Modern Middle Manager
Primarily my musings on the practical application of technology and management principles at a financial services company.
Executive's Guide to IT - Chapter 15

Monday, January 26, 2004  

Chapter 15 is titled "IT Demand Management and Project Prioritization". The authors make the point that the execution of the right projects, on time and on budget, are the greatest measure of the IT department's success in the organization. I would say that it's probably one of the greatest measures of a company's success as well. The authors point to several reasons project fail -- bad communication, bad priorities, bad resource allocation, bad goals, no gatekeeper(s) and no accountability. Sounds about right to me. Their formula for success is to get a handle on all existing projects, evaluate and prioritize those projects through a steering committee and then execute, execute, execute. Prioritization is key to successful project evaluation. Key components they cite include (for projects that have direct financial value) return on investment, risk and strategic value. For projects with indirect financial value, cost reduction, productivity enhancements and improved controls are key. For the authors, projects that have a direct financial impact are more important than projects that don't. Well, that sounds about right to me -- bottom line, a company's got to make money. Chances are that they latest version of Office 2003 isn't going to do that.

Financial institutions like mine also deal with risk management, projected loss and regulatory compliance. Although there may be no direct financial value now, it may be necessary to implement a project because of the potential for loss. Think expected value. If a $1,000,000 loss has a 5% chance of occuring (yielding an expected value of $50K), it might be worth allocating some dollars now to get it fixed. If a law just passed and violation may involve sanctions up to and including revocation of your operating license (think GLB or SOX), those projections might outweigh any new business opportunities. As usual, your mileage (and projections) may vary.

Prioritization is best accomplished with a steering committee where senior managers make decisions in conjunction with IT management and they understand the risk/reward. As I've mentioned in the past, I report to a senior manager in charge of one line of business (banking) who is a rival with another senior manager's line of business (wealth management). Because of this, project prioritization is skewed and I'd rather not get in the middle of the inevitable skirmish. For those potential CIO/CTO types who don't know this, remember to ask the company you're interviewing with how IT priorities are established. By steering committee: good; by CEO: OK; you buried under another senior manager (especially one who competes for resources with another senior manager): very bad. There are a number of things I like about my position but this is the most ridiculous issue I have.

posted by Henry Jenkins | 1/26/2004 07:08:00 PM

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