Brutally Prioritize Projects

By Ross Mason  |  Posted 2009-01-26 Print this article Print

Step No. 2: Brutally prioritize projects

Separate the need-to-have from the nice-to-have. Once you have identified the key business goals for IT at your organization, apply a surgical knife to your current project portfolio. Only retain projects that have a direct need-to-have impact on those goals. This is not merely a cost-reduction exercise, but rather a way to focus limited resources on projects that will have immediate business impact.

To be clear, prioritization does not necessarily mean an end to experimentation or evaluating new approaches or tools. To the contrary, your increased focus may afford you additional resources to try multiple approaches to solve your highest priority problems, or to take calculated risks while building a solid Plan B.

Step No. 3: Save yourself first, then build the business case

Navigating an economic crisis for IT is like sitting in a depressurized airplane cabin: You've got to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before helping others who are dependent on you. Similarly, IT needs to make sure it saves itself first before it can help the business achieve its goals. The best way to do this is to build a bulletproof business case for priority projects, quantifying how those projects will impact the bottom line.

The good news for SOA-related projects is that SOA can often be justified on a stand-alone basis. This means that IT organizations can see return on investment just from IT-related savings alone, even before the following three business benefits are taken into account:

a. Lower application development costs through code reuse. Analysts have pegged benchmark savings at as much as 20 percent of overall application development costs over the long term.

b. Lower integration and maintenance costs. Research indicates that solid SOA architecture and tools can reduce integration costs by 30 percent or more, as well as reduce maintenance of integration by up to a whopping 75 percent.

c. Retiring or modernizing legacy assets. Moving to an SOA approach might enable IT to reduce legacy services or maintenance costs. For example, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society recently built a service-oriented platform for its fundraising activities, replacing a legacy-hosted application provider. It ultimately saved millions of dollars per year in transaction fees.

Ross Mason is CTO and Co-founder of MuleSource. Prior to founding MuleSource, Ross was Chief Executive Officer of SymphonySoft Limited, a EU-based company providing services and support for large-scale integration projects. Previously, Ross was Lead Architect for RaboBank and played a key role in developing one of the first large-scale ESB implementations in 2002. Ross has also worked with NatWest Bank, Credit Suisse and UBS. Ross founded the open source Mule project in 2003. Frustrated by integration "donkey work," Ross set out to create a new platform that emphasized ease of development and reuse of components. He started the Mule project to bring a modern approach, one of assembly rather than repetitive coding, to developers worldwide. Ross holds a BS (Hons) in Computer Science from University of Bristol in Bristol, UK. He can be reached at

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