Deciding Factors

Von Alice Dragoon

2 Require Formal Project Requests

The annals of IT history are filled with horror stories of business folks lobbing requests for IT projects over the wall, then grousing when the results don't meet their needs. Today, requiring formal written project requests is a staple of resourceful governance. The act of committing IT requests to paper is the first step toward ensuring that an IT organization is putting its budget and staff to work on the highest-priority projects.

Project request templates can be relatively informal or highly detailed. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) encourages business executives to complete a business case template, which asks for specific metrics such as a 2 percent increase in donations or a 24-hour decrease in payroll processing time. Those who don't fill out a template are much less likely to get a project approved, says Vice President of IT and CIO Gregory S. Smith. "It's really designed to get the business to start thinking about how this project or enhancement will add value to WWF, not just 'This is what I want to do," he says. "They find out very quickly if they can't define any project benefits." The template helps WWF weed out less important projects and focus on those that will deliver the most value.

The number of project requests at AARP has dropped dramatically since it deployed an online portfolio management tool. "They line up support and develop their idea before making [a request]," says Sullivan.

3 Reuse Whenever Possible

The opportunity to reuse software and hardware--the CIO's equivalent of getting a box of hand-me-downs--is resourcefulness defined. A well-governed IT shop will make consideration of reuse a part of its standard operating procedure. Northeastern University has formalized its reuse philosophy into an official methodology it calls the Assemble Approach. The university first leverages existing resources, then buys the best application needed, then builds what can't be bought. Following the Assemble Approach, Northeastern VP of IS Robert Weir's team leveraged existing resources--legacy systems including the financial aid, admission and registration applications--to develop a student Web portal in just 90 days. MyNEU features a single sign-on ability and lets students access e-mail and class calendars, register, drop and add classes, and use student-developed applications.

4 Mandate Speed With Short Deadlines

Time is money, so a company that completes IT projects faster is doing a better job of managing its resources. One of the most effective ways to build speed into the culture--and ensure that benefits are still relevant when they are realized--is to mandate delivery of value on short deadlines.

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