Pick the right project(s) for the business.
At any one time, the IT department of an average company is running multiple projects. How did they get started? How were they even defined as a project that needed to be carried out?
No one may actually know. In more chaotic environments, projects can start as a seed of an idea, pick up momentum and resources if a manager or two can see that they will benefit from the project. At some point, the project will bump into another one, usually because they both want the same IT staff or other resources. Strong managers can often come out of these resource conflicts with what they need for their project, while the other managers suffer from their project going on hold or being cancelled. Otherwise, the conflict is escalated until one common, higher manager has to step in and decide who gets what; and this is often the first time the higher manager has even heard about the projects.
I sat in on a senior management committee meeting where the progress to date of a grand project was presented and a request for a budget increase was made to complete the project. The CEO took all this in, and commented that this was very interesting, but given the sizable amounts of money and time expended so far, why the heck had he never heard of this project before? The next week my manager sent me to see the CIO, who charged me with coming up with a new process for defining, approving, and controlling IT projects, better known these days as ‘Project Governance’.
So, how do you pick the ‘right’ IT projects? First you have to make the choice explicit, avoiding the random start-ups described above; do encourage any and everyone to suggest possible projects. An active strategic and operational planning process will also tend to drive out new projects as senior and middle management look for IT assistance to reach their assigned goals. All these proposed project ideas then become input to a ‘gating’ process, supported by means of valuing the worth of a project like, but not limited to, cost-benefit analyses.
Readers: how do projects get going in your organization?Is it by chance? or do you have a goverance process in place?