Project Management

Creating a Technology Roadmap for your Organization

The Concepts Behind a Technology Roadmap

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Information Technology is critical to an organization’s success in modern times. Yet, too often we tend to get comfortable with what we have inherited or have in place today. Yes, IT is concerned with growth, and costs and will “shrink” on demand, but does anyone know where IT is headed? The costs question is directly related to at least two other questions that not every IT department asks:

  • Where do we [IT] want to be in 3 years? In 5 years? In 10 years?
  • If we continue to do what we do today, will we get there?

The good news is, IT is getting wiser. IT knows the importance of strategy. Strategic thinking has made its way from textbooks to the real world. Today, IT leaders work with businesses to provide direction that translates to a strategy, which leads to a plan. A technology roadmap is a special kind of plan. Here is the Wikipedia definition:

“A technology roadmap is a plan that matches short-term and long-term goals with specific technology solutions to help meet those goals. It is a plan that applies to a new product or process, or to an emerging technology.”

Some will differentiate between product roadmaps and technology roadmaps. For our purposes, we will stick to implementation of IT technologies in a typical organization.

What Drives a Technology Roadmap?

Technology roadmaps are only plausible when the goals are clear. The roadmaps are only as valuable as the areas of interest in the business. So, from an IT perspective, the rubber meets the road when we know:

  • How business applications are preparing for tomorrow’s challenges?
  • Which infrastructure changes will maximize the value to the business?

This gives a roadmap its purpose.

From there on, it is a matter of gaining a good understanding of “what is” and “what can be.” In each focus area, the IT team must evaluate the technology trends and uncertainties, relating that back to the current state and skills in the organization.

  • Do we know what else is out there?
  • Do we have what it takes to get there?

This gives a roadmap its framework.

What Can Happen Without a Technology Roadmap?

Without a technology roadmap, organizations carry unaddressed costs and risks due to outdated strategies and quick fixes that resemble patches in a quilt. Technology roadmaps bring consensus and improved planning, budgeting & coordination.

As technology evolves, so does the roadmap. An outdated technology roadmap can be almost as harmful as not having one at all. Sedentary strategies mean organizations are likely to fall victim to unplanned costs and reduced value to the business. It is, therefore, critical to setup a recurring review period where key stakeholders refresh and revise the map as business requirements continue to transform.

Stay tuned for the next part of this two-part series, when we dive into the steps needed to create your own technology roadmap.

4 Mistakes Technology Departments are Making

4 Scary Mistakes Technology Departments are Making

By | How To, Project Management | No Comments

Halloween is a great reminder for everyone to take some time and enjoy their favorite spooky activities, but what about the really scary stuff? In honor of Halloween we are breaking down the top four truly scary mistakes that technology departments are making today. If you see a frightening mistake that sounds familiar, take a look at our tips for getting back on track.

1. Allowing Miscommunication Between Business and IT

Business and IT units understand projects in inherently different ways. Business and IT professionals are trained differently, understand processes with contrasting views and ultimately communicate in a way that best suits their own team. Lack of communication and understanding between the two units can lead to problems like unrealistic deadlines, confusion on project scope and general lack of clarity. These types of issues can delay or halt projects altogether, creating an inefficient work environment for both types of business units.

How to Improve Communication Between Business and IT Units

  • Get both sides involved in development.
  • Be realistic about workload management.
  • Strategize reworks and changes together.

2. Ignoring Infrastructure and Storage Resources

Too many technology departments are putting focus on building out internal solutions and infrastructure when there are readily-available resources they can take advantage of that are much more cost and time efficient. By using existing commercial options, IT teams can spend less time focused on infrastructure and maintenance, and more time focusing on other projects. Choosing to partner with a Data Center Technology Integrator and Cloud Service Provider, such as IDS, allows IT teams to access best-of-breed infrastructure and offload some of the day-to-day management so they can spend time focusing in more strategic areas.

How to Use Commercial Infrastructure and Storage Resources

  • Realize department limits and prioritize time.
  • Research cost effective commercial solutions.
  • Contact IDS for a custom assessment.

3. Always Saying “Yes”

Technology departments need to have realistic expectations about bandwidth. Agreeing to take on every project and meet every deadline will undoubtedly create a lot of stress and less than impressive outcomes. Maryfran Johnson who wrote “A CIO Survival Guide to Saying No” for suggested that it’s getting even harder for IT departments to say no because of their increased involvement in business activities that can directly impact revenue. Johnson suggests leaving emotions behind and discussing the matter at hand using fact-based reasoning as often as possible.

How to Strategically Say “No”

  • Leave emotions off the table.
  • Explain project scopes in a universal way.
  • Use fact-based reasoning.

4. Forgetting About the Users

Technology teams should always have the end user in mind. No matter what the project or end deliverable, the user needs to be successful at whatever it is they are doing. Often times IT departments are so overloaded with completing projects, they don’t have time to collect and implement user feedback in the development process. Taking the extra time to strategically analyze feedback from the users can drastically change the success of technology outcomes.

How to Keep Users on the Radar

  • Schedule regular user feedback collections.
  • Create action plans from reliable feedback.
  • Test products and updates aggressively.

Have other mistakes you think technology departments should avoid? Comment below and tell us about them!

The 4-Step Approach To Building A Highly Effective Project Delivery Machine

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If you ask different people in different industries what is an effective project delivery organization, most likely you would get many different answers. An organization’s success drivers will determine what area of the project delivery organization gets the most attention.

It has been my experience working with large technology companies and valued-added-resellers that most organizations value and expect efficiency and cost-savings as the major deliverables of a project management office/team. These expectations can be mapped back to the 3 timeless tenets of project management: Scope, Time and Cost.

This is where the rubber meets the road, where you can separate amateurs from professionals—where a project manager can draw the line and show up as a mere coordinator or a professional project manager. Being able to align the project management methodology with the organizations strategic direction is a not a simple task and one that can definitely provide fruitful rewards for the brave souls that embark in its pursuit. The approach will depend on the type of organization and PMO size or lack thereof.

In the 10+ years managing projects of all sizes and different technologies and also by reading and sharing experiences with other PMs, these steps have allowed me to deliver projects successfully and effectively:

  1. Assess
  2. Plan
  3. Implement and adjust
  4. Repeat steps 1-3

These steps are the approach I employed when I join a new organization. I take a new assignment/job in order to project manage a new technology (not necessarily new technology in the market, but new technology for me) or to enhance the organization’s PMO.

In the assessment phase I sit down with the delivery team, services manager and executive sponsor. I dive into the organization and concentrate on two very important activities which are: 1) find out everything about the existing project management process and 2) start managing existing/new projects right away. This allows me to learn the culture of the organization and determine what is in place and what is missing. Individually I will review historical data/records to get a picture of what has worked and what has not.

Once sufficient data points have been collected and the company’s strategic plan is understood, it’s time to develop the enhancement plan. As most PMs know, we have to be sensitive to the words you use when joining a new organization. If you come across as the “fix-it-all expert”, expect resistance and lack of support for your plan in some cases.

My experience is that once the plan has been determined and drafted, it is best to start implementing it immediately. I want to be clear: it depends to a large extent on the type of organization you are in. In a large organization with an established PMO, executing the plan right away can be and most likely will be viewed negatively since you have to review it with the organization’s PMO for feedback. The best feedback I have experienced is the one that the field gives you. Sometimes I find that organizations have processes in place but they do not necessarily translate to using them to deliver projects.

Armed with feedback from implementation of the plan, it is time to make adjustments to the plan right away. What worked? What can be improved?

As you continuously repeat the process, you will start noticing that efficiency is improving. Efficiency in resource allocation and time frames are optimized. I found that this platform of constant process improvement portrays a sense of control and order that most of the customers I have worked with appreciate and expect. Once you reach this level of operation in your organization, in my experience, I have noticed that scope creep situations are dealt with head on and resolved professionally and justly with customers.

Photo credit: x-av via Flickr

AtTask Project Management App Helps Clear The Way

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I recently was having a conversation with my manager around my workload, projects and other activities with my team. During the conversation, he asked me to walk him through my activities from the previous day. I thought to myself, “How can I possibly remember every detail of my day with the volume of activity?”

In our business, the focus is on the customer experience and making sure that projects are on track, customer emergency or escalations are being responded to in a timely manner, and numerous other things that just seem to come up during the day. It is the “numerous other things” that are hard to quantify. Each day seems to present you with new challenges or a prioritization around what is most important that particular day.

As we kept discussing this, he asked, “Do you keep a checklist?” Normally, I keep everything on a large whiteboard in my office. This captures mainly large tasks such as, a customer issue, statement of work, or other critical tasks I am working on. As we kept discussing the checklist concept, it was clear the detail and insight required for him was not being completely captured on whiteboard. And it wasn’t really practical for him to head into my office and look over my work every time he wanted to see what I was working on.

Clearing The Way: AtTask

We decided to use a cloud-based project management software application called AtTask for me to track my tasks. We currently use this application for project management but it also has some great features for “ad hoc” task tracking.

attask logo icon

Essentially, I can login from anywhere (including my iPhone) and log tasks with a brief description and estimated completion. It is simple to use and takes a few seconds to add each task once I am logged in. Even better, I can tag people (think Facebook) to a task I am creating if I want to delegate or make them aware of the status. This will notify that user via email or when they login into AtTask.

Essentially, I can login from anywhere (including my iPhone) and log tasks with a brief description and estimated completion. It is simple to use and takes a few seconds to add each task once I am logged in.

Completed tasks are stored are tracked as well and can be seen by my manager or other team members that I have tagged. It is a great feeling clicking the “DONE” button next to the task and seeing your accomplishments start to stack up.

It also has provided better visibility for my manager to prioritize my workload and offload tasks that normally I would handle myself. And finally, it is a great reminder of things that may slip through the cracks as my day gets away from me from time to time.

See a demo of how AtTask works …

Photo credit: grahamb via Flickr