As Director of Celerity's Project & Program Management (PPM) practice, I had the opportunity to work with a diverse set of companies—Fortune 500s, mid-markets and start-ups—in 2012. Regardless of their size, industry and maturity, our discussions about improving the quality and value of service delivered by their IT organizations have centered on a common set of themes.
The top five questions I heard from clients in 2012:
How are companies spending their money on IT?
IT spending, while continuing to edge up in 2012, is still tight. The good news is that we’re seeing the pendulum swing even more towards discretionary spending on strategic projects versus “keeping the lights on.” And that’s not just true for our clients—it’s consistent with Gartner’s projections on a much broader scale. At the same time, I’m also seeing our clients,somewhat cautiously, taking smaller bites of the apple with phased implementation and agile/iterative development to accelerate benefits realization.
What did I get for my IT spend?
The most difficult question that I continue to hear from business executives seems so simple to answer is: “What did I get for my IT spending?” It’s not that easy to given the challenges behind measuring benefits realization (not just service delivery), accounting for true project costs (capital and operating expense), and the fact that such a large portion of IT spending is not project related. That said, it’s essential that the leadership team play an active role in establishing and managing the IT spending mix and setting investment priorities.
How can I drive PPM change and adoption?
Defining best practices and PPM governance structures is a lot easier than introducing change into an organization and ensuring adoption. In the past year, I’ve faced this same challenge while working with Fortune 500s that have been in business for more than 100 years, as well as much smaller start-ups. Executive commitment, while critical to enabling change management, isn’t enough—it usually takes a carrot and stick approach with financial incentives (or disincentives) to ensure adoption of any new program, process or technology.
Which PPM tool should I use?
It’s been remarkable watching the evolution of PPM tools in recent years. We’re no longer just talking about more traditional, on-site PPM tools. I’ve worked with clients this year who are moving towards cloud-based PPM tools, IT Financial Management tools and collaborative decision making tools. My guidance to clients has been to take small steps in augmenting their core PPM toolset—first ensuring that it’s fully operational and integrated with their financial management and HR systems before making major investments in new tools.
How quickly can I move to agile?
At the beginning of 2012, a number of our clients were among the estimated 20% of the companies that had not adopted agile practices. Now that they’ve taken the first step, they envision using agile for all software development within the next 12-18 months. While I’m a big proponent of agile practices, it’s important to understand that no single methodology is right for all projects. What I find to be even more important than selecting a methodology is establishing an overall development framework for executing projects that’s methodology-agnostic.
So those are my thoughts for 2012. Were there any major surprises, at least from a PPM perspective? I’d say “No.” Companies continue to search for creative approaches for delivering value in more nimble development environments while ensuring that methods and tools are in place to provide quality, financial performance and speed-to-market.
That’s no small feat, but it’s the mandate from the top.