Business Case Scoring – Template

Just wanted to share this quick business case scoring template.

 

In evaluating various business cases, individuals can score each based on the following:


– Business Justification

– Analysis of Alternatives

– Technical Alignment

– Feasibility of Implementation Strategy

– Funding/Resource Availability


The ratings are done with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest. 


The scoring sheet calculate average, and identifies highest and lowest scores.


Then the individual scores can be summarized and used to rank the projects in your portfolio. 


Based on overall funding, you can determine how many of the top-ranked projects are doable in the year, and then roll over the others for reevaluation along with new business cases next go around. 


Capisce? 😉


(Credit Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

Project Governance and Gate Reviews

Thought this may be helpful for those looking at a Governance Process and Gate Reviews for project management. 


This aligns the Capital Planning and Investment Controls (CPIC) process of select, control, and evaluate phases with the Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC). 


There are 5 notional gate reviews with associated documentation for project conception, initiation, planning, execution, and launch.


Of course, this can be modified as needed based on the project threshold and governance stringency required and seeks to create strategic alignment with the goals of the organization. 


(Credit Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

Buyer Beware, Else Buyer Remorse

Wallet
Just a quick lesson I wanted to share from my grandfather.



He used to say (or so my dad used to tell me), “You open your eyes or you open your wallet!



Put another way is that “A fool and his money are soon parted.”



But I like the way my grandfather put it even better–easier to remember and no name calling involved! 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

SDLC On Target

Sdlc

I found this great white paper by PM Solutions (2003) called “Selecting a Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) Methodology.”

The paper describes and nicely diagrams out the various SDLC frameworks:

– Waterfall
– Incremental
– Iterative
– Spiral
– RAD
– Agile

It also provides a chart of the advantages and disadvantages of each framework.

Finally, there is a simple decision cube (D3) based on time horizon, budget, and functionality for selecting an SDLC framework.

This is a very useful and practical analysis for implementing SDLC, and it aligns closely with the guidance from the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) Special Publication (SP) 800-64, “Security Considerations in the Systems Development Life Cycle” Appendix E that states:

“The expected size and complexity of the system, the development schedule, and the anticipated length of a system’s life may affect the choice of which SDLC model to use.”

While NIST focuses on the time horizon and complexity versus the PM Solutions Decision Cube that uses time horizon, budget, and functionality, the notion of tailoringSDLC to the project is both consistent and valuable.

Just one more resource that I found particularly good is the Department of Labor IT Project Management guidance (2002)–it is a best practice from the Federal CIO website.

I like how it integrates SDLC, IT Project Management, IT Capital Planning and Investment Control (CPIC), and security and privacy into a cohesive guide

It also establishes project “thresholds” to differentiate larger or more significant projects with greater impact from others and calls these out for “more intensive review.”

Even though these these resources are around a decade old, to me they are classic (in a good sense) and remain relevant and useful to developing systems that are on target.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Irreplaceables

Traditionally, people like to invest in things that they feel are “irreplaceable” (or priceless to them)…that unique outfit, that piece of Jewelry (gold is in vogue again at $1900 an ounce), that one-of-a-kind art work, that special home-sweet-home (i.e. not cookie-cutter), and most importantly that special relationship (i.e. people are truly irreplaceable and they are an investment not of money, but of our heart and soul!).

In fact, when we spend our hard-earned money, only to see something break down after a relatively short period of time, we feel upset, angry, almost betrayed–like we got taken by the salesperson or manufacturer.
Years ago, engineers actually made things with “planned obsolescence”–that is built to break down after a certain period of time (i.e. “designed for the dump”)–usually coinciding with the end of the period of warranty, so that consumers would be forced to open their wallets again and feed the giant sales apparatus, called our economy.
Yet, in the age of information technology and consumer electronics, while we don’t want to see things break down, we do want a fast replacement cycle on them–since the technology and features are changing so quickly.
The Atlantic (September 2011) has an interesting article about this called Replacement Therapy–describing the trend of consumers of technology who actually cheer on the death of their gadgets, so that they don’t feel so guilty and wasteful buying the newest models with the latest features every 18 months or so.
According to the author, many of us have “turned into serial replacers” of technology–so that the twist is that it’s no longer “our devices that wear thin, [but rather] it’s our patience with them.”
This is Moore’s Law at it’s extreme–where the speed of technological progress make our most recent IT purchase practically obsolete by the time we plug it in.
I have to admit that I too don’t mind replacing yesterdays tech toys, today–because the newest functionality and design make it worth it to me.
Relatively speaking the computing power and connectivity we are getting is so cheap for what it is–which is life-changing.
I rely on the technology all the time (probably way too much–cyber security beware!) and for a few hundred or a few thousand dollars, you can be at the top of your game.
To me it’s not the gadget that is irreplaceable anymore, but it’s the capability we are bringing to people.
Our life experiences are so much enhanced–because of the technology, we can share information, communicate, collaborate, transact, and entertain ourselves and each other like never before in history–those experiences are truly irreplaceable for each and every one of us–and that is more than any money can buy.
(Source Photo: here)

Apples or Oranges

Apples-and-oranges

There are lots of biases that can get in the way of sound decision-making.

An very good article in Harvard Business Review (June 2011) called “Before You Make That Big Decision” identifies a dozen of these biases that can throw leaders off course.  

What I liked about this article is how it organized the subject into a schema for interrogating an issue to get to better decision-making.

Here are some of the major biases that leaders need to be aware of and inquire about when they are presented with an investment proposal:

1) Motivation Errors–do the people presenting a proposal have a self-interest in the outcome?

2) Groupthink–are dissenting opinions being actively solicited and fairly evaluated?

3) Salient Analogies–are analogies and examples being used really comparable?

4) Confirmation Bias–has other viable alternatives been duly considered?

5) Availability Bias–has all relevant information been considered?

6) Anchoring Bias–can the numbers be substantiated (i.e. where did they come from)?

7) Halo Effect–is success from one area automatically being translated to another?

8) Planning Fallacy–is the business case overly optimistic?

9) Disaster Neglect–is the worst-case scenario imagined really the worst?

10) Loss Aversion–is the team being overly cautious, conservative, and unimaginative?

11) Affect Heuristic–are we exaggerating or emphasizing the benefits and minimizing the risks?

12) Sunk-Cost Fallacy–are we basing future decision-making on past costs that have already been incurred and cannot be recovered?

To counter these biases, here are my top 10 questions for getting past the b.s.
(applying enterprise architecture and governance):

1) What is the business requirement–justification–and use cases for the proposal being presented?

2) How does the proposal align to the strategic plan and enterprise architecture?

3) What is return on investment and what is the basis for the projections?

4) What alternatives were considered and what are the pros and cons of each?

5) What are the best practices and fundamental research in this area?

6) What are the critical success factors?

7) What are the primary risks and planned mitigations for each?

8) What assumptions have been made?

9) What dissenting opinions were there?

10) Who else has been successful implementing this type of investment and what were the lessons learned?

While no one can remove every personal or organizational bias
that exists from the decision-making equation, it is critical for leaders to do get beyond the superficial to the “meat and potatoes” of the issues.

This can be accomplished by leaders interrogating the issues themselves and as well as by establishing appropriate functional governance boards
with diverse personnel to fully vet the issues, solve problems, and move the organizations toward a decision and execution.

Whether the decision is apples or oranges, the wise leader gets beyond the peel.

>Newer Isn’t Always Better

>

I love new technology as much or more than the next guy, but…

Last month, I came across an article in USA Today called “Army Ditches Velcro For Buttons,” which chronicles how after deploying high-tech, “space-age Velcro” in uniforms in 2004, the Army found that the good old button worked better on keeping pants packets closed. The Army is now substituting three buttons for Velcro on the cargo pockets of its pants to keep them from opening up and spilling out.

To me, the point is not whether we use new, newer, or even the newest technology out there (like space-age Velcro), but whether we are right-fitting the technology to our organization (in this case, the button met the needs of the soldier better).

I’m sure you may have noticed, as have I that certain technology enthusiasts like, want and literally crave the “latest and greatest” technology gizmos and gadgets, whether they fully work yet or not.

These enthusiasts are often the first to download a new (still buggy) app and the ones that line up (often bringing their own lounge chairs) the night before a new iPhone or other “hot” consumer technology product goes to market.

Similar, and perhaps well-intentioned, enthusiasm for new technology can end up in pushing new technologies before the organization is ready for them (in terms of maturity, adoption, change, priorities, etc.). In other cases, newer technologies may be launched even before the “ink is dried” on IT purchases already made (i.e. the technologies bought are not yet implemented and there has been no return on investment achieved!).

At the extreme, organizations may find themselves with proverbial IT storage closets full of still shrink-wrapped boxes of software and crates of unopened IT hardware and still not be deterred from making another purchase and another and another…

I remember in graduate school learning about shopaholics and those so addicted to consumerism that their behavior bordered on the abnormal according to the Bible of psychiatry, the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM).

This behavior is in sharp contrast with organizations that are disciplined with technology and strong stewards with their organization’s investment dollars—they tend to follow a well-thought-out plan and a structured governance process to ensure that money is well-spent on IT—i.e. it is requirements-driven, strategically aligned, ROI-based, and technologically compliant with the architecture.

In such organizations, responsibility and accountability for IT investments go hand-in-hand, so that success is not measured by whether new technologies get identified and investments “go through,” but rather by how beneficial a technology is for the end-user in doing their jobs and how quickly it actually gets successfully implemented.

This latter organization model is the more mature one and the one that we need to emulate in terms of their architecture and governance. Like the Army, these organizations will chose the old fashioned button over the newer Velcro when it suits the soldier better and will even come out saving 96 cents per uniform.

New technology is great–the key is to be flexible and strategic about when it is needed and when it is not.