IT Management Issue
are the primary way through which companies transform themselves and evolve
as they pursue their vision & mission. Unfortunately, TEC research has
shown that the majority of IT projects that wind up on the corporate agenda
are created by line operations management or lower in the organization,
and that less than 10% come from the executive level. This is a genuine
cause for concern.
research has also revealed that a vast majority of these projects rely
on interpretations or assumptions about business strategy. A sage once
said that "Context is worth 50 IQ points!" Yet it is exactly this "context"
that is missing in many companies. Getting it right is crucial to getting
the right projects launched, at the right time, for the right reasons.
believe that a Program Office is a low overhead and highly effective way
to ensure that a company's business strategy is translated into a holistic
and aligned portfolio of projects. Through a Program Office, the organization
can become highly adaptive as senior management determines the appropriate
responses to changing forces inside and outside the business.
role of the Program Office is to coordinate, advocate and facilitate key
programs & projects that comprise the company's Project Portfolio. The
major product or deliverable of the Program Office is an integrated and
prioritized rolling 90-day project/phasing plan. The Program Office also
advocates standardized project practices and project management methods.
benefit of a Program Office is that it establishes tight linkage between
each project and the corporate agenda, as well as linkages among projects.
Without this vertical and horizontal linkage, projects become locally
optimized, delivering solutions that frequently add cost to corporate
infrastructure and burden extended processes with unnecessary work. In
order to achieve this, the Program Office needs to engage senior management
in necessary conversations to establish and refresh the list of desired
(and prioritized) operational capabilities that will enable the company
to implement strategy.
The Program Office is best positioned as part of the Office of the COO.
The function should operate with low overhead. Even in large organizations
the Program Office does not need to expand beyond three people and in
small to mid-sized companies a part-time to one-person Program Office
can be effective.
Program Office need not be a bureaucratic control center for all the initiatives
within a company, rather it should be an effective shared service that
delivers project orchestration and alignment. It has the benefit of being
outside of functional stovepipes, and therefore providing an unbiased
view fragment. From this position, the Program Office, headed by a Program
Manager, can make recommendations to the executive team regarding:
- Project charters and scope
- Relative prioritization of projects (and the correlated utilization
- Trade-offs that must be made among projects
- Applicability of specific technological solutions
- Validity of projected benefits and risks
- Distribution of scarce resources among multiple projects
Program Office requires a hybrid of many management disciplines. It requires
basic management and political skills, aptitude in project management,
technical awareness, and the capacity for systems thinking (to see the
synergies and connections among multiple projects). The Program Manager
should also be a standing member on steering committees for critical projects;
this will ensure early identification of opportunities and/or conflicts
that relate to resource availability, integration and other cross-organizational
is continually at the end of the whip. A small wrist jerk by the business
causes an amplified impact (and frequently a sharp stinging sensation)
on the IT organization and infrastructure. In addition, IT is often paralyzed
or disabled by conflicting or inconsistent commands from within the organization.
creation of a Program Office provides IT with an important and actively
engaged ally at the executive level. It provides a singular forum within
the organization where IT can receive a clearly communicated set of business
priorities, defined in a common language around business capabilities
and translated to the project level. This forum elevates the IT discussion
above the single project level and it provides an opportunity for IT to
raise forward-facing issues related to infrastructure and architecture
integration with the business agenda.
- Charter a Program Office within the office of the COO.
- Staff the position of Program Manager with a seasoned executive
with broad business and IT knowledge who is respected within the company.
- Give the Program Office the responsibility for developing and maintaining
the prioritized list of operational capabilities that the business
needs to realize its strategy.
- Have the executive team treat the Program Office/Program Manager
as the primary liaison for developing new project initiatives and
for explaining the rationale for the current project portfolio.
- Ensure that the Program Manager has free access and committed support
so that the Program Office does not become a bottleneck and impede
Technology Management Response
- Encourage and take advantage of the Program Office to drive business
and information technology architecture design.
- Catalyze business change through a combination of information access,
process transformation and systems thinking.
- Empower the Program Office with Intranet, Decision Support, and
other collaboration and communication tools.