IT Program Management – What Are We Working On?

According to Info-Tech Research, “most organizations underestimate the value that a unifying process/framework will have across numerous related IT projects.”

Multiple projects, day-to-day tasks and objectives, and the regular job of IT “keeping the lights on,” can interfere with stakeholders understanding what progress is being made on important IT initiatives and what gaps exist between IT delivery and the organization’s business requirements.

Is Your Organization Ready for IT Program Management?

How do you know your organization is ready for IT program management?  You may begin to hear grumblings from staff, like: ”I asked for that six months ago but I haven’t seen it,” or “I don’t know where my issue is on the list.”  The IT team begins to use words like, “swamped,” or “firehose,” or “I don’t know what my priority is, what do I work on next?”

An answer to these issues is the establishment of formal Program Management. The goals are organization and visibility— getting a holistic view of all projects, priorities, and tasks that IT is being asked to tackle

Establishing Your Plan

A first step into visibility starts on the IT side, with a logging of all projects, current, backlogged, and upcoming.  Maintenance and support come first on the log, noting the important day-to-day items that are required for the organization to function.  These are items such as:

  • Trouble tickets
  • Maintenance work
  • What are IT staff working on?
  • What does IT staff utilization look like?

A general rule of thumb is that at least 50% of IT’s time is typically spent on maintenance and support such as answering trouble tickets.  That leaves 50% of their time for projects and systems enhancement.

On the user side, once the project log has been identified, a steering committee can be established to “get their arms around” all of the projects and tasks.

Typically, a steering committee meets regularly (monthly is common) and include representatives, usually department heads, from the functional areas of the organization where projects have an impact, and the CIO or head of IT as facilitator.

It doesn’t have to be time-consuming— perhaps an hour or two to review the list initially—and it is important.  It is also important to include a champion of the IT program management methodology on this steering committee.

Visibility into projects is key; it allows the steering committee to review the projects for scope (small, medium, large), length of estimated time to complete (i.e., 1 hour, 8 hours, 40 hours, 1 year, etc.) and establish reasonable priorities.

Projects involving vendors should be considered as well as internal staff projects, as should contract reviews for those vendors. A review of the vendor’s own project backlog should be included, and agreement on task priority is an important joint effort.

Considerations for Effective IT Program Management

Once you have established the project log and the steering committee has come to an initial agreement on priorities and utilization, it’s all about maintenance of that concept, with regular meetings to review the projects and agree on the list, considering:

  • The list itself – new upcoming projects, closed projects, etc.
  • Progress on current projects
  • Budget
  • Resource capacity
  • Visibility
  • Priority
  • Roadblocks
  • High-level business requirements
  • Trouble tickets
  • Data about time utilization, not just “too busy”

With a larger organization, having a dedicated group of project managers or program managers may be possible.  Having a business analyst or account manager who champions the project through IT, from requirements gathering to completion, is desirable. A CIO can function as the facilitator and champion for IT.

In small or large organizations, buy-in from the top down is imperative, as is consistent methodology and reporting.  An IT priority dashboard is ideal—perhaps set up simply in MS Teams— showing stakeholders, “here’s where your project is, here is what we are working on and its priority, here’s how much time we can dedicate to a project,” so that decisions can be about aligning IT time to strategic goals.

Organization, visibility, and consistency of methodology are the three legs to a successful IT program management initiative.

Take our IT Management Assessment to get a plan in place that you can implement right away to improve your core IT processes, accountability, and management.