Communicating IT’s value using Project Portfolio Management

An article titled “How I Used Project Portfolio Management (PPM) Software to Prevent IT Staff Cuts” on that describes using Project Portfolio Management (PPM) tools to communicate the value of IT.

The CIO article describes the use of PPM tools by Robert Biles to show his leadership what his team does and how they are doing it.   Like many IT groups, Biles had been understaffed due to previous budget cuts and had been asked to cut yet another developer from his staff.

During a conversation with his senior leadership team, the following exchange took place:

“They ask me, ‘How many people do you have supporting a building application?’ I say, ‘three’,” he says, describing his conversations with the budget office. “They say, ‘We think you can get by with one [developer] because the application is vendor-supported. Why do you need three people in-house to support it when we’re paying vendors to do so.”

My first response to this type of conversation that the senior leaders have no idea what Biles’ team does and how they do it.

Biles decided to start using PPM tools to really show the value of his team.  The results?  See below.

…he’s shown the budget office that his group only spends about 15 percent of its time coding. They spend the rest of their time working with users to spec out requirements for applications, testing applications they write themselves or purchase from vendors, and deploying, supporting and enhancing those applications.

By showing the budget office that his development group does much more than just code, Biles has made the budget office realize developers aren’t so easy to cut.

Emphasis mine.

Interesting stuff right?  I think so…hope you do to 🙂

The above story is all too common.  Business leadership has no idea what IT really does.  IT leadership tries to explain what their teams do but they usually do so in a non-granular way (e.g., IT operations, Network Security, Development, etc).

When a CEO or CFO sees ’16 developers’, they start thinking about why they need sixteen people doing development. What they fail to see is that the amount of work is enough to keep 32 developers busy, full-time.

IT leaders need to look at ways to provide more data to business leaders to understand how value the IT team brings to the organization.

The use of Project Portfolio Management tools is a good tool to use for this purpose…as long as it is used in such a way as to not interfere with the day-to-day jobs of the individual within the IT group.

Anyone out there using PPM tools for this purpose?  I’d love to see some real-world examples of success and/or failure using these tools.

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6 responses to “Communicating IT’s value using Project Portfolio Management”

  1. next_connect Avatar

    A few years back I worked with an org that used MS's Project Server which seemed to do a good job of managing the individual projects as well as the overall portfolio. These days I'm trying to deploy project sites in SharePoint (MOSS) which gives a collaboration and tracking space within the a project team and then provide mechanisms to aggregate that data across the project portfolios for a given group, division, or across all units.

    There can be a lot of value gained from the information, but it can take a lot of time to get everything setup. There seems to be a lot of overhead at first, but once in place it reduces duplication and makes reporting so much easier.

    One of the biggest project impacts I've seen is with resources shared across multiple projects. When projects are managed and tracked individually it can be hard to see future risks. What if the same resource is working a critical issue on two projects? What if the combined allocation for a resource is 300%? You can only see these issues when looking at everything at once.

    Your quotes and comments about management not knowing what IT does is scary. As outsourcing becomes more prevaliant roles will change. Even if you outsource development, you should still have a tech lead in house to validate what they are doing and make sure it fits into your environment. This also means internal QA, PMs and perhaps Analysts are needed.

  2. Chris Morgan Avatar

    Eric – interesting post, thanks. I think there are many other funtional departments that would also benefit from the same approach. For example it is often a mystery to the business what HR really do and they are subsequently one of the first areas to be cut when times are hard.


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  3. Eric D. Brown Avatar

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    I hadn't thought about using PPM tools for other areas of the organization but now that you mention it, it makes perfect sense.

    Your example about HR is right on the money. HR can provide a lot of value to an organization but many don't understand what HR really does. Using PPM tools and other methods to communicate the value that HR delivers makes perfect sense.

    Have a you seen any organizations that have taken this approach?


  4. Chris Morgan Avatar

    Well, I have seen that HR functions that really act as a business partner are able to articulate what they do in a way that really means something to the rest of the organisation. This could take the form of a balanced scorecard approach that highlight some key metrics. This generally divides up HR's activities into transactional stuff (processing new starters etc) and real value add stuff (working with the business on projects etc).

    There's no 'silver bullet' but all of these tools can help raise awareness and understanding across many organisations….


  5. Eric D. Brown Avatar

    Thanks for the insight Chris. True…there is no silver bullet but the tools can definitely help if applied right.