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The Art of Project Governance

I’m sure you have read about the 25-35% failure rate for IT projects. One could logically ask: how can this be when there are dozens of project management solutions in the marketplace, used by thousands of companies that focus on achieving project success? Yet, these statistics have become the standard and acceptable norm for project management organizations. As a CIO or PMO Director, are you ready to write off millions of dollars of inefficiencies and waste?

This is not the case for the Georgia Technology Authority (GTA), which manages information technology for the state of Georgia. Calvin Rhodes is the CIO, and Tom Fruman is the Director of Enterprise Governance and Planning. “We are the stewards of taxpayer dollars and need to manage project risk,” says Rhodes. Fruman’s team provides governance for the 200-450 million dollars of critical projects executed each year by the 119 state agencies. Fruman believes “project success is based upon applying a discipline of process and insight to the management of project portfolios.” It’s all about reducing risk and uncovering “what’s really going on behind the numbers that are typically reported by Project Managers.” So, after a number of failed project portfolio solution implementations, he found the perfect governance solution – The CAI   ITBuzz Enterprise Management Suite . “This solution provides a governance layer of process discipline, best practices, and predictive analysis to reduce risk and improve project success, regardless of the PPM tool used by agency project teams ,” says Fruman.

To clearly understand how Fruman and his team found a solution that worked for them,  we need to look at how the State of Georgia manages its information technology organization, the project governance process and its challenges,  the implementation process, and the value of the ITBuzz Enterprise Management Suite.

The Office of the CIO at the State of Georgia

Calvin Rhodes was appointed to the role of Chief Information Officer in January, 2011 for the Georgia Technology Authority (GTA). His team of 165 IT professionals (plus another 1000 IT members from its two primary service providers) deliver information technology solutions and services across the state’s 119 agencies. Rhodes has extensive business and technology experience. He established Paladin, a private investment firm, and was executive vice president at Fulton Paper Company, where he held a number of executive positions in operations and IT. With a technology and business background, his mission for the state of Georgia is to connect Georgians to their Government by leveraging technology.” It’s all about “enabling citizens to access government services more easily.” One quickly learns after speaking with Rhodes that he views the state of Georgia Information Technology Organization as a business by “providing value to its customers.”  Rhodes has three main strategies for the GTA

1. Consolidate state agency IT infrastructure and network services into an enterprise shared services model to enable improved efficiencies.

2. Implement a full IT governance structure, providing transparency across state agencies so everyone can see anything relative to spend.

3. Enable agencies to provide on-line services which improve value and empower the citizen.

As you would imagine from an executive with a strong business background, Rhodes is all about improving processes. “We are aligning IT with business processes and goals and providing technology innovation through leadership and collaboration with our strategic agency customers, vendor partners, and key stakeholders,” says Rhodes in his 2012 Annual State IT Report.

The Project Governance Process

Tom Fruman is Director of Enterprise Governance and Planning (EGAP) and reports to the state CIO. He leads the organization that works with the state agencies to promote an enterprise approach to technology. “We provide  policies and standards, education and awareness, and advisory services to these agencies to enable them to plan, manage, and deliver technology to their constituents.” Fruman’s team operates as an oversight group across several disciplines including security, strategy, planning, data governance, and portfolio management. “Our goal is to leverage IT dollars which provides the best value for the business while managing risks.” His team accomplishes this is through a governance philosophy that “brings good process to ensure the success of IT investments.”

Each of the 119 state agencies operates as independent divisions, similar to a federated model. For the largest state agencies, a commissioner heads each agency with a management team that executes the agency mission. IT projects are identified, developed and implement within the agency.  Each agency has a CIO.

To help state agencies achieve success for their IT projects, Teresa Reilly-Director of the Enterprise Portfolio Management Office (EPMO) – the organization within Enterprise Governance and Planning (EGAP) – provides oversight, training, and consulting. When asked about the objective of the EPMO, Reilly said the following:

Our objective is to ensure IT project success and improve project management maturity practices through portfolio management, project assurance, and the development of policies, standards, guidelines.  We also provide consulting, education and training in support of our core mission.

Reilly’s philosophy on project assurance can be summarized by a few of her major points:

  • Project management is a defined discipline, but you need a balanced view of how the project is progressing.
  • We need to provide a level of discipline in managing projects to reduce project risk.
  • We need to help project managers become more proactive in responding to risks.
  • Capturing views of the project from key stakeholders provides a more realistic view of potential project risks.

The EPMO is important in the governance of state agency projects because “we can help to improve the State’s capabilities to deliver business benefits through successful deployment of information technology projects,” says Reilly.

Reilly’s team focuses on state agency projects that are the most critical and complex.
These are usually projects with implementation costs of greater than 1 million dollars or have a major business impact to the state and citizens. For example, a project that provides for driver license renewal may not exceed 1 million dollars, but could be a disaster if implementation issues arise and create driver license renewal problems.

To achieve their goal, the EPMO employs the following four step process to provide governance for state agency projects:

1. Capture high-level data for the portfolio of projects that are identified by agencies as projects for investments.

  • Agencies provide information on projects they are considering for investment (Project Name, Objective, Investment Summary, Benefit, Business Case, etc.).

2. Evaluate and identify the subsets of projects and associated data, reviewed by the Critical Project Review Panel on a monthly basis.

  • Criteria Project Review Panel (CPR) provides oversight for projects that are complex and/or critical:
    • Projects  greater than 1 million dollars.
    • Projects with significant business risk that would impact the citizens of the state; regardless of project cost.
    • The GTA CIO (Calvin Rhodes) is the chair for the monthly CPR.
    • Attendees include GTA and Agency personnel
      • GTA Personnel: Calvin Rhodes(Chair) – CIO ,Tom Fruman – Director EGAP,Teresa Reilly- Director EPMO
      • State Agency Personnel:  state agency Project Manager, state agency business owner, and the vendor project manager, if there is one
      • A representative from the Governor’s office
      • The Independent Verification & Validation (IV&V) vendor  (The GTA contracts with independent consultants (vendors) to conduct project reviews and recommend specific actions to improve project success),a representative from the Governor’s office
      • Teresa Reilly’s team (EPMO) prepares a projects review book that includes key information for the projects reviewed by the CPR
      • Each project team (Project Manager, Business Owner) presents the project status to the CPR (approximately 20 minute sessions)
      • Projects identified with significant risk are forwarded for a CPR review by the Governor’s office

3. Provide education and training to state agency personnel to improve their skills in managing information technology projects.

  • Teresa Reilly’s organization (EPMO) includes highly experienced project management personnel who provide training to state agency project teams on the art of project management.

4. Advise state agencies of industry frameworks and best practices to ensure successful project execution.

  • EPMO personnel have extensive project management experience and provide project teams a with a variety of templates and best practices to minimize project risk and improve skills
  • Conduct project audits via the Independent Verification and Validation Program (IV&V).

Continue to Part 2 —> 

 

Phil Weinzimer is president of Strategere Consulting and works with clients to develop business and IT strategies that achieve business outcomes. He is the author of the forthcoming book, The Strategic CIO; Changing the Dynamics of the Business Enterprise, to be published by Taylor and Francis.  His previous book, Getting It Right; Creating Customer Value for Market Leadership; published by John Wiley, focused on transforming organizations to become customer focused. Contact him at pweinzimer@strategere.com

About Phil Weinzimer

Author and president of Strategere Consulting working with clients to develop business and IT strategies that focus on achieving business outcomes.

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