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How to Develop a Prioritized Operation Plan for Your Agency, Division, or Program

February 23, 2023 The Prinzo Group

Developing a prioritized operation plan is essential for achieving success in any organization. As the United States continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and faces a potential recession, state governments face unique challenges and opportunities to shape the future of their communities. A well-thought-out plan can help teams prioritize tasks, identify key milestones, and allocate resources efficiently.

Developing an operations plan does not have to be a major event requiring an off-site retreat, consultants, and breakout sessions. The following is a process that can be conducted in one-to-two-hour long sessions. The result will be an effective, prioritized plan for your projects. You may even find that there are several initiatives you can implement without additional resources.

Here are 5 fundamental steps to develop a prioritized operation plan for your agency, department, or program:

Step 1 Make a list of all projects, big and small. By developing a comprehensive list, you will feel more organized, though perhaps temporarily overwhelmed. Ensuring that the initiatives and projects you choose align with your objectives and contribute to achieving your goals is essential. You can use various tools like SWOT or GAP analysis to identify the key initiatives and projects.

Step 2 Categorize the projects in a spreadsheet using the following criteria:

  • Size (small, medium, or large)

  • Function (business process or technology)

  • Type (new project or part of existing operations)

  • Funding Required (yes or no)

  • Level of Effort (high, medium, or low)

  • Organizational Impact (high, medium, or low)

  • Resources (requires additional resources or can be absorbed by existing staff)

Step 3 Determine which projects are dependent on the factors below. Then highlight projects without dependencies and rate the team’s ability to influence outcomes.

  • Other projects

  • Funding

  • Resources

  • Business Decisions

Step 4 – Based on the categories and dependencies, prioritize the projects according to the following:

Low-Hanging Fruit – Small projects with few or no dependencies that have an immediate impact can be achieved without additional resources. Examples include: implementing existing systems functionality requested by end users, cleaning up customer lists, or developing new ways to analyze data to make better decisions.

Intermediate Projects – Small to medium size projects that make a measurable impact with dependencies that can be influenced by the team. Consider breaking up long-term initiatives into smaller projects or breaking up the upfront requirements definition into separate projects. Examples include rolling out additional system functionality, gathering business requirements, documenting processes, evaluating vendors, or developing business cases in preparation for a larger project.

Long-Term Initiatives – Medium to large projects that have a significant impact but have significant dependencies outside the influence of the project team. Examples include business process transformation projects, new system implementations, or new strategic initiatives.

Step 5 – Putting it All Together

Based on your categorized list, start by developing an execution plan to knock out the low-hanging fruit. Hopefully, this will clear your plate of some nagging initiatives. Next, prioritize the medium and long-term projects based on funding, resources, and priority. If you are ready to move forward on the long-term initiatives, ensure your requirements analysis is complete because most project failures are attributed to poor upfront requirements analysis.

If you are unable to secure funding for the long-term initiatives this year, try to get a head start by working on the intermediate projects that are considered pre-work for the long-term projects. This strategy will prepare the organization for larger projects, reduce the overall project timeframe for the bulk of the work, and spread the cost over time.

Lastly, monitor and evaluate progress by tracking each initiative's progress, and make necessary adjustments. It is essential to have a feedback loop that enables you to gather input from stakeholders and team members, which can help you improve your operation plan continually. With the right approach, your organization can make progress toward its long-term goals in any economic or political environment.

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