March 7, 2012 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Project Portfolio Management
When to Tell the Management IT Is Pregnant
By The Grumpy Project Manager
They met once in a meeting. A manager and corporate IT. They stepped aside for a while. Just to talk. Innocent talk. Telling what their wishes are. How they see the future. Could it be better? The meeting continued. They drifted apart. But something had been started. Something beautiful. They went home. One of them forgot. One of them remembered.
Some months later there is another meeting. Both are there. One listening. The other one presenting. Finally the possibility to meet again. What a wonderful moment it will be. The presentation starts. There it is. On the screen. A demo. This is what we started together, thinks IT silently. I hope that the manager is proud of me.
The unwanted project
What is this project, someone asks. When and why was it started? This is overlapping with some other projects we have. The presenter is quiet, waiting for the other parent to raise hand. To speak up. But the manager looks absent minded. IT reminisces the earlier meeting. The confidence of the manager. The idea they shared. Can it be done, had the manager asked. Yes, had IT answered. IT reminds the manager of how they together planted the seed of this project. The manager blushes. Denies everything. Requires DNA tests, or at least some written proof. IT has no proofs. The surveillance video tapes are of bad quality; it is not possible to see who discussed, to hear what was discussed. No one remembers seeing them together. I had had quite much coffee, says the manager. And I tend to take too big bites when eating cakes, so maybe I was misunderstood. Maybe IT heard ‘IT project’ when I said ‘I’ll take more cake’. You had tea and biscuits, remembers IT, but doesn’t say anything. Feeling betrayed. IT had thought this manager has what it takes to be a project owner. To be a sponsor. IT had been wrong.
The participants of the meeting decide that we’ll now take care of this project together. Use minimum resources for it and keep a low profile. No harm done. Just some time and money lost. In order to avoid this kind of misunderstandings it is decided that clear procedures are created for how projects are initiated. These procedures will definitely maybe be created soon. Everybody will probably have to follow those, as long as they are not inconvenient.
During a meeting break a manager bumps into IT. Light discussion is started. Possibilities are discussed. Dreams are shared. Could they come true? Yes…
The vulnerable IT
IT hears it everywhere, in blogs, professional magazines, seminars, courses: “IT must align with the business!”. But when IT wants to desperately align with the business it easily becomes predisposed and even seeks these Casanovas of the management. Key persons who would be interested in the possibilities IT can offer. Individuals who would reveal business needs IT could fulfil. Many interesting discussions lead to many newborn projects. However, very few of these Casanovas have what it takes to become a project owner. Very few are ready to cherish the started project. To provide all the resources it needs to grow up to be a corporate IT system. IT kind of knows this, but still believes that inside every manager there is a decent IT project sponsor. We just need to understand and serve and make first demos fast.
Give the birds and the bees talk
When a corporate IT director goes or sends someone to an internal seminar or a meeting where Casanova managers may be present - this means all seminars and meetings - she or he must give clear instructions on how to behave: “You can talk to all participants, but you cannot make any promises and especially not take any immediate actions. If these Casanovas propose something, tell them where they can stuff their proposals; to the project portfolio management tube. Tell how portfolio management serves the corporation and has changed our life; IT is becoming efficient. Tell how we can revolutionize IT system development with balanced, optimized and lean project portfolio where all projects are like sisters and brothers supporting each other. Some Casanovas will not understand and leave you standing alone. Some will understand and leave you standing alone. Some will prepare their proposals further, contact project portfolio management and ensure that their intentions are good. During time more and more of these Casanovas become responsible. They start teaching each other. Organizational learning will happen. We will be one big happy successful efficient family. Competitors will eat our dust, if they are lucky enough to can catch even that.”.
Lean project portfolio management as the contraceptive method
In order to avoid these unwanted pregnancies we need true lean project portfolio management. We need standard procedures for starting projects. We need to evaluate how proposed projects serve strategic objectives. We need to evaluate how different projects together serve the whole business process, not just individual project serving some individuals and teams. We need to require decent return on investment and payback time calculations. “This development may make my job easier” kind of arguments should not be enough to start a project, but strategic objectives need to be served. IT needs to understand this as well as the management, and preferably everybody in the company.
The Grumpy Project Manager is a program manager in an international corporation and has over ten years of experience in managing R&D, IT and business development projects. You can read more from the Grumpy PM on his (or her?) blog. S/he can be contacted by email at TheGrumpyProjectManager@gmail.com.
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