IT departments have new focus on project management

IT departments' interest in project and portfolio management (PPM) technologies is growing, as budgets tighten and business demands grow.

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IT departments' interest in project and portfolio management (PPM) technologies is growing, as budgets tighten and business demands grow.

That is the latest message from analyst groups Forrester Research and AMR.

Forrester Research shows project-related investments consume about 18 percent of overall IT spending, while AMR Research reports more of its clients are enquiring about PPM and how it can help them avoid costs and improve project success rates.

For instance, while 15 percent of some 230 AMR clients asked about PPM directly, another 14 percent requested more information on ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) and other best practice framework – which analysts say directly relates to PPM.

Forrester Research, in a report, "Project portfolio management tools, Q4 2007," said PPM is a "continuous process feedback loop by which IT management absorbs and prioritises technology-related demand; plans and allocates financial and human resources to the investment initiatives; manages governance-orientated collaboration with the business stakeholders; delivers the expected results from the investment; and provides reporting to stakeholders for decision-making and the communication of investment status."

Dennis Gaughan, research director at AMR Research, asid PPM technologies accept feeds of data from many sources – including IT service management tools, business process management software and business analytics or intelligence tools – to assess the projects' priority, rather than relying on old methods of "first in, first out".

The software helps automate the tracking of various stages in the project life cycle to ensure it stays on track. Vendors like HP, CA, IBM, Innotas, LiquidPlanner, Planview and Primavera offer products to help augment IT's PPM efforts, but analysts recommend IT and the business work to establish a strong discipline around project management before investing in a tool.

"PPM is not an IT-only thing. It requires business and IT alignment," Gaughan, said last week at an HP press event focused on PPM. "Organisations need to get the best practices in place to properly manage projects and investments throughout their life cycle, and then some choose to add a commercial tool to automate parts of the processes."

Gaughan recommends IT groups start working with the business to identify and prioritise key strategies and initiatives. Finance groups would also need to be involved in PPM efforts to "calculate the business case, risk and return," he said. And the adoption of PPM as a discipline could also spawn the creation of new hybrid roles within IT and the business, such as business relationship manager.

"PPM is a tool IT uses to serve the business better," Gaughan concluded. "Savings and cost avoidance are the most often cited initial justification for PPM software."

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