Managing IT Portfolios with Numbers

All right let’s talk about numbers, several years ago I learned one key management concept “If you can’t count it, you can’t manage it”, indeed is true, since then I try to count everything, even in my personal life. The numbers will help you to effectively manage any IT portfolio. The books will help you to understand the nature behind creating those numbers, what they mean, and how to use them accord a methodology, so you can take the proper actions, that is what the traditional literature says about managing IT Portfolios. What I think the books are not telling you is the impact of a number in and outside of an organization, and how a number could be used to drive changes/opportunities/roadblocks and so on. When I found this gap, I needed to create a foundation to make sure numbers are published correctly and considers their impact across the organization.

The traditional IT Portfolio concept refers to a set of programs and projects that collaborates for a strategic goal in an organization. I like the concept, a very powerful concept I must say, because if you are talking about sets you are talking about a collection of elements considered a part of the same object, usually finite, and each element defined in the object. Defining a portfolio is a challenge because every program and project included needs to make sense. For now, I will skip the insights in regards “make sense” (please stay tune, because I will create a separate post for this) and will dedicate the following lines on describing the foundation I use to manage an IT portfolio.

First, you need a dashboard, the dashboard will help you to manage and control your portfolio, but the most important part, the dashboard needs to allow you to take actions. A dashboard without actions is just a piece of paper with fancy charts that are not taking you anywhere. The dashboard should have the numbers, it should be centralized and visible to key stakeholders. Of course, you will need to deal with the decision on who has access to the dashboard, my suggestion is to stick here to the company values, and the organizational assets.  Resolve the numbers extraction, transformation, storing and visualization challenges, and then place those numbers as charts.

Second, the charts are the key component here, you need to know what charts you need to include. This the tough one because this is where you need to be careful, you don’t want to create a war because of the charts you are showing, remember you want to take actions that will benefit the company. What it means is you need to play the politician game here, leave a message, and be smart enough to know that it might provoke a war, but the tools to prevent those wars are there already.

I usually use categories, why? Because categories allow you to typify and provide a high level overview, enough information to get an insight but not as much information to get all the details. Take a look to the following categories:

  1. Projects by business areas
  2. Projects by Health Status
  3. Projects by Strategic Alignment
  4. Projects by Capex or Opex

From here you can go anywhere, the real issue relies on defining those categories and how they make sense to business and push the business to take an action. No business will like to see the majority of the projects are unhealthy, if a business wants to be alive next year, those projects need to get back on track. Did you see the difference? We are not saying directly it is somebody fault the statuses of the project, we are saying, we need to find out what is happening with those in red, not matter what happened, no matter who, at the end the company’s dreams are in those projects.

Please if you like these ideas, leave a comment. I will read you and comment,

Lenin Rodriguez.





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