A three-phased approach to managing project demands

by Edward Witchey

The fast pace of business produces a lot of ideas around potential work. A project request, often referred to as a project demand can originate from numerous places within an organization. Demand Management is a planning methodology used to ensure that all requests for projects are captured, reviewed, and included in the active project portfolio. The process manages various attributes defined by the organization to safeguard resources, budgets, and strategic plans. 

The process for managing project demands will ensure the following: 

  • The project is warranted based on documented business needs, including current and future state workflows.
  • The project is evaluated using pre-defined criteria including but not limited to time, scope, cost, and a comparison to work already being executed.
  • The project is approved by the appropriate administrators within the organization.
  • The project is sustainably funded and adequately resourced.
  • The project is compatible with existing systems, infrastructure, and/or processes.
  • The project can follow governing security and organizational policies.

The first and most important phase of demand management is capturing the request. This needs to be simple enough for the requestor but detailed enough to evaluate the demand. Defined attributes will be collected and cataloged within a system of record so they can be reviewed. The data collected when the demand is captured will vary based on the organization. However, it is best practice to capture the basic information that would be used to complete a project charter.

After capture, the demands need to be reviewed by the committee assigned to oversee the demand process. In addition to the demands, a current listing of active projects should be examined. This will help determine what demand can be accepted. The active portfolio will show projects ready to close and the potential resources available to accept any new projects. Good records should be kept for each review session, including meeting notes, participant listings, and any other relevant information pertaining to the demand review. The review of demands should produce one of the following statuses:

  • Rejected – The demand is recognized as legitimate but will stay on the list for the next review session. Available resources and other project work are contributing factors to the rejection of a demand.
  • Rejected – The demand is dismissed as an actual project and categorized as operational work. 
  • Rejected – The demand is not a project and not operational work. No further action is taken with the demand. 
  • Accepted – The demand will be presented to the division or department as a viable project and will go through the formal process for inclusion into the active project portfolio.
  • Accepted – The demand is accepted, but the demand requires formal business analysis prior to the project starting. A business analysis project will be presented to the division or department as prework that needs to be accomplished before the actual project can begin.

After both the capture and review of demands, the evaluation is complete, and the demand goes through the formal process for inclusion into the active project portfolio. This is generally followed by the assignment to a project manager and the completion of the project charter and stakeholder register. Having a well-defined demand management process assures the organization that project work is being prioritized, aligned with strategy, and evaluated against resources, budgets, and time. For many organizations, the ability to properly manage demands creates a competitive advantage that eliminates waste and increases value.


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