The economic recession required CIOs to concentrate their resources and address the most pressing issues in their enterprises. This often involved following a recipe for IT cost reduction that went something like this:
- Postpone investment projects, with the exception of the few major/multi-year projects which were ‘too big or too long’ to stop.
- Renegotiate contracts with service partners and suppliers to reduce your committed spend.
- Freeze IT salaries or hiring or both in order to preserve the organizations talent and skills.
This harsh recipe has been effective in managing through 2009 and into early 2010. It has enabled IT organizations to survive. It has also caused some aspects of IT to wither, particularly the organization’s small project muscle.
Concentrating IT investments into a few large projects was a necessary response to the economy. However in doing so organizations have stopped doing the small to intermediate sized projects that while important, were not deemed essential to the enterprise. This is a significant issue that will come back and hurt CIOs and IT. Particularly when IT’s response is to bundle smaller projects into larger ‘releases’ in order to manage them more effectively. Such a move is an indication that IT is only thinking in terms of large projects and that it has lost its small project muscle.
Postponing or dismissing small to medium sized projects builds a backlog of business demand for IT changes. This demand can be seen as a nuisance to both sides, but it is one that creates dissatisfaction, delays benefits realization.
Handling those projects by aggregating them into a release reinforces that IT is non-responsive, administrative and bureaucratic. Remember from a business perspective lumping me in with others tells me the following:
- My needs are not important, because they are thrown in with
- IT cannot do anything other than large, expensive, long running projects, otherwise they would not try to force fit everything into a big project model.
- IT is bureaucratic, because I have to wait for them to act and schedule when I get the capability that I need to run the business. Who is in charge here?
- IT is administrative as the documentation, process and controls of a large project are overkill when all I want to do is restructure a management report
CIOs need to recognize that they deliver a portfolio of project types and that requires their organization to be able to handle them. One approach is to the Job Jar to dedicate resources to handling this type of project demand. Other approaches include reorganizing IT along functional rather than technical lines. Recognizing small project demand in governance processes, adopt agile development techniques and approaches; increase the level of reuse, etc.
In any case, IT has lost its small project muscle as small projects were postponed in tough economic times. Its time to get that muscle back in order to deal with the backlog of demand as business needs new capabilities to seize opportunity in a recovering economy.
Its springtime, the winter has passed and like many its time to get outside and start to exercise. If you are like me, your feel it at the beginning and muscles get used to running, cycling, etc particularly when they have not been used in some time. It will take a while to get those muscles back, just like it will take a while for your IT organization to get its small project muscle back.
Stretch before exercising and if you have not been out in a while, seek a doctor’s advice. Best wishes for the spring and success for the rest of 2010.