IT Professionals deal with less than favorable odds when it comes to the requirements of IT portfolio management. There are the priorities of customers which can clash with the priorities of your business. There are the requirements changes, economic environment, and plain old change of course to content with on a day-to-day basis. Add all of these together and you have something like trying to categorize the New York Public Library's books by hand: the information might be there, but there is so much of it, where does one even begin? How is it possible to improve IT portfolio management when the portfolio itself is changing all of the time?
But there is hope. Eric Thomas writes for CIO Insight how we can improve our IT portfolio management, and he paces that improvement in four steps:
- Validate your portfolio.
- Determine evaluation criteria.
- Gather the data.
- Make decisions.
Validating the portfolio is a monumental task shrunk into three words. Validation means identifying unapproved ideas and prospects, approved projects in various stages of development, and existing assets such as hardware and software. When judging what constitutes a system and which ones are worth keeping, consider whether licenses or service level agreements are involved, as well as how much money has been funneled into them. Use existing documentation, help desk tickets, and security information to aid in finding all the systems.
In determining evaluation criteria, you decide what attributes are most relevant across the board amongst portfolio investments. Thomas offers a good list of possible criteria:
·Project Level: Cost variance, schedule variance, projected ROI, schedule risk, cost risk, and time to deployment
·Strategic: Alignment to mission, alignment to technical direction, customer satisfaction
·General: Total cost of ownership, ongoing support costs, FTEs required to support, remaining technical support from vendor, planned technical obsolescence, dependent projects and systems
·Classification Schemes: Mandatory/discretionary, operational improvement/operational maintenance, application/infrastructure/information, transactional/informational/strategic/infrastructure.
Data should be gathered as objectively as possible, even in instances where the objects are usually considered non-quantifiable. Risk and alignment to mission are examples. Thomas recommends the common method of quantifying risk, wherein low, medium, and high severities are assigned according to probable impact to the delivery date. Make sure you develop a consensus amongst stakeholders and all of the people in-the-know when going to quantify these values so that everybody is on the same page about what the data means and from where it is derived.
It is after all of the above is accomplished that decisions may finally be made based on the data collected. Data presented in graph form will have the most impact on others, though hard backup data is also good to have when people want to question the little details. Whether or not the best decisions are ultimately made, at least you know at this point that you have done everything within your power to build an atmosphere that supports critical decision-making. There is no worse sensation at work than feeling helpless to achieve the things your superiors ask of you, but with Thomas’s steps, maybe you can finally take back control of your fate.