IT business can be either company-internal or provided as an external service. The focus on this page is more on project management of internal IT and software development. The page “Solutions for Management of Contract Projects” covers external IT services.
The key project and portfolio management topics of internal IT are:
Microsoft PPM or Planisware PPM are commonly used platforms for IT projects. Very often, IT departments are the first to implement this solution and extend it later to other business areas. In terms of portfolio management, IT departments have a very specific role: they are usually there to fulfill IT requirements from other lines of business (LOB,) which kind of limits their degree of freedom to decide whether to do a project or not. On the other hand, they will evaluate IT requests against IT strategies and budget and redesign the requirements to make them strategy-compliant. If this is not feasible, projects may also be rejected completely.
The portfolio management requirements of IT have two main aspects: evaluation against IT business drivers and portfolio simulation against resource availabilities. Microsoft PPM can help with project prioritization against strategic factors nicely and provide insight into the resource situation and the additional skills needed to execute a selected portfolio. The simulation against resource capacity is possible with an add-on tool described futher below.
IT departments are well-known for being innovative, not only in the IT solutions they provide, but also in the methodologies they use. One of the common approaches, mainly but not only in software development, is Scrum.
Microsoft PPM (Project Server / Project Online) is NOT the tool for agile project management, but it can be well connected with proper tools, using Jira integration or TFS integration. For example, the overall project can be managed in Project Server down to the level of sprints, while the sprints themselves are managed in detail in a special tool. More to follow below.
Resource management is very important in IT projects, and Microsoft PPM can support this: generic resources can be used to plan skills instead of people on a mid-term or long-term basis and analyze the capacity requests and resource availability over time. They will be replaced by personal resources further down the line. The cross-project usage and availability of resources can be checked at any time and be considered for resource assignments.
Collaboration is very important in IT, especially when teams are distributed across multiple sites and geographies. Microsoft SharePoint is a powerful platform for communication but also for issue management and document management.
Resource availability must be checked at a very early stage of a project: when the decision is made to include a new IT project into the portfolio and commit delivery dates to the organization. This resource-oriented portfolio management during project selection is extremely important in IT business. Commitments to deadlines must rely on available resource capacities and project priorities.
Microsoft Project Server / Project Online in combination with an add-on can help with resource-based portfolio simulations and decisions in a very transparent and convenient way.
More about TPG PortfolioManager.
IT projects have a bad reputation when it comes to costs: they are cost centers, and no one really wants to spend money on IT. Companies usually allocate IT budgets, which have to be distributed between IT programs and IT projects. This top-down budget allocation approach is supported by bottom-up budget requests from the projects.
The integration of the PPM solution and the ERP system can help with the budget request process. Once projects are selected and the budget is approved, the integration will help to periodically transfer cost forecasts of all projects to the ERP system and enable a reliable budget control for the entire IT budget.
As mentioned, IT costs are always something to keep an eye on. Hence, it is important to track the internal costs of the employees in IT departments using timesheets. In most cases, time tracking is done in the PPM tool and transferred to the ERP system.
Another area concerning integration is the agile methodology discussed above. It is for example a common request to connect “Sprint” tasks with “agile tools” such as Microsoft TFS or Jira and to import data from these tools to Project Server / Online. Project managers need to be able to track details of their overall sprint tasks easily and import aggregated values into their schedules.
In many cases, the complexity and interdependence of IT projects is so high as to require the creation of programs consisting of several projects. Top-down and bottom-up program communication will help to set the program targets for single projects, track the key milestones and results of the single projects and gain visibility.
Microsoft PPM along with proven add-ons can help with managing multi-project interactions as well as the management of programs.
IT organizations are usually structured in special competence teams. These teams work for many projects simultaneously, and team members have to be allocated to projects by their team leader.
Project managers will request skills from the competence teams, which in turn will assign their team members to general tasks and projects. Team leaders will commit people to project managers for certain time periods.
Microsoft PPM along with proven add-ons can help with requesting and committing team members to projects.
More about TPG TeamManager.
“Project managers now work with a central resource pool for all projects. This makes project planning much easier for them, because now they no longer have to perform the comparisons manually. There are no longer any lists that differ from each other.”
Volker Pellny, Strategy & Major Projects Officer, IT-Management, TUI Germany GmbH