Prioritizing IT work when everything is a priority

From triage to the new reality

Denis Berry

Denis Berry

US Microsoft Business Leader, KPMG US

+1 312-665-2866

Part of KPMG's series COVID-19: Insights for CIOs and IT executives on considerations for building IT and business resilience in challenging times

Tolerances for risk, uncertainty and ambiguity are typically factored into an enterprise’s strategy and plans. But how do you react when a situation surpasses tolerances and the entire enterprise must operate differently during a global pandemic such as COVID-19? 

With unprecedented market conditions, leaders must ensure they are driving value from their portfolio by doing the right work, at the right time, with the right resources. Only a thoughtful integrated business strategy can adapt rapidly enough to changing market conditions and customer demands to remain relevant. It is paramount to be able to quickly reprioritize work to drive maximum value with limited resources.

In this video, KPMG discusses how leaders can help steer their organization through the phases of reset, recovery and emergence into the new reality, utilizing four work-prioritization practices.

Video companion text

Prioritizing IT work

Steve Bates, Principal, Global Leader, KPMG’s CIO Center of Excellence

Risk, uncertainty and ambiguity levels in acceptable ranges were a part of the plan pre-pandemic. However, in these uncertain times, the situation surpasses those tolerances, and the entire enterprise must be ready to react. So how to prioritize work when everything is a priority. Here are four tips for your consideration.



Focusing on what is truly urgent vs. important will help sort out which requests are mission critical to core organizational functionality. While not all challenges are created equally, critical items can lead to systemic failure, impacting the health, safety, security, and integrity of the company, its employees, and customers. It’s important to keep timing in mind, and rank all of the work into what is most impactful and most urgent both internally and externally. For example, in a time of reprioritization, consider wins on digital business transformation initiatives and the positive impacts they’ve had to core capabilities. 


It is important to have a holistic view of the business capabilities across the entire IT estate. This will vary based on how mature the organization is, ranging from less mature organizations needing more urgent attention to the most mature relying on product portfolios and moving quickly to technical elements. Once you have the work classified, mapped to outcomes and tied to the technology estate, it is easier to determine what work can be stopped, deferred or deprioritized, thus freeing up critical assets, resources, and capital.



Now that you have your priorities and IT capabilities in order, it is time to determine the order of how things will get done. For example, deploying secure VPN access would be considered an immediate need, while automating a functioning process might be considered secondary. We recommend sequencing work that immediately resets the core operations and helps the business recover and kick off longer tail work to delivery results in the new reality.


With priorities set it’s time to staff accordingly. In times of urgency, work is likely to be agile and dynamic, impacting cross-functional groups. It is important that you engage your business partners early to determine the skills and capabilities required, when, and for how long. When faced with reduced availability, it’s ok to look externally to supplement your teams with additional bandwidth.


In the unique role of a technology leader, you are prepared to help guide your organization through unprecedented times such as this. Through this challenging and stressful time, your good practices and prioritizations will support your enterprise successfully navigate through not only this pandemic, but, be even better prepared for the future.