Recently, I changed the way I prioritise new work requests and projects. Here’s what I’ve started doing.

Prioritising the product backlog

JIRA is our central system for development requests. There’s one project for smaller requests: the “BAU” as I call it, which is anything that takes 2 days dev time or less. Except for urgent requests, which we will drop other work to look at, anything in JIRA is allocated a business area via a custom field.

Each week, I export a list of all open tickets, filtered by area. One or two people in each area indicate their Priority 1 and Priority 2 tasks, and those go into the queue. We also prioritise our internal work, such as changes to the core product, and improvements to our technical stack.

We won’t complete all of the prioritised tasks every week – but it allows us to see what the priorities are.

I believe it’s important for all areas of the business to be included in the prioritisation process. Nobody should feel that their area is being ignored. Allowing each business owner to define their priorities can prevent this issue.

Prioritising the projects

Instead of starting yet another spreadsheet, for projects I decided to use pen and paper. I ordered a stack of 1000 plain white 5×3 record cards and a pack of Sharpies.

I started by writing one project on each card, and laying it all out on the table (literally). Staff involved in the meeting can see all the known projects, ask what they are, and identify anything that may be missing.

Once all projects are defined, we agree what’s the next priority. This makes it very clear which project will be worked on next – and also what won’t be. Showing the number of projects can make it very clear if there’s a capacity issue. There’s only so much resource, so we can’t work on every project simultaneously.

Does it work?

As this is a very new process I’m trialling, it’s too early to say how effective it is. I’ll write a follow-up post on this.