05.08.2021

Formula for forward-looking IT projects

Pressure to change requires modern IT project and program management.

IT departments are under pressure to develop new solutions more quickly and more efficiently. Therefore companies often ask themselves: How can IT projects be bundled and set up better, and which skills are needed to achieve sustained project success? Key players in this regard are the IT project managers, who contribute not just technical but also methodological expertise. The right formula for defining and implementing IT projects and programs is divided into four steps.  

 

When it comes to crisis management, the relevance of IT departments is increasing. That was the response of three-quarters of those asked as part of the Future IT Report 2021 prepared by Campana & Schott. In 80 percent of companies, IT departments are already involved in the crisis strategies. Specific measures during the COVID-19 pandemic include enabling people to work from other locations (81), as well as ensuring business continuity and increasing resilience through the operation of redundant infrastructure (74). As a result, 60 percent of participants report higher investments in digital transformation projects in the years 2020 and 2021. This pressure to change means that current IT projects (which focus on various issues such as the Cloud Movement) are accumulating in the pipeline. While the requirements from the technical departments are known, it does raise the question of how these can be planned, bundled in projects and implemented, often simultaneously and with a shortage of resource. Therefore companies need modern project management and program management methods to remain competitive, as well as knowledgeable IT project managers with expertise in the various IT domains.  

Rapid management of challenges

One example is the conversion to “Remote Work”. Last year, many companies raced to start, promote and implement the digital workplace that is required for this purpose. However, adequate resources, capacities and skills cannot always be supplied as quickly. And beyond this example, many companies are currently facing additional pain points.

 

Cloud migration

Numerous organizations are pushing ahead with a Cloud-based IT infrastructure to achieve flexibility and scalability. Data protection and the replacement of legacy IT systems are important implementation items that must be managed by IT project managers. 

Introduction of Microsoft 365

The objective is to optimize collaboration with the extensive M365 app repertoire. In this context, the platform and the change project must be planned and implemented in an integrated manner. In addition, a defined IT support concept guarantees the harmonization of the applications into the existing IT infrastructure, the adjustment of IT processes and the enablement of support staff. 

Big Data

Digitization often results in immense volumes of data, which must be monitored, analyzed and protected. Therefore, IT organizations must ensure that the relevant data is protected during operations. Requirements and use cases can be collected and prepared in collaboration with the Business. It is the only way to successfully manage (IT) projects, with predictive maintenance serving as an example in this respect.

IT Governance

This central process supports the coordination between IT, Business and company targets pertaining to strategic and regulatory issues. It focuses on strengthening application portfolio management and architecture management. IT Governance must always be examined when implementing IT projects. This creates an effective and efficient framework for providing optimum IT support to the company's business processes.

IT Security and Compliance

The rapid digitization process has prompted many companies to look at the security of their IT systems. Because Business Continuity depends on guaranteed security and data protection. The development of a concept for Business Continuity & Risk Management by an experienced IT project manager is an important step in this regard. Frequently, the processes are not implemented and run through for an emergency in operations - particularly in the IT department.

 

This multitude of issues highlights the range and heterogeneity of the projects. Accordingly, it is easy to lose oversight and control over the various projects. Efficient project and program management is the best formula for pushing ahead with the projects in a bundled and targeted manner. 

Implementing complex projects simultaneously, but also successfully

A structured approach is essential in light of the challenges and the pressure to change. The IT project management funnel developed by Campana & Schott is well suited for this task. This iterative process makes it possible to react quickly while remaining competitive. 

Funnel
It is based on four steps:
Requirements Analysis

In a first step, the operating requirements from the departments and the IT organization are identified taking into account the strategic objectives. In this vein, it is very important to maintain a personal dialog with the main stakeholders to achieve high-quality results. Target group-appropriate interviews are one Best Practice in this regard. 

We repeatedly find the companies neglect both the Requirements Analysis as well as the next step Prioritization & Structuring. Many IT departments are in the operating “hands-on” or even “firefighting” mode, and they lose sight of the bigger picture. While examining these two steps during day-to-day operations may at first seem like a step back, it does pay off in the long run - it creates a clear and targeted focus at all levels, and relevant stakeholders are included in the process from the start.  

Prioritization & Structuring

Afterwards, the requirements are evaluated on the basis of various criteria. They include suitability for implementation, the budget, the value contribution to the objectives, the criticality of time, the measurable benefit and technical feasibility. Using a matrix, the criteria can be assessed, and strategically relevant requirements can be combined into initiatives with the inclusion of synergy effects. This results in a clearly structured and resource-friendly IT project portfolio. The project portfolio must be continuously monitored and updated as requirements tend to change very quickly.  

The (new) prioritization is an important factor for evaluating not just “what must be delivered” but also “when does it have to be finished”. With this approach, the IT department positions itself as a reliable and trustworthy partner to the Business, and it makes its performance and the delivery items expected by the Business transparent. This maximizes the value contribution and presents an important step towards Value IT, which plays an important role in increasing the results of the organization.  

Initiation & Implementation

Derived from the IT project portfolio, projects are set up professionally and quickly. Basics, such as the creation of a timeline or the implementation of kick-offs, must become a matter of course. Similarly, continuous operational support until the project is completed is also unavoidable. Other essential items include transparent communication and the preparation of reports, possibly required escalations, on-going monitoring of possible risks and costs vis-a-vis all interfaces. Moreover, all stakeholders must be informed of the status of the projects on a regular basis.  

A project manager with the relevant IT project experience is the key player in this step. He must have the methodological expertise for managing IT projects, and he must manage the project from initiation to completion – the methodological expertise. The successful methodological implementation of a project requires the following (in addition to planning and organization): the objectives and tasks must be clearly defined and demarcated for all participants during the entire project. Even more important is content management – the technical expertise. An important key feature that creates acceptance in the project team. Together with these two skills and an understanding of the business requirements, the project manager is in a position to make decisions, manage escalations at all levels and successfully manage the project. 

Or to put it more simply: the successful implementation of IT projects requires project managers who have these skills and who include both perspectives (IT and Business).   

Lessons Learned and Standardization

After the IT projects have been successfully implemented, insights and standards for future projects can be derived from the Lessons Learned, for example by using checklists. These Best Practice Use Cases from different IT areas facilitate the optimization of processes and smooth the way to a culture of change.  

The handling of various tasks and requirements leads to a situation where IT departments skip this action field. However, it is an important step in the context of continuous improvement, and not just at the process but also at the cultural level. External moderation may be useful for a target-oriented Lessons Learned process. With a view to the conflict-free and constructive sessions, it facilitates tracking, and new standards can be derived and recommended. However, this requires more than just deriving the standards; Lessons Learned must also be developed and implemented. Employees must be given the appropriate amount of time.  

This comprehensive approach makes it possible to cover and successfully implement the entire IT project portfolio from IT Service Management all the way to Carve-Out projects. It means that the IT project manager is the knowledge carrier across these various IT areas and therefore assumes the role of a strategic and operating partner - such as at our customer Siemens.  

Maximum value contribution with IT project and program management

When selecting tools while also implementing complex projects and expanding the skill set for IT project management, companies should consider the following: 

  • At present, very few to no projects are implemented without the involvement of the IT department, therefore well-educated IT project managers are central figures and the key to success. 
  • Only centrally managed projects lead to the effective use of resources. 
  • The iterative structuring and prioritization of IT projects make cost savings potentials visible, and the value contribution in the IT organization can be maximized. 
  • Standardization and Learnings from flagship projects promote modern IT project management across the company. The implementation of Lessons Learned contributes to standardization and continuous improvement.  
  • Using modern and value-driven IT project and program management, companies differentiate themselves from the competition. 

Conclusion

IT departments want to implement their projects as quickly and with as few complications as possible. But simply starting the process is no longer feasible in view of today's multitude and complexity of projects. Efficient and prioritizing planning is required so that limited resources are used in a manner that is both efficient and that creates value. Here, the successful formula consisting of four steps can be used: Definition of strategic objectives, uniform planning of projects in the portfolio, prioritization of the operating portfolio, consistent implementation and iterative re-prioritization of the projects. Consistent implementation and adherence to the approach manifests the IT department as a reliable and transparent partner. An IT project and program manager with both skills – technical and methodological skills – is essential for the successful implementation of IT projects.  

Authors

Kira Marquardt

Kira Marquardt

Senior Consultant

Daniela Kolb

Daniela Kolb

Consultant

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