The Whole Portfolio

In an earlier post, I wrote about Portfolio Management in IT being the hardest job for the CIO. I wanted to spend some more time on point 5 about the need to prioritize across the whole portfolio.

I really appreciated Peter’s comments and the links he provided and I would encourage anyone to go back and look at those posts. Lots of good ideas, challenges, and issues highlighted in his comprehensive post. I wanted to focus on a few key points when I think of balancing the whole portfolio or prioritizing the work

  1. It can’t really be done with an algorithm. An algorithm with weighting schemes and grading methods and ROI rules won’t solve the problem for you. It would be nice if Gartner Group or someone else could give us that algorithm, but it just doesn’t exist. At some point, all the attributes of your project/proposal (and all the other projects) need to be discussed and considered as a whole to determine what really needs to be done to move the company ahead. It comes down to conversation, engagement with the business and experience in identifying the work to do now.
  2. Experience is huge in this as an experienced team that has gone through business cycles, has kept informed about best practices in the market, and who is constantly learning can usually make the right decisions. This is part of the reason it is so important to retain your key talent because you lose that experience when they leave.
  3. The method used to prioritize or re-prioritize the work in IT might change over time. As the leadership team evolves, as experience is gained, as business changes, an approach that worked one time might not work two years later. In my experience, I’ve seen us go through several different methods, each of which was probably about right for that time.
  4. Don’t look for the one perfect answer that worked somewhere else. Instead, as mentioned in my earlier post and in other places like Peter’s great articles, start with a method and go from there. Adapt, learn, get faster. Don’t be proud, use all the good ideas you can find and adapt along the way.
  5. Conversations are probably the key. IT leaders need to be part of the leadership team, engaged in their strategy sessions and part of the conversation throughout the Enterprise. If those conversations are taking place, then the prioritization becomes much easier.

Finally, I think that over-communicating what IT is thinking to the rest of the business should be the rule. If you are the CIO; write a blog, publish a newsletter, send out emails to the team, speak when invited, engage everywhere. Talk about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Try to be very transparent with your thinking, plans and results. I’ll write further on communications later.

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