When an IT organization begins to get its "arms around" its portfolio of initiatives, one of the common challenges is the categorization of initiatives. The various IT workflow tools in the market have various ways to address this, but this article will focus on what I feel is the best approach. HP's PPM product out-of-the-box defines an IT Portfolio into three buckets.
- Proposal: An idea for a initiative. While very few of these may ever get worked on, the estimates of work, costs, benefits allow for IT leadership to quantitatively weight which proposals "fit" best into the next planning cycle. The process may have one or more phase gates that will need to be passed to move on to a Project.
- Project: These are the Proposals that have been approved for development/implementation. Typically, more in depth costs, benefits, requirements, etc. are flushed out as this project moves through its lifecycle and eventually becomes and asset (or contributes to an existing asset). Here is where you will want to associate a Workplan for all but your most trivial of Projects.
- Asset: These are the entities within an organization's portfolio that are "in production" and will:
- Cost money (infrastructure, licenses, etc.)
- Require a resource commitment to maintain
- Bring benefit to an organization
This breakout allows an organization to define different information (on the Entity's form) and have a different process (via different workflows). While an asset workflow is typically very simple (maybe just a periodic "wake up" to evaluate SLA, licenses, etc.), the proposal workflow may have many phase gates (business case development, high level requirements, cost/risk analysis, executive sponsor review, Portfolio Committee Review, etc.).
Choosing a tool like HP Portfolio & Project Management (HP PPM) allows an organization to accurately track initiatives at all points in its lifecycle and reports of them as needed.The ability to configure each lifecycles as one or more sets of Request Types and Workflows enables an organization to use the tool with the current business Portfolio Process or use an industry standard one.
When you also add on the HP PPM dashboard functionality, the level of Portfolio Analysis you can perform is amazing. You can drill down into initiative based upon endless criteria (say by Business Objective, Executive Sponsor, or Region) and easily create "What if" scenarios to optimize the Portfolio.
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Ok, so you have discovered some or all of your network components, servers, databases, applications, etc. into your uCMDB. Countless hours have been spent validating this data and even mapping the dependencies between CIs...hopefully!
Now you get to realize the benefits! If you are using HP PPM (Portfolio and Project Management) to manage your Change Management Process, you should consider integration with your uCMDB.
What this entails:
- When a Change is in progress, Configuration Items (CIs) of any type can be easily linked to this Change. It is typically no extra work for the user, but it opens the door to a dearth of information for your management teams.
- Changes no longer have free text fields for "affected systems" or "servers affected". Even if this data used to be valided, the list of values was probably maintained by hand or in an error-prone way. This list can now be pulled from a view out of your uCMDB.
- It is easy to see the cascading reprecussions of a change. Changing code in application A, can affect application B, servers C/D/E, and database F. All the data is there for your Change Board to make intelligent decisions regarding which changes are a "go" for a release window (you are controlling production releases, right?).
- Owners of applications/systems (application B, for example) that might not otherwise have known a change was in the works that could affect one of their systems.
- Seeing full change reprecussions proactively can be crucial in avoiding unexpected downtime or other SLA-impacting activities.
One of the most common challenges with a Project and Portfolio Management Tool (a PPM tool) is the adoption of the tools/processes themselves.
While process governance tools are not new to most organizations and resources, when an organization undertakes the adoption of a formal governance tool, there is the common perception similar to "What did we do to deserve this added work!"
With tools like HP PPM having such a broad spectrum of functionality (ranging from deployment management all the way to executive dashboarding), there are multiple means to garner adoption for the tool
The two most common (and I would assert to be the most effective) ways to gain adoption are "Top down" and "Bottom up".
What this means is start using the tool for deployment management or demand management. This means begin using the tool to automate functions that bring benefit to the end user (usually an IT user). Typical processes that enable the automatic push of code to multiple servers (web farms and or Oracle Apps servers come very easily to mind). HP PPM allows for these tasks to be automated in a way that allows a consistent deployment of code and reduces the risk of mistakes and unintended downtime.
As the technical users start to see value in the tool, we start to layer on more processes and automation and the consistent UI that HP PPM provides means a low learning curve and a gradual adoption curve (as you can begin to have more users become providers of information to requests/packages, the can later be easily converted to consumers/owners of requests).
Immediately upon roll-out of these first processes to the technical teams, the management teams can start to see value in the reporting of transaction and possibly the resource utilization tools of HP PPM as well. Auditors can also start to self-service their audits (you provide read access to the tool so they can perform their own audit searches; thereby reducing IT involvement and overall non-conformities).
Adoption of this method is easier but the justification for the cost of the tool and configuration resources is tougher (has to get funding/resource approval),
This method means that the executives have the stance that they need better visibility into where IT (and maybe other organizations) is spending their time/efforts (Executive Scorecards). Most non-PPM organizations utilize spreadsheets (or worse) to track the types of activities their resources are performing and justifying resources. HP PPM can be implemented from the Portfolio Management and/or Resource Management to give the executives the visibility they need. They must then incent their management team to provide the data into the tool so that HP PPM can roll this data up to them (via Staffing Profiles and Resource Pools). The management teams will them push this this down to their users to get this data automatically (Timesheets, project actuals, request actuals, etc.)
Adoption for this method comes with less "perceived value" to the end users until they start to see the benefits of automation. Till then, the need to use the tool must continue to be pushed from the top, but justification for the cost of the tools and configuration resources is easier (comes from the top).
So, how you transform your organization to enter the world of IT Governance Systems, adoption of the system will need to be "driven" from one spot or another. Consider carefully which approach works best for your organization before proceeding.