, where you can map the work you're doing to the company initiatives and objectives and quantify how your workforce distribution is allocated to each of them. There's easy ways you can help people define their  priorities, using their own business language, or create simple to remember models such P0, P1, or P2. A P0's a critical must have, a P1 is important, and P2 is nice to have. Then you can go crazy in the ROI and cost benefit analysis stuff. I don't think that works. I think part of it for me was also to help educate the lines of business that it's not because I spent $x million for you last year that next year you get $x million from me again. You might get less or more, because I'm going to go focus on these company priorities.

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Well, the first point is prioritization is never done. You prioritize, and when your plan is locked in, plan for some change. You need to have an agile and business minded team, where you can map the work you're doing to the company initiatives and objectives and quantify how your workforce distribution is allocated to each of them. There's easy ways you can help people define their  priorities, using their own business language, or create simple to remember models such P0, P1, or P2. A P0's a critical must have, a P1 is important, and P2 is nice to have. Then you can go crazy in the ROI and cost benefit analysis stuff. I don't think that works. I think part of it for me was also to help educate the lines of business that it's not because I spent $x million for you last year that next year you get $x million from me again. You might get less or more, because I'm going to go focus on these company priorities.
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Anonymous Author
I slice this into a couple different things. One is ... and this is not necessarily something that is typically loved on day one, but I put a pretty specific activity-tracking type model in place. I kept sharing the information back to the team so they understood why it was so important that we have this, because I think there's a difference between prioritization, fire drills/incidents, and just unplanned work. Really getting the team to think differently about the demand that was coming in.  It's easier to say, "You'd rather I work on this project than this project marketing. Okay. Let's talk about it." That's a lot different than something completely unexpected or unplanned for. And I don't necessarily even mean a security incident, but just something that's truly like, "You went and negotiated a partnership with who? And committed that we would do what?" That kind of stuff, we tracked very separately and constantly reported that back to the business so that we could clearly show, "Look, this is what we got done. We got a ton done. But there were plans to get these other things done, and we had the following four unplanned activities come in." So I think it was sort of getting to some level of metrics and data and where time was being spent and really being super transparent back to the rest of the organization. It didn't make this easy, but it changed the conversation. I'd just tell you, prioritization is different than unplanned work.
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Anonymous Author
I was probably more pointed at some stages. Every time I used to speak to either the CFO or somebody else, I would say, "What's this week's fire drill? What should I know about?" They'd be like, "Huh? What does that mean?" Then two months after that, I would say something like, "Are we buying a company soon or not?" They'd be like, "Oh..." I was like, "Okay. Seeing that you can neither confirm nor deny, I'm going to plan my time accordingly so I'm going to be ready for this." So I would ask like, "What am I missing here?" and kind of signal that back and just kind of make sure that there is no deniability that people have not missed, or things like, "What are you not happy with?" or "What is not going right?" I'd ask this of different departments, so I would kind of counterbait when people would say, "Having or prioritize this versus this." I'd be like, "With the utmost respect, this has been thought through, and here are the reasons that we want to do it." I remember once I said, "Just so we're clear, compliance is not an optional thing. That's not like, 'I don't feel like doing it.' We actually have to put the program together, get a bunch of people. The auditor's being paid X amount. There's going to be an amount of time. That's not something we're going to basically just like, 'We're not deciding to do it today,' just so we're clear."
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Anonymous Author
1) Does it negatively impact a customer, partner or internal staff? 2) What is the financial impact (positive/negative)? 3) What has to be done now vs later to resolve the situation? 4) What tech debt or other problem can be solved with it?
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Anonymous Author
Have the business prioritize.
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Anonymous Author
We develop a value matrix for our organizations and prioritize our initiatives. The value matrix consists of attributes that are valuable to our organization - Revenue, tie in with corporate goal, technical debt reduction, customer impact - are some examples. Each attribute is assigned weights, and as leadership, we evaluate each initiative and total the weights. Prioritization exercises becomes more objective than emotional in our meetings.
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Anonymous Author
Production outages take precedence over everything else and admittedly unplanned work definitely is both stressful and disruptive. I always try to align our IT strategy to a business strategy, to the extent that’s possible. Otherwise, I have a whiteboard with our vision/roadmap that we constantly reference for validity and to keep us aligned / moving in the same direction.
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