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IT Project Portfolio: Positioning Projects 1

July 11, 2008

STAGE 1 – POSITIONING

This is the first formal stage in the opportunity management process. The goal of the Positioning stage is to clearly articulate the vision of the opportunity and its inherent execution requirements. This stage usually requires several workshops, especially for larger projects. As with most first steps, getting it right is vital. All other stages are based on the work of this stage. Without buy-in at this stage, the remaining steps becoming increasingly difficult to execute.

Vision Statement

The vision statement must answer the question, “Where you are going?” The vision statement encompasses the guiding statements of what the opportunity must accomplish. Many firms get hung up on this and create long, drawn out statements that obscure focus and lose value. The vision statement focuses on where you are going, not on how you plan on getting there.

An example of a simple but effective vision statement is, “The solution will provide Internet access to our customers, when they want it and how they want.” The statement is clean, clear and is the rod against which the solution will have to be measured. If the solution proposed cannot be accessed off-hours, or cannot allow customer changes, then the opportunity cannot be successful. It also demonstrates a first cut at the solution scope. This proposed solution does not include detailed input from partners or other stakeholders, and must be flexible enough to envelop that input without becoming diffuse.

Mission Statement

The mission statement answers how you are planning on getting to your solution. It is a set of clear directions that are specific to the proposed solution. An example of a mission statement from the preceding vision statement would be, “The solution will use the existing resources to develop an in-house Web-based solution for customer self-service.” The key is to keep the mission statement as focused as the vision statement.

Business Drivers

Business drivers become a further articulation of why you are proposing the opportunity. It represents the business you are in and why this opportunity is important. The business drivers can be such things as increased revenue, more access, reduction of costs, or response to competitive forces. Either way, you need to explain why this opportunity is an opportunity – if it isn’t an opportunity, it may just be a good idea with no substance.

Key Performance Indicators

Too many projects get funding and have resources assigned when they have no measurable performance indicators. How can the project ever close if you do not know when you have arrived? The performance indicators can be such things as the completion of one month-end, a percent of usage measure, or a simple thing like turning down the old system. By stating a performance indicator you have a natural closing point and a positive approach to the project.

Stating measurable success criteria will allow further steps to contain scope. If the scope is for customers only, and a measure of success is to have 5% of your customers using the Web site within one year, when you have reached the 5% mark then the solution has completed a key performance indictor. The key is that these indicators must be measurable, or they fail the test as indicators of anything at all.

Another consideration is that IT projects are always plagued with perceived overruns and dragging-on of issues. By stating performance indicators up front you are engaging the business units to define, in their terms, what represents success. You must get the business units to sign off on this component, as this will ensure their buy-in as the opportunity turns into a solution and then into a production system. At all stages, the business unit, again in its native terminology, must understand that the IT team is working with it to solve its issues. By engaging them in this process early, it also makes it easier to get the business units to perform and commit to testing at the testing stage.

Governance

The dreaded governance component is like death and taxes – it is inevitable. The opportunity must be have an owner and a sponsor. Sometimes, in larger projects, the owner and sponsor are two different groups. Without clear ownership and sponsorship, a project risks being tagged as an IT project; and as soon as the IT group gets involved the tendency for most business units becomes to defer responsibility and accountability to the IT group. This allows units to spread the guilt if the opportunity isn’t accepted, and it is the quickest way to achieve failure. We in the IT field have enough of our own projects -we don’t need to get saddled with those from other business units.

The business units know their area and hopefully your team knows IT. They come up with the important “Why,” and you have to supply the “How.” The governance stage provides for an excellent matching of players between the IT team and the business units. This way both groups know their roles and the components for which they are responsible. It is also an excellent way to measure the level of commitment by the business unit. Are they warm, cold, or very hot toward this opportunity? When you start hearing, “I am not very technical, so shouldn’t you lead this?” run for the hills – it is an indication of a lack of commitment from the business unit. You are there to provide trusted advice to the organization, not to be the business sponsor. Now is your time to shine and explain your role.

Stage 1 Deliverables

  • Vision statement.

  • Mission.

  • Governance.

  • Business drivers.

  • Draft definitions for success.

  • Input into the solution outline.

Stage 1 Outcomes

  • Position paper that is no larger than 15 pages.

Stage 1 Duration

  • One week

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