Taking Stock of Projects

Are we working on the right projects?

It’s always a good practice to periodically review the current project portfolio. Initiatives do tend to expand in scope, and revisiting their goals and objectives can be very productive.

Consider doing a quick assessment of your shop’s 10 largest projects. For any initiative that appears to be struggling ask your IT project manager to complete a brief risk-assessment report. Then sit down with the project sponsor and IT project manager and rationalize what steps, if any, should be taken to get the project back on track.

The risk-assessment report could include:

1. Key business objectives – including how the achievement of these objectives is being monitored.

2. Critical success factors – that have been identified for the achievement of the project’s goals and objectives.

3. Risk identification and assessment – presenting the major risks to the business objectives and the initiative itself.

4. Proposed risk-management plans – describing what will be implemented to address the risks identified.

5. Implementation plans and accountabilities – describing the action plans and how the risk-management responsibilities have been assigned.

6. Recommendations and next steps – defining the priorities for moving forward.

A formal IT Investment Management process is an even more effective method of ensuring the priorities of the IT project portfolio are continually aligned with business priorities. In the longer term, consider implementing a management process for setting the IT priorities. Regular discussions with the Executive Management Committee on the efforts of the IT shop will be extremely worthwhile.


This month, I suggest you check out a U.S. General Accounting Office Report entitled “Information Technology Investment – Agencies Can Improve Performance, Reduce Costs, and Minimize Risks”.

The report lays out a management process for IT Investment Management and includes a simple three-step process: 1) selection, 2) control, and 3) evaluation. The 79-page report raises three key questions for management to address:

1. How can you select the right mix of projects that best meets the organization’s overall business needs and improvement priorities?

2. What controls are you using to ensure that the selected projects deliver the projected benefits at the right time and right price?

3. Based on your evaluations, have the systems delivered what was expected?

The report is at http://www.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=gao&docid=f:ai96064.txt.pdf.


When surfing, don’t forget to hang ten in the vicinity of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s Enhanced Management Framework (EMF) for IT Web site.

The EMF Initiative is a multi-year effort devoted to improving IT management practices within the Canadian Federal Government (see Building a Better IT Management Model). The products that have been developed can be applied in both the public and private sector. In the past year an increased focus has been paid to `portfolio’ management. Check out the Web site at www.cio-dpi.gc.ca/emf to access leading-edge material at no cost.

Note: www.cio-dpi.gc.ca/emf/Publications/Publicationsplash_e.html provides a concise picture of, and easy access to, their key publications and support materials.









Dan Swanson is a management consultant with LGS Group in Winnipeg. He specializes in audit and management consulting and can be reached dswanson@lgs.ca.