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March Madness means that half the year has passed.

by Mark P. McDonald  |  March 18, 2010  |  2 Comments

The NCAA Division 1 basketball tournament is called March madness as 64 teams play in a tournament to crown a national champion.  Outside of the U.S. this may not mean as much, but the tournament is a big annual event and the subject of much debate and discussion.

It should be, because for all practical purposes the end of March means marks not only the end of the first calendar quarter of 2010 – it also marks the halfway point for completing IT projects.

Now you can say, wait a minute Mark; your calendar must be way off.  The first quarter means that we have three quarters left in the year – plenty of time to execute our strategy, complete our investment projects and generate benefits for our enterprise.

Yes and NO.  Yes the calendar days are there, but NO in terms of the remaining days being fully available and productive.

Here is why.

1)   In order to get any reasonable business benefits from 2010 investments they need to be in production for at least 90 days – hence they need to be deployed by the August-September timeframe.  Today is not the end of march its already logically the end of June and any project with a longer than 90 day development cycle will not make it into production to have a significant impact on 2010 results.

2)   Everyone will lose productive days given summer vacation season, the spring religious holidays, and summer holidays.  Specifically in the US the whole if March to the first week in April as researchers estimate that March Madness creates a productivity loss in the first week alone at $1.8 billion dollars.

3)   There are the normal delays in starting projects, assembling business support, user involvement in the like.  If normally takes you a month to get all the approvals and staff in line to start something – then guess what its already the end of April – May for you.

4)   There are also the normal sick days, office discussions, reorganizations, strategic reviews, rebudgeting, reforecasting and the like that take away productive time.

So what do you do about it.

First, focus, the time to kill projects that have not started and are not expected to create benefits this year is now.  Most CIOs estimate that this is 15 -20% of their initiatives.  It is 100 percent of initiatives with project durations longer than 6 months.  Face the facts now and free up resources to do the most important things faster.

Second, recognize that the calendar is shrinking not expanding for you, the business investment cycle and benefits realization potential for this fiscal year.  Create a sense of urgency around your people so you have something to deliver in this year.

Third know that the business is looking for tangible benefits more than ever.  Concentrate on how your team is raising IT and enterprise productivity.  Put those changes in sooner – so you have time to learn and generate experience – rather than latter where you have to explain why you did less for me this year.  This means changes that do not require big IT systems changes such as business process changes and accelerating the adoption of existing best practices.

Finally, relax and gain a calm resolve to create value now.  The shrinking calendar is not a reason to panic unless you ignore it and find yourself scrambling to make up for lost time.  As of today there is no lost time, but it will start to go missing fast.

So let the basketball begin for fans of the NC2A, for everyone enjoy the coming spring, and use it as a time for focus.

Best wishes for continued success in 2010.


Tags: business-management  cio-leadership  economic-recovery  finance  

Mark P. McDonald
8 years at Gartner
24 years IT industry

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a former group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs. He is the co-author of The Social Organization with Anthony Bradley. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on March Madness means that half the year has passed.

  1. Roger Bottum says:


    The idea of a call to action for having impact in 2010 from projects in 2010, while consistent with your earlier themes, is radical in a longer term context. Ties back to the nature of projects being pursued, eg your lightweight/heavyweight posting.

    With SaaS/cloud model, large companies are making vendor selections WITHIN a quarter, expect to start immediately, and expect completion (and benefit stream to start) within 30 to 60 days. The whole cycle is being compressed, which greatly impacts processes and skills.

    Aside from the implementation component, the selection and procurement process is being adapted to the new reality. As part of this, the line of business management seem to be much more actively involved throughout, which I’ve heard from Gartner analysts is also reflective in with whom they are having calls.

    As one data point on the new thinking, Joe Graves, the CIO at Stratus, told the Gartner PCC audience last week that he has a policy that no project can run longer than 4 months.

    Big, big difference from even 3 years ago.


    PS full disclosure to others, I’m with a cloud ECM vendor

  2. […] U.S. this may not mean as much, but the tournament is a big annual event and the subject of …Click Here Cancel […]

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