IT project portfolios are bursting while BAU crumbles!

Perhaps it is just New Zealand, but I'm seeing a pattern amongst a majority of clients where IT operations business as usual (BAU) is crumbling under the load of project work.

They have too many projects at once, and they use BAU staff to do them.

There are many factors at play here:

  • When I was a pup, big projects meant bringing on big staff, either consulting firms, contractors or permanents. Nowadays the trend seems to be more to second or "capitalise" operational BAU staff onto projects. This is a great way to retain IP after the project is gone and to keep the project linked into the core business, but there is no slack in BAU teams any more - we laid most of them off long ago and we cut beyond fat into meat in the latest recession. If all your BAU staff are 40% on projects, then they are trying to do their day jobs in three days a week (instead of six).
  • Technology is changing faster than we can implement it. "Of course we must have a mobile workforce - I have to read email in the airport, I'm that important." "Ooh look Microsoft just cranked out yet another Windows, just as useless as the previous versions but even more eye-candy so staff will whinge even louder if you stay on the super-stable XP." "Look at all the money we'll save if we virtualise - never mind that we'll destroy operational stability to get there."
  • Service portfolio management is such an immature discipline. After ten years of banging away we finally got the concept of project portfolio management into the mainstream. It'll take another ten years to reach the realisation that PPM is merely a subset of SPM. Then maybe we'll cut off many projects that never should get past business case because they are woefully under-budgeted
  • Equally immature is corporate governance of IT. "Whatever the portfolio's called, it is IT's problem. We make the strategy, they have to fulfill it. How is their problem: that's what we pay them for." This may have worked when IT was a back-office support function. Now more often than not IT is the business. The new systems are more complex, more critical and overall just bigger. Executive management needs to make IT planning integral to corporate strategy and plans. Sometimes that means realising you can't do it this year.
  • IT credibility is still low in many orgs. They have no credibility or power to be able to say no.
  • Those complex systems mean the people-change aspect is bigger than ever. It takes more effort and more time to get these things humming. Often that is unbudgeted effort and time, which the project leaves as yet another load on BAU after go-live
  • In other cases, IT Operations has spent years finally getting some stability and maturity, which makes it all the more tempting to pull people away to projects, rapidly undoing all that good work. No complex system stays in good shape unattended.

Any more?


managing service portfolio

Go read Helen Morris's continuation of this idea in an excellent post on ITSM Portal where she looks at what's to be done about it. I made the comment over there:

Flip all the issues I listed and you get the solutions. The key is managing service portfolio as compared to project portfolio, or worse still a completely uncontrolled mass of projects. But service portfolio management will only work once IT has the credibility to belly-up to the top table.

And while I completely agree that IT must not be "The Department of No", sometimes IT has to be able to (credibly) say "No, not unless you come up with more money from somewhere". Part of our role is to protect existing investment.

Taming Change

I thought I had posted on this book before; it's worth reading. I reviewed it HERE.

It certainly seems to me that IT tends to either ignore or cannot get the business to deal with reconciling execution portfolios....

John M. Worthington
MyServiceMonitor, LLC

getting a round tuit

*erk* Taming Change has been on my reading pile all year! Sorry Terry! Opening it now...

IT project portfolios are bursting while BAU crumbles! True..

This is the fatal flaw that I have highlighted in a number of papers and presentations... IT organizations don't track their portfolio's properly (which you mentioned) and continue to grow RTB (Run the Business) costs without knowing it. There's a fixed amount of budget, and when IT is FORCED to work in Business Growth (GTB) or Transformation (TTB), they don't address RTB which guts cut and BAU crumbles..

If the entire IT service portfolio was managed financially ACROSS Run, Grow and Transform, they would realize; "We have to reduce costs in RTB in order to invest in growth and transformation...". However, I see more investment going into MASSIVE Run the business focus...

The fatal flaw (wait for it) (and this isn't mentioned in ITIL); This years Growth/Transformation investment becomes next years RTB cost... All too often overlooked...

Hey, we've run out of budget, where do we cut?

John M. Clark

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