This guest post has been contributed by Alex Adamopoulos, CEO of Emergn Limited
Project Portfolio Management – or PPM – is moving up the corporate agenda. This is good news for the IT department, because it aids better collaboration with ‘the business’, so that IT can be seen to tangibly add value and not viewed as just a cost centre.
According to Gartner, PPM is evolving from just managing projects to managing value and change within the business, to support strategies that focus on people not technologies. PPM boils down to focusing on selecting and managing a set of projects to meet a specific set of business objectives. Sounds obvious, but the reality is that organisations all too often lose sight of these end goals. Distractions and barriers get in the way. Having a specific and structured approach for Project Portfolio Management can help an organisation to:
- Increase IT’s value and alignment with the business – helping to alleviate the separateness that often occurs and creating a more transparent environment where the IT department is the custodian of technology
- Advance the quality of ideas and not just the outcome - Understanding the demands of the business drives the IT function to take a closer look at what is possible and whether or how well IT can deliver a project to a “right first time” level of quality. Getting IT involved early also helps to contribute to better decisions, while improving visibility of the investments and resources required.
- Build trust and integrity into the process – an IT director or CIO who is involved early in the portfolio management process and properly embedded can also help craft a working model that has strong checkpoints and decision-making gateways.
So, if PPM is good news for the IT function, what constitutes best practice? I believe that PPM works needs a clear focus on value, flow and quality.
Focus on value, flow, quality
When determining value, there needs to be a narrow focus on: feasibility (what is functionally possible and deliverable); viability (what is likely to become part of a sustainable business model): and desirability (what makes sense to people and what would they buy).
Agile and Lean provide roles, practices and tools that help create an environment for trade-off and prioritisation discussions. They also form the basis for developing lightweight economic frameworks that join together business outcomes with day-to-day work enables ideas to be compared and contrasted.
Flow – in other words, seeing change take place – is essential to value, yet in many organizations takes too long. Delivering features to a customer is often bound up in the systemic issues of an organisation projects take too long to deliver, by which time everyone has lost sight of the intended outcomes. Agile helps to overcome this by enabling delivery in iterations, in other words, getting something into the market that is fit for purpose rather than over-engineered and late (our clients often find that they extract so much value from the first iteration that they do not need to take the development process any further).
The third pillar in driving value is quality and what really matters here is balancing the value and the cost of quality for each characteristic of a product, taking into account a longer term view because quality will have an impact on dependability, speed, flexibility and cost in the future. Quality is the responsibility of all members of an organisation, and not just a testing team. This point is paramount and will increase in importance as more organisations’ enshrine their customer experience, products and services within their IT systems.
This latter point is important: any well-executed project is fundamentally about people, their attitude and leadership, not technology. Visionary CIOs or IT directors who ‘get’ PPM have a chance to change the IT department’s image and drive value or enable change that impacts the entire organisation.