You’ve already introduced the concept for your project, program, or initiative at a high-level. Now, it’s time to consider the various options that support the initiative. While you should be confident in the merits of your “big idea” there are still many detailed questions to be answered; and many ways to approach the solution.
One rational way to help identify the various options is to use the option appraisal approach (sometimes referred to as “option engineering”). This approach helps to:
- Identify genuine alternatives to consider
- Outline contrasting options and build a comparative analysis
- Helps avoid tunnel vision, and
- Lays the foundation for contrasting to help you decide which approach is the ultimately the right one to propose.
Think about what you want to achieve with your project and list three to five objectives. For example, using the example of addressing third-party vendor risk, possible objectives might be to:
- Create a consistent, repeatable process for assessing vendor risks to reduce false positives or negatives;
- Enable faster notification of anti-bribery, anti-corruption, and money-laundering incidents so that vendors can be removed from our system;
- Provide full visibility into vendor assessment status, risk level, and remediation activity;
- Reduce costs and cycle time along the way.
Then, begin the brainstorming process to create proposed solutions for achieving each identified objective. The more complex the initiative, the more variables to brainstorm. The brainstorming approach helps you consider the full scope of strategic, market, operational, financial, and business options.
If you can’t think of options then you aren’t thinking hard enough. Really push yourself to get creative and consider as many ideas as possible. The initial goal here is quantity, not quality.
Once you’ve generated a number of options, trim down the list to those that seem practical for your organization.
A good practice is to document the options in a clear sequence, such as from minimal to maximum effort. In this order, the first option can be “Do Nothing,” or “Maintain Existing Approach” and provides a baseline for all other options.
The idea is that the final list of options are distinct and complete.
Again, using the example of addressing third-party vendor risk, we may come up with the following option list:
- Option A: Do Nothing
- Option B: Develop Internal Capability
- Option C: Outsource Third-Party Vetting Process
- Options D: [Etc]
Establish criteria to evaluate shortlist
Establish criteria that you will use to evaluate the shortlist of options. Some organizations have well-defined decision-making models for new ideas. If your organization doesn’t have specific criteria, consider these items:
- Ease of implementation
- Ease of modification/scalability/flexibility
- Employee morale
- Cost savings
- Increase in sales or market share
- Return on investment
- Similarity to existing organization products
- Increase in customer satisfaction
Sometimes, you might choose to further blueprint only one of your shortlist options. However, if possible, try to do analysis on a few to make sure that you are really thinking through the options to help you select the best approach.