Service Portfolio Management is more important than programme or project portfolio

There is a wonderful insight in ITIL that is seldom noticed and even less often understood

It is Service Portfolio Management (SPM).

Too many organisations take a portfolio view of only programmes and projects, whilst negelecting the operational systems. This is one order removed from a truly holistic view. PPM only looks at change, not the current state. SPM looks at the services in production as well as the proposed changes to service. It looks at the distribution of resources across both Build and Run, not just Build. It considers the impact on our existing services when we try to introduce new ones. This is brilliant. This is essential. Failure to do this is why so many IT departments are drowning in projects.
Failure to manage across the whole portfolio of current and planned services - focusing instead on only the portfolio of change - means that there will be a continuous deluge of capex expenditure on new services with zero consideration of Run's ability to absorb them (and often zero budget to do so too).

This hammering is compounded by the modern practice of pulling resources out of Run to staff projects without properly considering the impact on Run. We eat ourselves, we hollow out our capacity to deliver the services because we are so busy building and changing them.

Balancing priorities and resources across the portfolio of change, of projects, of programmes, is not enough. We must balance across all activity, across Build and Run together. ITIL Service Strategy tells us that, in SPM. It is a shame few people read it and even fewer get it. IT management is a costant balancing act of Build and Run, or as i like to frame it To Protect and Serve (OK OK maybe that's not the best slogan to use right now but work with me here). In many organisations, PPM is treated as a strategic practice and PPM tools are sold to executives. PPM is not strategic: it's a tactical approach for the EPMO to manage across what they've been tasked with and what they've been given. On the other hand Service Portfolio Management, now that's strategic.

But wait, there's more. Service Portfolio Management gives a holistic view of everything going on in IT. Think about it: this makes SPM one of the key mechanisms for communications between the enterprise and IT. SPM is how we in IT articulate our position, our capability, our challenges, our needs, in business terms. SPM is how we solicit decisions and direction from the executive and governors and peers on how to allocate our effort, our resources. It is how we justify more resource. What is the mist important challenge facing IT at the moment? Lack of good governance of IT, without a doubt (unless it's a vendor telling the story, in which case the biggest issue is of course whatever their tool solves or can be made to appear to solve). This is such an important issue we are looking at it in the Pink Think Tank at the Pink Elephant ITSM Conference next month (I coordinate the Think Tank).

So if governance of IT is the biggest issue in IT, then SPM is one of the most important practices and the service portfolio is one of the most essential artefacts. So why is it so rare?

Syndicate content