Managing multiple projects: two fundamental questions CIOs need to ask themselves

The business world is going through an age of digitalisation. Across every industry, IT is becoming ever-more integral to competitive advantage and organisational success. Companies are introducing an increasing number of online services, across a variety of different platforms, which means CIOs and their teams are having to manage more projects than ever before.

In this context, CIOs need a strong hold to ensure everyone across the organisation is singing from the same hymn sheet so IT project outcomes are aligned to business strategy.

With multiple projects running at the same time, the CIO needs to have a robust process in place to identify potential problems that may occur within projects and portfolios, and to manage budgets and resources effectively.

As CIOs battle to maintain stewardship over the raft of digital transformation projects within their organisations they need real-time visibility into the entire IT project portfolio in order to deliver against organisational goals, reduce costs, and better manage resources.

Am I sure IT execution is aligned with business strategy?

Ensuring that IT execution aligns with the over-arching organisational goals is key to delivering successful IT transformation, but it requires strong leadership to ensure all members of the business are playing the same tune.

With the rise of cloud, Line of Business has become increasingly active in the procurement of IT services, leading to something of a wild-west ethos within organisations.

While individual team members focus firmly on the project or function they’re working on, it’s the CIO’s job to provide top-level steering. Sometimes people driving progress in a particular project can lose sense of wider business perspective, or different departments within the same business could be keen to procure IT services without considering other areas of the business, something the CIO has to guard against. As a result, IT projects are springing up across businesses, sometimes out of the purview of the CIO.

With activity split into individual projects, it is perhaps inevitable that not all of them will head in the same strategic direction. This is a problem because it is critical that the CIO ensures activity always supports overall business strategy. For example, if an organisation has a mobile-first approach, the internal IT system must enable it to do everything on mobile.

This is why CIOs need to have a central view of all IT project activity, and a process by which all members of the business (from marketing through to IT) can log what projects are happening and their core purpose. By having this visibility, CIOs can identify when projects may be veering off in the wrong direction.

Are my projects running to schedule and budget?

Whether it’s updating a website or re-routing an internal network, delays can prove extremely costly to a CIO, in terms of business continuity/progression, resource allocation and reputation within senior management circles.

Added to this, if projects don’t stick to the budget agreed at the outset, spending could outstrip the funds available, meaning the IT department might not be able to provide the services required.

Not only this, but CIOs need to ensure that resources are deployed efficiently so the right people are on the right task, at the right time. Failure to do this can result in spiralling costs and it’s simply not acceptable to present a higher than anticipated bill once the work has been completed: CIOs must identify budgetary problems and take evasive action before work reaches its conclusion.

It is easy to fall into the trap of dedicating more time to projects and people who shout the loudest, but these could well distract from more important issues, when the CIO should be identifying a potential delay in another project.

> See also: The 4 new roles of the CIO

Certain projects could well be running ahead of schedule, which means resources could be redeployed from there. While a good project manager will sound a warning that spending is outstripping budget, CIOs can’t always rely on this.

This is why CIOs must take the initiative and put themselves in a position to monitor overall spend as work progresses so they can take action as soon as things start heading off course.

They must be able to compare the progress of different projects in real-time and ensure that teams proactively provide updates as they work. Traditional paper-based updates or regular meetings might only take place once a week, meaning the information at hand could well be out of date when the CIO asks for it. Or worse, it could detail a problem that requires urgent attention, but is not flagged until a report is read several days later.

By giving the teams on the ground a centralised tool to feed status updates into, CIOs can take action when something begins to slip behind schedule, so the ground can be made up before the gap widens. 

As a result, decisions about team management and allocation of resources can be made on recent data, making the CIO a more informed decision-maker than ever before.

Taking an elevated view

With the number of IT projects increasing across all sectors, CIOs face an increasing battle to maintain visibility of everything. Only then can they keep abreast of exactly what’s going on, regardless of who happens to be in the office, or when they’re next due an update on progress.

> See also: How to design the right blueprint for your IT project

After all, board meetings are not timed around these kinds of details. They need a tool that makes it easy for teams on the ground to give a rolling update on progress and costs, how processes are being followed and activities of team members.

Using a central dashboard means in the short-term, a CIO can see when problems are arising and adjust the ship’s course. In time, recurring problems will be easier for the CIO to identify and clear barriers from the path of future activities. By using business intelligence to support IT project portfolio management.

CIOs can ensure they align IT execution with business strategy, avoid costly delays, and manage resources more efficiently.

Sourced from Jean-Pierre Ullmo, VP EMEA Sales, Changepoint

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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