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Using PPM software to bring financial accountability into IT

The CIO, as the liaison between business and IT, needs to know exactly what’s going on in IT and then translate it into something the business side understands: dollars and cents. To do that, the project and portfolio management (PPM) discipline — and software — is becoming increasingly important, midmarket included.

At the 2009 HP Software Universe conference this week, I came across an attendee who stressed just that. Introducing himself as a “turnaround CIO” (who turns around failing businesses), this particular gentleman had a lot to say about the IT culture.

“It can be really difficult to get a data center manager, for example, to tell you exactly what he’s doing and when he’s doing it,” he said. “They turn to you like you have three heads — ‘I’m doing my job, what else would I be doing?’”

The more you can account for, the better off you’ll be. Because, as I was told, “If you don’t know what Joe is doing down in the data center, how do you measure Joe’s value?” Applications for resource allocation, time management, application management, project management can help, as can all of those functions rolled up in a PPM software package. And midmarket IT executives are taking full advantage of them. One CIO I spoke to used PPM software to survive a $1.5 million-dollar budget cut by prioritizing and keeping track of projects. Another CIO avoided layoffs with his PPM tool by leveraging the added transparency to more efficiently allocate staff.

But there’s always the question of whether an organization needs specific tools if it has the processes in place. In other words, if I have a process by which I prioritize and manage IT projects, do I need PPM software? I’d say you don’t technically need it, but having it could really optimize your efficiency.

If a project and portfolio management tool can provide a look into scheduled projects, prioritization queues, resource allocation and even some budgeting insights automatically, it’s much more efficient to use than having employees use various applications that someone then has to compile (or not) for a unified view. Especially if, as is so common today, you have a lot of projects and a lean staff.

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