How to Launch a Successful Project Portfolio Management (or Any Technology) Initiative

Article written by Joe DelRossi, Global Value Selling Program Director, Oracle, and appears the Oracle Construction and Engineering blog.

Organizations face increasing pressure to shrink technology budgets and get more out of smaller investments. Technology initiatives are now just another initiative to be evaluated like every other, whether a new building, product or service offering; employee development; or any other core investment.

To navigate through this new landscape for getting technology initiatives launched, it is important to associate your effort with your organization’s objectives. Ideally, you target objectives that will be more readily achieved by executing your initiative. And these objectives, when accomplished, will deliver some combination of increased revenue, optimized capital, reduced costs, and mitigated risks. These objectives transcend every organization size as well as industry, including not-for-profit and government organizations.

Another set of objectives center around staff productivity and culture. These objectives are important - even necessary - and should be considered in every technology initiative. However, they cannot be the sole focus, because staff productivity is a continual quest irrespective of technology.

When a technology initiative can enable revenue, capital, cost, and/or risk improvements, you will find that executives will be eager to sponsor the initiative. Remember that organizational objectives are set by executives. They spend their time creating them, monitoring them, and worrying about their success. As such, funding for these initiatives will rise to the top of the priority list. Such initiatives also receive top implementation talent, both due to prioritization and because staff and contractors recognize their importance. Careers are defined by these kinds of initiatives. Finally, when employees involved in the initiative understand its impact, they are much more likely to accept change.

The Methodology

The next step is to package up your initiative definition for executive approval. In most organizations, investments in technology are decided by a committee. These committees meet periodically to hear pitches from initiative teams that they either approve, table for more details (a re-try), or reject. Most often these investment committees will react positively to a complete explanation of the initiative.

The key is the content of this explanation, i.e., the story. This story should contain four chapters, as detailed in this chart:

When an initiative is presented via this framework - in its entirety - it is much more likely to be approved. In the pursuit of gathering this documentation, most often initiative planning teams understand their capabilities and dream of a better tomorrow. However, this focus limits the investment committee to understanding capabilities that have no context – a showstopper.

The next most common area of focus in initiative planning is the creation of a business case because planning teams are told they need one. The benefits of a business case that are not mapped to organizational objectives gain interest from the investment committee but are not prioritized. So, spend time mapping your initiative to organizational objectives to align with executive priorities.

Last, but often least: When you communicate a compelling objectives-capabilities-benefits story to the investment committee, an executive will ask, “How fast can we get this?” You’d better have an answer. Otherwise, your meeting will end with at best limited funding and worst a dismissal with, “come back when you have the answer.” And good luck getting back on the meeting schedule. Develop an implementation roadmap that delivers quick, quantifiable wins so that you are ready for the question and able to gain approval for your initiative.

When crafting a Project Portfolio Management or other technology initiative for your organization, spend the time to assemble a complete definition of your initiative. By doing this work, you are much more likely to gain executive sponsorship, adequate funding, appropriate resources and user acceptance. This will lead to the highest probability of initiative success and long-term impact on your organization.

This framework has been developed primarily based on The Open Group, TOGAF, v9.1 set of standards for Business Architecture. And it has been utilized by over 100 organizations across the globe as part of Oracle’s Construction & Engineering Value Program.

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