Many of the IT leaders and organizations we serve today are grappling with one big dilemma, … how do we manage significant IT System upgrades? Well you are not alone. According to Protiviti’s 6th Annual IT Audit Benchmarking Survey, Cyber Security and Infrastructure projects are clearly one of today’s top challenges as organizations push to modernize. The fear everyone has going into projects (big or small) is … can I implement a new technology on time, on budget, and receive the business value that I was expecting to?
In our ongoing series on IT Planning, we shared what we use as a framework for yearly planning and our playbook for creating effective goals. Today we want to focus on building your business case for your planned projects.
Many of the organizations we serve have implemented an IT system within the past three years. How or why we will recommend doing a larger project is based on two things; 1. The data captured within our audit / planning process; and 2. Our ability to prioritize projects based on how they support either the goals of the business or the IT organization.
Here are a selection of five important criteria we use to prioritize the projects:
1. Stakeholder Alignment
Ensuring that there is alignment between IT expenditures and the supporting business processes is key to IT planning and budget approval. This is an undervalued step for a lot of IT departments who end up doing their IT planning cycle in a bubble, only approaching business leaders when complete for budgetary approval and not actually ensuring IT expenditures exist to support new business functions. This can lead to a wide divergence between what IT wants and the business needs, potentially costing the business more time and money once thought.
2. Growth Opportunities
Appoint a representative from your IT team attend business planning meetings to provide prospective. IT’s participation in the business SWOT analyses can improve cooperation between departments and the ability to identify business opportunities that can be enhanced through the use of technology.
3. Operational Efficiency Improvement
In many cases, the appropriate implementation of technology and user training can be used to streamline business processes, reduce paperwork and manual processes, reduce errors and enforce best practices and process consistency.
Most department heads will love you if you can cut down time spent on time consuming tasks that can be automated somehow.
4. Risk Reduction
Does the project result in a reduction of risk to the organization regarding IT assets? If so, quantify and evaluate the risk reduction or the potential outcomes of not doing the project using an industry standard risk measurement methodology provided by SANS.org for example.
5. Ability to Measure Progress
In order to show that planned IT projects are creating the value or saving the business as planned, “Return on Investment” ROI calculations should be performed using real numbers and timelines, rather than vague generalities. Will the planned technology reduce the time it takes staff to perform a certain business process? If so, it should be able to be measured and quantified as a number that can be used as a metric to prove out the ROI. Does the new technology increase profit through a new line of business? Calculating the potential new sales to the cost of the application should be performed in order to be able to measure the performance of the system over time to enable high level business decisions to be made with real numbers.
For IT professionals, getting projects completed feels amazing. Getting the right projects done that improve the business can be positively euphoric. Looking at your yearly plan, ask yourself whether your projects have stakeholder alignment, opportunities for growth and improvement, appropriately reduces risk and results in a form of positive progress for your business.