IT for IT

By Gary Bolles  |  Posted 2003-09-01 Print this article Print

IT for IT

Gartner Inc. analyst Hams El-Gabri makes the case that IT is—or should be—a project-focused organization much like any professional services business. She maintains that IT can improve its own operations in the same way as any other people-intensive craft, by focusing specifically on better project management practices, and using software designed to automate repetitive project-related tasks. Gartner calls this category Project Portfolio Management, or PPM, and it includes the broad set of functions needed to prioritize and manage projects appropriately, including project pipelines, risk assessment, scope, time, human and other resources, cost management, procurement processes, team communications, reporting and forecasting.

If youre salivating to run such applications, dont jump in just yet. It may seem counterintuitive that software designed to optimize IT is useful only if IT is already running itself efficiently. But according to El-Gabri, these programs are mostly good at aggregating reports and automating existing processes. "PPM is 90 percent service methodology and 10 percent software," she says. As with virtually any enterprise software, baking inefficient processes into applications simply institutionalizes ineffectiveness, so IT has to get its own shop into order first.

Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. CIO George Tillmann, a former management advisor himself, hired his companys own consultants to help his team hone its internal practices. Like many, Tillmanns optimization efforts were driven by the need for staff efficiency, since this company of 13,000 went from an IT department of 235 in 2000 to 186 today. Once that work was done, Tillmann was then ready to install Kintana Inc.s IT governance software. "You cant use a tool to replace bad practices," Tillmann says flatly.

Still, like other executives overseeing critical corporate functions, CIOs will ultimately benefit from the ability of such applications to provide an up-to-date overview of operations. "I definitely see us evolving toward an executive dashboard with information bubbling up to decision-makers, so they have more information at their fingertips," says Reliant Energys Barlow. "Were moving from more of a reactive mode to more of a planned mode." Gartners El-Gabri thinks thats a good thing. "The IT department is the last untouched and unoptimized branch within the organization," she says.

Ask Your Project Office Professionals:
  • How efficient do we feel our project management practices are?

    Tell Your Top Staff:
  • Figure out where our greatest pain points are, and see if applications can help ease the pain. Tell It Software Vendors:
  • Were going to need some hard ROI numbers to justify any software investment.

    Gary Bolles Gary A. Bolles is the Editorial Director for Ziff Davis Media's Custom Conference Group. He is responsible for directing the group's editorial efforts, ensuring the quality of the content it delivers, and moderating and speaking at client events. A frequent lecturer and keynote speaker on a variety of technology topics, he has hosted more than 50 events in the past year alone.

    Bolles was the founding Editor-in-Chief of Interactive Week, developing its unique vision, the founding editorial director of Sm@rt Reseller magazine, creating the publication from initial research, and the founding Editorial Director of Yahoo! Internet Life, managing its successful launch. Bolles was also the Editor-in-Chief of Network Computing Magazine, and for one year was the host of 'Working the Web' for TechTV, covering a wide variety of technology-related topics. Until recently, he was a contributing editor to CIO Insight, writing on a broad range of technology subjects, and assisting in the coordination of the publication's research efforts.

    Bolles is the former Chief Operating Officer of Evolve Software, Inc., and the former VP of Marketing for Network Products Corporation. He has served as a marketing consultant to a variety of organizations, and has advised a number of software startup companies in arenas such as online marketing and data mining.

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