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Introduction The role of Information Technology in conducting, automating and increasing efficiency of businesses continues to grow with time. With this increase in technology’s role in driving business, a sense of responsibility lies with the company to prove the business value of costly information technology solutions. They are responsible for keeping intact the shareholder’s faith in the company. Information Technology should be governed efficiently in order to preserve its business value. One such measure is performance management of Information technology. One thing businesses must learn is to organize Information Technology functions according to the changing business needs. Information Technology management makes sure that their projects are aligned with the business strategy and delivering the best. Two things here are important: choosing the right project and doing the project right. A performance measurement system is only effective if it serves to communicate to all who need to know what is important and then motivates positive action and alignment to common objectives. The measures are not an end in themselves but a means to take corrective action and to learn from real experiences. We have presented various aspects of project management tools that can be listed as the success factors of projects/programs. We discussed the failures that can be of many types such as poor planning or initiation, not keeping track of changes occurred, lack of resources, not satisfying customer requirement, scope creeping and off-tracking. Some factors that need to be taken care of when taking project/program management into consideration are the scope, timelines, change management, documentation, stakeholders input, budget, team building and team management. Some critical success factors that are needed to make a project or program successful are discussed as under:
Preparing Comprehensive Projects Specification Scope The initialization of project involves defining scope of the project. Scope should be defined keeping in mind requirement as per client. It is defined as the integral part of any project, failure to comply can result in failure of the entire project. It is a common practice that scope is normally peeling out of the domain, which is a bad practice. It should be clear, concise and realistic. It should be documented and it is the customer, who needs to understand it clearly by walking through the details one by one. Time Timelines are to be defined, which should be realistic and flexible. Using tools like MS Project helps project scheduling to be more precise and clear. Issue that creeps up the project deadline is shortage of time and cross-functional of tasks within different teams. Dependencies of tasks are to be clear and critical path should be evident to everyone concerned. Cost or Budgeting Frequent budget reviews helps a great deal in keeping the project/program within the limits. Review must be done by the PMO or IT Steering Committee. In terms of program management, each unit should have a separate budget, set-up earlier in the year, so the prioritization within the department could be made. Planning Planning is the initial and foremost the most important phase of any project. All factors are mostly dependent on the planning part of the scenario. It improves the overall efficiency of the process. It involves identifying roles, documenting responsibilities and exposure to relationships. The outputs of planning include, organizational charts, responsibility matrixes, resource planning document, staffing management document. Before the assignment of task is initiated, it is suggested to be clear with the roles and responsibilities identified in project charter and responsibility matrixes respectively. Project charter as a comprehensive document
mentions the basis of the project and underlines the facts that are required for the particular project. Identifying Roles It starts with deliverable requirement. Based on which acquiring people for that particular deliverable is done. For example Project manager is responsible for identifying major task, identifying major milestones, defines performance constraints, applying operating procedures and reports to PMO. Acquiring people is not a difficult task but selecting qualified people for a particular role is crucial. There should be a defined hiring procedure with relevant assessment activities. It is not mandatory to hire new people for new project, searching should be initiated amongst employees of the company. When recruitment of right personnel is completed, the roles are to be list down according to the project requirements and business requirement document. When roles are finalized, then team members are matched to those roles based on your assessment of their skills, which makes things a lot easier. Work Break-down Structure (WBS) Planning phase includes a commonly used method for decomposition that is decomposition via a WBS (work break-down structure). Decomposing a project via an activity-based work breakdown structure helps avoid forgetting tasks and also helps in thinking of whether the project being estimated is bigger or smaller than similar projects done earlier. It helps you avoid the omission of common activities and the categories of WBS provide the breaking of project into smaller tasks which can be estimated. Organizational Change Management We extensively talked about change management in our lectures, which can be defined as one of the most significant success factor of any project. After finishing my undergraduate degree in Computer Sciences (concentration in Software engineering); I started working as an Implementation officer in the IT department at one of the leading banks. My responsibilities there were to visit different branches of the bank and replace the old core banking system with the new one. I encountered office politics and people with different range of tempers at my
first job, In a situation where someone was using old core banking solution since last 20 years and management decided to implement a new system to compete with fast moving industry, people used to get paranoid and frustrated, resulting in me facing many challenges including frustrated employees causing low productivity. Information Technology performance management is basically how we measure the performance. The organizational goals shall be well defined in a highly desired quantifiable way. The selection and execution of projects necessary to attain the organizational goals and objectives is very important. To go with this is the effective and efficient monitoring of project to make sure it is progressing in conformance with the project plan. Documentation is at the heart of performance management. It is extremely important to analyse significant performance divergence and advise key managers of situations requiring attention through proper documentation followed by formulating corrective plans and ultimately implementing corrective actions to cure performance divergence or alter planning. This is the point where a change management comes into act, and strategic implementation of leadership is needed. When things were not going in a way they should be according to the project scope and timeline, then a change in leadership resulted in a success. An experienced Project manager was given the job and under his proper implementation plan, which included training on new core banking system and early clarification of the upgrade was told which resulted in an employee’s volatile behaviour being disintegrated. From my first professional experience working with people of diverse background that became the first and foremost aspiration in my life; this triggered me to choose Project management as my career path. Broadening of Communication Bridges Project communication plays an important role in pacing the project in right direction. It minimizes the conflicting part of any project. Defined communication is important to every stakeholder. It plays the all important role within the project team and with the customer. It should be initiated the moment when project scope and boundaries are being defined. Then when project team is set up or when the detailed business requirements are being discussed.
Effective communication eliminates differences which affects project deadlines and scope. For this; regular meetings are effective, in which all stakeholders are invited and are free to give their point of view till date and provide valuable information for upcoming targets. Informal meetings also do help a lot understanding complex condition. A very important aspect of performance management is Risk Management. Risk identification and mitigation constitute an important part of performance management. Identifying the risk and its potential to do damage along with the mathematics of risk occurrence paints a very clear picture of a substantial part of performance management. Performance Management also helps in maintaining a good budget estimate. It can warn you in advance if the project will require the utilization of extra resources, other than what is allocated to the project. Controls can be put in place or the budget can be modified in time in order to take care of this problem thus saving the company time and mayhem. The purpose of performance measurement includes customer satisfaction as the priority. Along with this cost reduction, risk management and control are the benefits of Information technology performance management. Numbers perhaps do never reveal the full story, but they tell a large part of it reasonably well. Quantifying the IT performance measures help businesses to achieve their goals while not making a compromise on monetary or business values. As per my experience I have faced complex situations involving communication gap as the major threat for project to be successful. It could be prevented in initial stages by defining roles of communicators within the team and defining a strategy involving stakeholders as the primary actors. These communicators would be responsible for all the communication deliverables within their role domain. They have to have pro-active approach in identifying gaps in resource allocation, assignment of work and budgeting strategies. They are responsible for clarifying transverse interaction within the project team members.
Risk Management Risk management is described as taking preventive measures (as early as possible) to avoid risks that can cause threats to the successful completion of a project/program or can affect any of the important phases of the project such as scope, quality, time or cost. If the risks are identified late during the project, cost to erase those risks would multiply. There are two types of risks associated with any project; internal and external risks. Internal risks are related to areas such as business processes, software, hardware and resources. External risks can be related to executive, government or company policies, economic conditions or weather hazards. It is suggested to take preventive measures through some tools and techniques such as surveys, brainstorming, Delphi techniques, and conducting interviews of stakeholders or cause and affect diagrams. The organization’s risk management concept and strategy is forward looking, structured, informative, and continuous. The key to successful risk management is early planning and aggressive execution. Preparing for the Sarbanes-Oxley 404 assessment, many ideas and plans to go forward were identified and tried. However, trials were arranged so the poorer ideas failed early, before much money, resources, and organizational commitments were put in to them. Therefore, they failed safely, without affecting existing services. Quality Assurance It is defined as to assure the quality of work being done on the basis of requirement is exactly as it was requested. It is an ongoing activity runs through all the phases of the project. The most common practice is to have quality assurance team members associated to all phases of project to prepare test cases and document them for future testing. Stakeholders play a key part in IT Governance. At the heart of the governance responsibilities of setting strategy, managing risks, allocating resources, delivering value and measuring performance, are the stakeholder values, which drive the enterprise and IT strategy. The rights of controlling for achieving objective should be apparent. In addition, ownership and the gathering of information are not at all times the responsibility of Information Technology. It should therefore also be clear whose responsibility collection is.
Focus on technical measures principally if they are not aligned to IT objectives can be a negative point. It helps assure that project plan is being executed and implemented in the correct way. Information Technology Project Manager The information technology project manager remains engaged with the auditors, outsourcers, and business implementers to gain insight into the audit requirements and facilitate compliance. They are empowered by the leadership to undertake these activities. At the same time, one of the most important actions is to communicate and obtain buy-in to the vision and strategy to preparing for the assessment. The concept of securing value is that processes and procedures are mutually understood and mutually executed. To this end, information technology project management skills are seen as an advantageous approach to execution in that it drives behaviours that support maximizing delivery of a successful outcome. It drives behaviours that minimize costs and responds to the actual needs of the project. Auditors: Internal and External The internal and external auditors are in unique positions to propose and recommend solutions. The internal auditor has a role of actively participating in formulating the team strategy and approach. The external auditor has a role in evaluating the final strategy and approach. However, it is appropriate to have both internal and external auditors integrate into a coherent and effective team to ensure assessment goals have been agreed upon. Outsourcers The outsourcer contract was not written with Sarbanes-Oxley in mind. Most agreements provided for audit support but not to the extent of the preparation needed for the SarbanesOxley initiative. Also, clear boundaries were defined to clarify that the outsourcer was not being assessed under the Sarbanes-Oxley 404 initiative. They are partners only and assisted in documenting internal controls and the hand-offs between the organizations.
Business Implementers The business implementers own the roadmap and overall outcome of the assessment and auditing of the internal controls. The roadmap provides a rapid facilitated process of identifying common strategies and approaches. Also, the roadmap provides a detailed simultaneous planning guide of the tasks required to successfully traverse the road mapped. Making Contact Some customers may not be interested to invest the time away from their real responsibilities to provide feedback, visits can be well received and provide an opportunity for a closer relationship between a company and its customers. While much of the same information may be gathered indirectly, through customer feedback forms or other means of remote communication, gaining clarity on real customer use cases can be extremely beneficial for customer-driven development. Role of the Information Technology Project Manager: Driving Change The information technology project manager participates on operational teams at the business and corporate levels to drive changes in our processes and to standardize where appropriate. These changes are central elements of the assessments conducted as a result of the SarbanesOxley 404 initiative. Driving change is an essential and foundational leadership approach to doing business. Broad Range of Challenges There are a broad range of challenges that face the information technology project manager. Working in partnership with people at all levels of the organization, collecting data and analysing needs, scoping projects, structuring tasks for success, consulting, providing leadership to project teams, consistently meeting objectives, and striving for continuous improvement in all areas are some of the challenges that face the information technology project manager in successfully managing the preparation for the Sarbanes-Oxley 404
initiative. All of these challenges, when overcome, accelerate change and achieve substantially greater results. Information Technology Executive Management Perceptions The information technology executive management perceptions are derived from perceived opportunity. The focus is to align organizational strategy and capability and the ability to execute a strategy. A forward look toward expected opportunities and the requirements necessary to execute them can position the organization for growth. The Sarbanes-Oxley 404 initiative and upcoming assessments facilitate a variety of related strategies. Information Technology Performance Improvements Performance is never traded and is aimed at meeting the requirements for a successful Sarbanes-Oxley assessment. Achieving improvement requires constant and consistent application of project management methodologies. Performance improvement is dependent on the information technology project manager’s expertise or empowered team members with skill in aligning the right assets to the available opportunities. Strategic Alignment Strategic business – IT alignment has continued to garner attention, despite decades of research. This has been attributed to, among other things, the many practical challenges it presents. Reich and Benbasat (1996, pp 98) note furthermore that in much of the research on strategic alignment, no distinction is made between factors influencing alignment, and alignment itself. They therefore make the distinction between causal factors, such as the IS planning process, and alignment - the state or outcome. They further define the alignment outcome along two dimensions – the intellectual dimension, and the social dimension. The intellectual dimension refers to the alignment of IS plans (or strategies) with business plans (or strategies), and is defined as the state in which a set of high-quality interrelated business plans and IS plans exist (Reich and Benbasat, 1996, 104). The social dimension of alignment on the other hand refers to the state in which the IS and business executives understand and are
committed to the business and IS mission, objectives and plans (Reich and Benbasat, 2000, 96). Luftman (2000), in a separate line of research, define business-IT alignment as: Applying IT in an appropriate and timely way in harmony with business strategies, goals and needs. This contrasts with the definitions provided by Reich and Benbasat (2000), in that the focus is on applying IT, rather than on IT plans or social aspects. It is thus similar to what Chan et al. (1998, pp 276) define as realised strategic alignment, as opposed to the intended strategic alignment, typically reflected in plans and strategies. These three perspectives of alignment are not totally separate, but interrelated. The social dimension will have a positive impact on the intellectual, both of them in turn influencing realised strategic alignment. The dynamic and turbulent business and IT environment has an impact too, however, making alignment a moving target, with business and/or IS strategies continually changing, and the subsequent need for one or the other to be adjusted. Strategies Satisfying speed to market requirements for new services Too often, organizations launching new products or services initiatives resist implementing a structured IT management system under the belief that such rigorous structures impede their ability to react to the fast-paced world of information technology. These companies consider speed to market the most important criterion for introducing new services. However, companies that lack a solid IT infrastructure, including a rigorous IT management system, hastily entering the market first, also expose themselves to the risk of failing first. To date, markets have not proven tolerant of service delivery failures regardless of the whether the cause was technology or business process failure. Provide standard procedures and documentation Manuals of standard procedures for the operation of information system are typically developed and maintained. Following standard procedures promotes uniformity and minimizes the chances of errors and fraud. It helps employees know what is expected of them in operating procedures and output quality. It is important that procedures be developed of
them in operating procedures and output quality. It is important that procedures be developed for both normal and unusual operating conditions. For example, procedures should tell employees what to do differently when their computers not working. Finally, system, program and operations documentation must be developed and kept up-to-date to ensure the correct processing of each application. Documentation is also invaluable in the maintenance of a system as needed improvements are made. Provide an enterprise IT management system In order to achieve maximum leverage from IT investments, corporations need to centralize authority for making some key technology decisions. At the same time, IT delivery functions within divisions often define a system for managing their own departments. They use their own culture and environment to guide their IT management approach, relying heavily on corporate wide norms established by the centralized authority can vision, goals, financial objectives and guiding principles. This centralized authority can be ‘real’ or ‘virtual’ organization made up of leaders spread throughout the company, but its influence must be consistently applied throughout the enterprise. When developing an enterprise IT management system, those responsible for an organization’s use of technology must first define the component parts of that management system. They must then assign ownership and authorities associated with those activities, finally integrating them into a comprehensive IT management system for the enterprise. Executive Management Support To make any project or program successful, support from the executive level of the firm is a much needed essential. As a stakeholder, every top level executive has to put in some effort to manage or at least motivate team members with in the project life cycle. Motorola success factor in implementing Six Sigma within the organization was driven by this important factor that corporate level coordination was always there and they did made Six Sigma foundation course pre-requisite for every single employee regardless of their position (Segars, Grover, 1999, pp 216).
Conclusion These are not the only factors behind successful projects. They might be critical but the success of a project also depends upon the human skills of the project manager. Good Project Managers are emphatic listeners; they must listen with intent to understand. Projects are likely to fail if Project Managers rely too much on Authority, Power and Penalty instead of focusing on expertise and work challenge. As far as I am concerned, my study influenced me to select the above discussed factors that usually prove critical for a project.
References: Chan, Y. Huff, S., Copeland, D. (1998), Assessing realised information systems strategy. Journal of Strategic Information Systems, 6, pg 273-298 Luftman, J, (2000), Assessing business-IT alignment maturity, Communications of the Association for Information Systems, 4, 14, 1-50 Reich, B.H. and Benbasat, I., “Factors that influence the social dimension of alignment between business and information technology objectives.” MIS Quarterly, 2000. 24(1):p. 81113. Segars, A., Grover, V. (1999), Profiles of strategic information systems planning, Information Systems Research, 10, 3, 199-232
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