Michael Hanford

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Michael Hanford
Research Director
3 years at Gartner
33 years IT industry

Michael Hanford is a research director and analyst with Gartner's Program and Portfolio Management service. Mr. Hanford's research spans both the private and public sector, including implementation and capabilities evolution for portfolio management, large-scale program management… Read Full Bio

Gartner’s PPM and IT Governance Summit – A Sign of the Times

by Michael Hanford  |  September 29, 2009  |  1 Comment

Two weeks ago, Gartner launched its new PPM and IT Governance Summit event, in Orlando Florida.

How did this event fare, in a bad economic climate?  It was extraordinarily well attended, with some 450 folks interested in the PPM and IT Governance spaces.  From a demographics point of view, some 40% (give or take) of those who attended actually had a PPM or IT Governance term (portfolio, PMO, governance) in their job title.

Preliminary reviews of the event indicated that those who attended ranked it in the highest possible ranking category for such things as relevance, value, and usability of its contents, etc.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I was the chair for the event.  So, this could sound like giving myself kudos.  It’s not!

Rather, this information provides a backdrop for addressing the question of what do all of these things say about the times in which the event was held?  For me, it says that 2009, and likely 2010, is a time in which executives in many organizations, both public and private; are actually ready to listen to the various messages from inside these two important domains.

These include: the need for timely and effective decisions, really getting on-target in objectively selecting what initiatives to do; and –just as importantly – which ones not to do.  Also included are changing some activities to value-producing from value consuming for IT, and, the urgent need for accurate insight into the progress and spending of initiatives.  Finally, there is a perception, that our past abilities and capabilities to govern IT and IT initiatives have not been terribly effective; and that this has added a drag component, over time, to the potential for organizational success.

When money was plentiful in many organizations, a long time ago – say 3 years in the past – only a few canny executives paid attention to these messages.  For many, everything was going along just swimmingly; and, if some money (or resources) got wasted, and/or poured down a rat-hole; heck, that was the cost of doing business.  It reminds me of the excuse a very large financial services company used about 10 years ago, for why they had no IT processes, lousy project management, and virtually no data about their initiatives:  “That’s all bureaucracy; we’re an action-oriented organization!”

I recently addressed a group of PMO managers on this subject.  And, I urged them to be very visible, and pro-active.  “Now”, I said, “is the time”.  I was asked why that is.  “Well”, I said, “I hate to say it, but lots of these formerly contented executives are healthily frightened”.  In terms of a foundation for improving your organizations, I went on, “you might want something other than fear, but ….take what you can get …. when it comes to driving change for the better with PPM and IT Governance”.

The message provided by this years’ successful PPM & IT Governance Summit is the same, for those of you who did not attend.  The readiness to accept change, which is driven by solid PPM and IT Governance policies, practices, and – above all – truly effective action has never been better.  So, don’t just sit there…do something about it!

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Initiative Value: A Constant? A Variable?

by Michael Hanford  |  September 24, 2009  |  Comments Off

Many times, in speaking with clients, about the subject of project portfolio management, the discussion turns to the idea of the “value” inherent in one initiative; and, as compared to other initiatives within the portfolio.

There is no (or at least very little) disagreement, that a consideration for the approval of new initiatives, and for ranking or prioritizing them against existing initiatives is their relative value.

However, for most folks value is seen as a one-time discussion, associated with review and approval of new initiatives

If you are in this majority, let me pose a question to you.  For initiatives, is value a constant or a variable?  And, to add one more question, how persistent is the value quantification?

Let’s take a project example.  We have a project, for a major customer, to add a feature to a software application which they use.  It is important.  Why?  Because, we might lose them as a customer (and this is a noticeable part of total revenue) if we don’t quickly provide the feature.  And, our competition would just love for that to happen!

About one-third of the way through the project, one of the project team members waves an article at us which says that our client has just been acquired!  And, the company which acquired them is a big customer of that same competition.

How important is the project, now, whose new features may no longer be wanted by our major customer?  And, will they be required to use the software applications of the acquiring company?  We need to find out!  And, to return to my question:  “Is value a constant or a variable?”  Time’s Up!  The answer is…. it depends; but, for the most part it is a variable.

Value can change over the life of an initiative (and most likely will).  Events, both internal, and external can cause it to change.  What this means for us, is, that the initially quantified value proposition, associated with a project or initiative, must be subject to periodic monitoring, and re-calculation using fresh input data.  The corollary to this rule, is, that the continuation of an initiative, as an organizational investment, is dependent upon re-visiting the value proposition on a regular basis.

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Pipeline Contents – Communicating with Executives

by Michael Hanford  |  September 8, 2009  |  Comments Off

A fairly common discussion item with Gartner clients is how to reduce the contents of the pipeline of projects to a simple form in order to present it to an executive review group.

The advice that I give most often, is to present this collection of proposed items in some form of comparison.

Fundamentally, we propose and initiate new projects or other types of initiatives for purposes of adding value to our enterprise, and for achieving goals we have set ourselves. Certainly, then, the degree to which a proposed new initiative carries out the items named above must be one part of a comparison, right?

Value has a certain imprecision to it, doesn’t it? What is value? How much value do we get, and, in what form? It feels that we should be also adding this idea of value to our comparison, if we can figure out how to do it.

If we have set goals, we should know if a proposed project or initiative will directly have an impact upon success for that goal. Anyone disagree? It would be nice if proposed projects and goals simply matched up on a 1-for-1 basis. Mostly, however, that is not the case. We need to understand not only that a project or initiative supports a goal, but also which one(s), and how or how much.

OK, we now have some elements which can be inserted into a comparison. On the one hand, we have a project, and on the other hand we have some elements used in a comparison. Things seem to be shaping nicely.

Now we take up the “How” question. I suggest that a very effective mechanism, to carry out a comparison is the score card. If, you suddenly feel all at sea, let me suggest that you type the term “score card” into your web browser, and see what you get. A score card is a metrics device, for which you define measures that fit your needs, provide a scoring range (for example 5 is excellent, and 1 is not very good), and for each item in a comparison, you “score” it for each of the defined metrics. Adding up all of the individual metrics scores provides a total for each item scored, which, can be used to compare all items; and to rank order them. The measures are derived from the elements that we discussed, above. Providing that you are honest in the scoring process, this device provides a – relatively – objective ranking device for the contents of a pipeline of projects.
A score card is a powerful executive communication device. It is compact to present, and readily understandable (high scores at the top, low scores at the bottom). Use a scorecard as input (not the result) to executive review and decision-making about potential new projects and initiatives. This provides executives a baseline to which they can add special knowledge they may have about the business strategy, pending marketplace products and actions, and the future direction of the business.

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Adopting Project Portfolio Management – the 3 “Cs”

by Michael Hanford  |  August 27, 2009  |  1 Comment

OK, so you want to get started (or have been told to get started) with project portfolio management.

The adoption of portfolio management is an organizational change effort. Such efforts require, typically, a lengthy period of time to succeed; and to judge the impact and effectiveness of the change. They also, typically, require the commitment of the executive level. The “form” of this commitment goes beyond a simple “yes, do it!” Rather, the commitment requires resources, funding, and oversight.

Good advice? The “3 Cs” for portfolio management adoption. They are simple, and easy to remember

The first “C” is for “Capabilities”. Portfolio management success is built upon a number of organizational capabilities; with an assumption that they are present, and fairly mature. You need to understand the state and maturity of your own organization’s capabilities, which contribute to the foundation required for portfolio management as a discipline.

The second “C” is for “Consensus”. Take the time to explain, communicate, influence, and nag – as needed. If… you cannot gain a sizable group who agree that there is value to the organization in the adoption of portfolio management – put the idea aside (for now!)

Finally, the third “C” is for “Consulting”. Ah, I can see some of you cringing! In this instance I am using this term within the context of: advice, past success and success “assets”; and, expertise. An organization or individual with a past track record of aiding organizations to successfully adopt portfolio management can reduce your risk, locate (and help you to side-step) potential pitfalls, and provide a “tailored” path which “fits” your needs and organizational culture.

The “3 Cs” are NOT all that you need to know about portfolio management adoption. However, they can offer a sound beginning to building your own vision and approach to take up this important discipline.

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Where Do I Start With IT “Governance”?

by Michael Hanford  |  August 4, 2009  |  1 Comment

A popular question lately is one framed along the lines of: “What are the best practices / a model / the ultimate answer, for me to employ to improve my organization’s IT governance”.

Let me say that if I had the “ultimate answer” to better governance in organizations, I would patent it at once; and then retire to Monaco, to enjoy my royalties – tax free! (sigh!)

There are, however, two pieces of advice which are useful, and almost always – when carried out with some intellectual honesty – provide insight and indicate a direction to take. And, it seems that both of these, for some reason, elude many folks.

First, ask yourself the question(s) “What is it that I want fixed, and, think can be fixed by improvements or implementation of this IT governance thing?” It should be possible to document this in a brief, bulleted list, or a paragraph of a few sentences. If you – and your colleagues – cannot complete this exercise in, let’s say, 10 minutes; and, agree easily that this is what you want fixed; consider that you either don’t know what’s broken or at issue, or it is not terribly serious to get it fixed.

OK, you’ve got your list or paragraph! Next, seek out someone who is an “expert” in organizational and/or IT governance, and/or assessment and/or maturity; and, who is outside your organization. Give them your list or paragraph, and ask them if your expectation that this is / can be fixed by implementation or changes in some aspects of IT governance is correct, or not. Don’t ask them for the answer, just to check the expectation.

Second, (and if your first question was answered “yes” ) ask yourself if you / your colleagues understand your current “state” with regard to IT governance – in the area addressed by your bulleted list or paragraph. Do you understand, or are there, specific governance policies, a documented governance structure, clear lines of authority for decisions, agreed / documented practices, and common understanding by leaders and staff for all of the preceding. Here, again, the help of an expert would be useful – and save both time and effort in collection and evaluation. Now, you not only know your current “state” (and departure point), but, have a baseline for change and / or improvement. You can’t tell what’s better, if you don’t know where you’ve started!

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Program Management – What Do The Stakeholders Want?

by Michael Hanford  |  July 30, 2009  |  Comments Off

A term that is much used in a variety of methods for program and project management is that of “stakeholder”. The authors of these methods exhort us to “identify stakeholders”, or to create “stakeholder lists”.

I find it interesting that, with a few exceptions, the methods authors (I used to be one) never ask the reader to obtain the answer to a deceptively simple and very basic question: “Who are you; and, what do you want?”

Let’s address the question in its parts. In the first part, “who are you” means more than asking for the correct spelling of the name of a stakeholder. It is more addressed to the role the stakeholder fills with respect to a specific program or project.

For example, if the stakeholder is a member of executive management; is that knowledge sufficient? All executives are not created equal. Some are more equal! (or at least have greater impact than others on goals and success). The senior executive for a business segment, for example, is typically the “owner” of one or more major business goals. These goals are associated with needed initiatives and their results. From the perspective of a specific program, a business segment executive may well be the decision maker when it is necessary to interpret the needed outcomes or results for a program.

Understanding the role of those on the “stakeholder list” is key to understanding how and when to engage them in the activities of a program, or project.

In the second part, “what do you want” has a great deal to do with the evolution and interpretation of what is to-be-delivered by programs and projects; and what success IS. Each stakeholder views these components through a different lens, and will see a different picture.

Probing the views of success on the part of each stakeholder, and understanding that this success comes in types and flavors is a necessary part of providing an acceptable delivery or set of outcomes and results.

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Initiative Value: A Constant? A Variable?

by Michael Hanford  |  July 22, 2009  |  Comments Off

I’ve had a number of recent discussions about the idea of the “value” inherent in one initiative; and, as compared to other initiatives within a project portfolio.

For most of the folks with whom I discuss this topic, value is seen as a one-time discussion, associated with review and approval of new initiatives. “After all”, I’ve heard an argument, “once we’ve approved the business case (which typically provides the value definition and quantification), we can then move on to getting the “real” work done”.

So, is value a constant or a variable? And, to add one more question, how persistent is the value quantification?

Let’s take a project example. We have a project, for a major customer, to add a feature to a software application which they use. It is important. Why? Because, we might lose them as a customer (and this is a noticeable part of total revenue) if we don’t quickly provide the feature. And, our competition would just love for that to happen!

About one-third of the way through the project, one of the project team members waves an article at us which says that our client has just been acquired! And, the company which acquired them is a big customer of that same competition.

How important is the project, now, whose new features may no longer be wanted by our major customer? And, will they be required to use the software applications of the acquiring company? We need to find out! And, to return to the original question: “Is value a constant or a variable?” Time’s Up! The answer is…. it depends; but, for the most part it is a variable.

Value can change over the life of an initiative (and most likely will). Events, both internal, and external can cause it to change. What this means for us, is, that the initially quantified value proposition, associated with a project or initiative, must be subject to periodic monitoring, and re-calculation using fresh input data. The corollary to this rule, is, that the continuation of an initiative, as an organizational investment, is dependent upon re-visiting the value proposition on a regular basis.

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Portfolio Mgmt – When Agendas Compete

by Michael Hanford  |  July 17, 2009  |  Comments Off

“How”, I was recently asked, “Can I include and resolve the needs of different business groups, some of which are almost direct opposites; and still manage our portfolio at the enterprise level?”Those who manage the enterprise portfolio often get to feel like a rope in a multi-way game of tug-of-war — both stretched and a bit worn.Effective enterprise portfolio management requires a framework, and direction which is consistent and well-integrated across all organizational segments, clear, specific, and remains in-place for some lengthy duration. Where this is not possible, then the organization will be unsuccessful at implementing portfolio management at the enterprise level.If… this situation cannot be resolved, a better strategy may be, to implement portfolio management within each business unit, as separate portfolios and processes. In this case, the available capital and expenses, which are spent upon projects and initiatives managed within portfolios, is apportioned to each of the business units. Also apportioned among these business units is the support and enablement for goals within the enterprise business strategy. The contribution of each business unit to specific business goals or strategy elements is spelled out in detail, and, evaluated in a later review process. Solid contributions are rewarded with increased capital and expenses allocations; while poor contributions are penalized with reduced allocations.

While this is not an ideal solution, it is certainly better than no solution, and no exercise of portfolio management.

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Adopting Portfolio Management – the 3 “Cs”

by Michael Hanford  |  July 16, 2009  |  1 Comment

A question that we in Gartner’s PPM practice get asked a great deal, about the discipline of portfolio management, goes something like: “I want to get started with portfolio management. Are there just a few, key, points which I can use to focus my approach?” The short answer is: “…yes, with a few qualifiers”. So, here are the “three C’s” for getting started.

The first “C” is for “Capabilities”. Portfolio management success is built upon a number of organizational capabilities; with an assumption that they are present, and fairly mature. You need to understand the state and maturity of your own organization’s capabilities, which contribute to the foundation required for portfolio management as a discipline.

The second “C” is for “Consensus”. The adoption of portfolio management is an organizational change effort. The corollary to this is: the organization must see the value, and agree, collectively, to pursue the adoption of this new discipline. Take the time to explain, communicate, influence, and nag – as needed. If… you cannot gain a sizable group who agree that there is value to the organization in the adoption of portfolio management – put the idea aside (for now!)

Finally, the third “C” is for “Consulting”. Ah, I can see some of you cringing! In this instance I am using this term within the context of: advice, past success and success “assets”; and, expertise. An organization or individual with a past track record of aiding organizations to successfully adopt portfolio management can reduce your risk, locate (and help you to side-step) potential pitfalls, and provide a “tailored” path which “fits” your needs and organizational culture.

The “3 Cs” are NOT all that you need to know about portfolio management adoption. However, they can offer a sound beginning to building your own vision and approach to take up this important discipline.

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