At first glance, while they are complementary disciplines, Application Portfolio Management (APM) may not seem to have a lot of interaction with IT Project Portfolio Management. After all, one is concerned with maximizing the bang for the buck from your base assets while the other is aimed at optimizing business return from your project investments – one focuses on operations while the other focuses on change.
This could not be further from the truth – decisions made to change your technology fabric start as projects, but end up impacting operational base assets. Conversely, resource availability which is the chronic critical source of risk for most organization’s IT project portfolios is directly impacted by APM decisions.
Ask any IT executive that has seen their staffing utilization for “keeping the lights running” increase year-over-year – the more this operational utilization grows, the less resource availability we have to work on strategic projects or to help our organizations truly innovate.
This leads me to my assertion that a critical success factor for IT PPM is to have a mature APM practice that initiates & champions application & system consolidation or replacement strategies in a timely fashion. This will not make IT popular in the short term (as end users are highly loyal to their favorite tools) but no one said that successful management was supposed to be easy!
Risk management theory teaches us that the discipline is about any uncertainty – positive or negative. For most project teams, it is a lot easier to focus on threats than opportunities.
Given the resource constraints, tight deadlines and nebulous requirements that plague projects, it is no surprise that team members and stakeholders can start to dwell on Murphy’s Law instead of trying to identify and exploit serendipitous events.
This negative outlook can worsen over the course of a project – especially once (negative) risks start to be realized and unexpected issues hit the team.
Given this overall pessimism, how realistic is it to expect that opportunity management will be performed well enough to enable exploitation of such events?
I would suggest that organizations identify “opportunity analysts” – these resources would have risk management experience, but would not be directly involved with a given project (either as a stakeholder or team member). They would be assigned on a consultative basis to help the project team identify opportunities and to act as the primary coordinator for opportunity response (i.e. not the risk owner, but rather the main point of contact to identify such owners and to ensure that opportunity response plans are executed).
Just as it is not a good idea to have project sponsors or key stakeholders “score” projects for objective prioritization, it may not be a good idea to build opportunity management into the accountability matrix for core team members.
A popular example of insanity is repeating the same steps, yet expecting different results.
Through the economic downturn, organizations have first pruned and then decimated their budgets to the point that only short-term strategic (isn’t that an oxymoron?) and non-discretionary work is able to continue. Even as economic improvement occurs, companies are being very hesitant to relax these funding constraints. This is troubling as it could choke the very creativity that is essential for propelling organizations beyond survival and for the creation of sustainable competitive advantage.
Organizations that do not preserve some staff or financial availability to fund research projects run the risk of experiencing innovation insanity – they will be hard pressed to truly innovate as their resources will have been given no opportunity to try new things. Just ask someone that spends 40+ hours a week doing the same mind-numbing operational & project work week after week. If they are never given the chance to learn something that they find interesting, how likely is it that they will initiate or incubate great ideas?
I don’t advocate letting “pet projects” proliferate without appropriate governance nor do I feel that each & every “interesting” request should be sponsored. Criteria should be established to ensure there is some consistency and objectivity to which staff and what sort of projects will be supported. However, establishing an R&D “budget” of resource availability and operating funding is one way to ensure that once the mandate comes from up high to launch some creative projects, your team will be ready. Beyond that, it is a great way to cultivate loyalty in the skilled staff that you feel will help your company evolve.
After all, if Innovating Time Off worked for Google, it should be worth justifying some “fallow time” for your team!