When people hear the word “portfolio,” too often they immediately begin to see dollar signs. With Wallstreet garnering attention from news headlines to Hollywood films, it is understandable. However, your Financial Portfolio isn’t your organization’s most important portfolio. That honor resides with your IT Portfolio.
Your IT Portfolio, at its most basic level, is all of the technologies at your group’s disposal. This includes both your hardware (think laptops and servers) and software (Microsoft Office or custom software). The reason your organization should favor its IT Portfolio over its Financial Portfolio is your Financial Portfolio earns money while your IT Portfolio generates money. Confused on the difference? I’ll elaborate….
Sitting in a savings account or index fund, your money is making modest benefits for you sure, but it isn’t helping you complete your mission. The top organizations, perhaps your organization, have mission. Top organizations have purpose. And they need assets to accomplish that purpose. Your IT Portfolio is comprised of nothing but enabling assets, and those assets need to be strategically monitored and updated to ensure their benefits are being maximized by your organization’s most valuable asset, its people!
The Why and How of IT Portfolio Management
Working for a company that specializes in IT Portfolio Management, I’ll let you in on a little secret…most organizations don’t manage their IT stack well. Some don’t at all. When you aren’t managing your IT effectively, you relocate yourselves to a position of reaction. It is like attempting to walk into Minibar on E St without reservations…at 6:30pm on a Friday night…when the Capitals have a home game. It may work in your favor, but the odds are heavily stacked against you my friend.
To truly manage your IT assets, you need a plan. That plan needs to focus on three classes of assets; assets you currently rely on, assets you are actively incorporating, and assets you are assessing to fill future needs. Let’s break that down in three phases known in industry as IT Asset, IT Project, and IT Discovery respectively.
- IT Asset projects focus on keeping your current IT Systems running smoothly. Similar to getting a regular oil change to keep that sports car purring like a kitten, monitoring IT patches, network connections, and, from time to time, a little elbow grease, is all that is required in this stage
- IT Project is the process of establishing a new IT Asset. At this point, the stakeholders have been identified and Use Cases established, now it is time to bring in the Tech Geeks (which I say lovingly having been a Developer in my yesteryear) to do amazing things.
- IT Discovery is where an organization examines its business priorities, looks for gaps in alignment between their priorities and their technology infrastructure, and investigates the latest industry trends in an attempt to bridge the divide.
IT Discovery however, is where the fun comes in. Organizations have been building projects and managing their assets for years, but many companies fail to comprehend the importance of the IT Discovery phase. In IT Discovery, an organization gets to focus on forward thinking ideas that can potentially propel it forward for the next decade or more. These experiments shouldn’t focus on how to mitigate the small headaches, such as the one coming when you have to migrate from Windows 7 to Windows 10. (Like John Stewart’s departure from The Daily Show, as much as you may want to fight it, it’s happening, so get on board.) That would take place with money set aside for IT Asset projects.
IT Discovery provides an opportunity to think bigger. Ever wanted to know how Big Data would affect your bottom dollar? Experiment and find out! Interested in some of the fascinating work being done with 3D printers? Try before you commit!! These experiments should be built around actual Use Cases that trouble your team today to fully understand how they could be implemented, but small enough in scope that if it doesn’t pan out you aren’t bankrupt. When the experiments are complete, only those where the projected ROI is great enough move forward.
While I’m glossing over many details in relating technological gaps to business needs, defining goals for Proof of Concept experiments, and establishing gates and checkpoints to move between the three phases, starting to align your technology portfolio into these three groups is a great first step in taking back your IT Stack and ensuring your people have the technology they need to complete their purpose
Steve Palmer is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.