Posted by: S R Balasubramanian
budgeting, IT planning, project management, vendor management
IT plans and budgets often look progressive and impressive. The bigger the organization, the larger would be the budget and speaks of the power that the CIO commands. But the real power is derived from implementing them and making the solutions work. The status of the CIO and of the IT group goes up a notch every time they make a success of any project.
As we make plans for the coming year and start working on them, it is the year-end review which lets us know if we were good enough in meeting our commitments. A good report card strengthens the position of the CIO in the management group. While this requires hard work and dedication on his part through the year, the approach direction he takes has a great significance. Let us take a look at various measures that he can take towards this end.
- Setting priorities: It is important that clear priorities are set and that execution plans give clear precedence to matters that stand high on the list. We have to ensure that these are business priorities that are in line with the strategic plan of the organization. The real success of IT lies in enabling business in meeting market expectations and in achieving growth. If the right attention is not given to such projects, all sundry matters occupy the space thus crowding out resources from important projects leaving them incomplete. When such projects of importance like supply chain automation, CRM, sales force automation, ERP etc, lie unfinished, they give a poor impression of the IT program, even though the IT staff we may have done a great job in storage deployment, Network implementation etc.
- Projects should be well-conceived: We have to avoid situations where we move three steps forward and two steps backwards. I often find people starting off a project under pressure from the user but later finding various gaps in understanding and scope definition. Such stoppages and getting back to review details puts back the IT plans by several weeks and are often difficult to make up. It is therefore crucial to put that extra effort to manage user expectations and to fix up the scope and coverage before kick-off.
- User involvement / ownership: Projects that start without a clear user involvement and those where the stake holder has not assumed full ownership are bound to falter. Many a time CIOs give this a pass and proceed as they try to complete their task as defined in their KRAs. In most such cases they get into trouble as they struggle with scope creep, and lack of user co-operation in defining specifications and subsequent testing. It is advisable to hold on to the project till the users get on board.
- Project management: This is an essential skill that the CIO has to possess and apply. Projects are always prone to delays and it is here that he has to apply his skills in undertaking regular reviews, use Gantt charts, and other project management techniques to intervene where necessary and on time. Delays have to be addressed immediately so that they don’t grow bigger needing escalation.
- Vendor management: Vendors are important constituents to the projects, whether they are hardware, software, network vendors or system integrators. Their knowledge and experience can easily be leveraged upon to fix problems at various stages of the project. It is important to build relationship with them and keep them engaged in the project. A good practice employed by many organizations is to have the vendor partner as a member of the Steering Committee. They can bring specific expertise at crucial junctures and get the project going.
A good handling of activities can see us achieve the objectives set at the beginning of the year. Even though all milestones may not have been crossed a good success rate draws appreciation of the organization since some of the projects get delayed because of various organization constraints. A plan capped with a sound execution signifies excellence.