Project management is not the center of the IT universe

The Meta Group recently reported that 48% of the work performed by an IT department consists of projects. Since IT is more integrated into the rest of the business than it was 10 or even five years ago, that integration requires more maintenance and troubleshooting than large-scale projects to support managers and executives who craft high-level strategy and, ultimately, improve shareholder value.

Project management is not an overriding IT management approach. Although it is an important tactic that enables an IT organization to carry out effective IT business management strategy, it does not offer a complete perspective of the department and the strategic corporate objectives it supports.

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Effective IT/business alignment demands a more holistic IT management. In order to improve IT's contribution to business value, CIOs need to take a broad IT-management approach. While project management narrows in on timelines and dollar amounts of individual technology projects, it does not provide a broader perspective that considers corporate performance such as profitability, shareholder value and customer service. Achieving a business-focused organization requires a governance structure and tools that enable the holistic management of the IT operation.

IT departments must adopt internal customers, not projects, as their central focus. Project management is a tactic that centers on projects, not customers; but improving IT's contribution to business value requires a firm focus on "internal customers." Leading CIOs place their internal customers at the center of their universe, just as any business person would. They replace user in their staff's vocabulary with customer and invite those internal customers to regular strategy sessions. When customers occupy the center of the CIO's universe, the odds of successfully running IT as a business soar.

If the entire portfolio of an IT department's work is to be managed in a balanced way, CIOs must maintain visibility into, account for and manage the contribution of all areas of IT work and their value for the organization, not just projects. This covers the management of customers, business processes, financial performance, nonproject and project work. Achieving that balance requires attention to related disciplines, including resource management, change management, issues and requests, knowledge management, program management, project accounting and financial management.

Chuck Tatham is vice president of marketing and business development at Changepoint Corp., an IT services company in Richmond Hill, Ontario.

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