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)

What Are The Chances for IT Project Success?

So I was teaching a class in Enterprise Architecture and IT Governance this week. 


In one of the class exercises, one of the students presented something like this bell-shaped distribution curve in explaining a business case for an IT Project. 


The student took a nice business approach and utilized a bell-shaped curve distribution to explain to his executives the pros and cons of a project. 


Basically, depending on the projects success, the middle (1-2 standard deviations, between 68-95% chance), the project will yield a moderate level of efficiencies and cost-savings or not. 


Beyond that:


– To the left are the downside risks for significant losses–project failure, creating dysfunction, increased costs, and operational risks to the mission/business. 


– To the right is the upside potential for big gains–innovations, major process reengineering, automation gains, and competitive advantages. 


This curve is probably a fairly accurate representation based on the high IT project failure rate in most organizations (whether they want to admit it or not). 


I believe that with:

– More user-centric enterprise architecture planning on the front-end

– Better IT governance throughout

– Agile development and scrum management in execution 

that we can achieve ever higher project success rates along the big upside potential that comes with it!  


We still have a way to go to improve, but the bell-curve helps explains what organizations are most of the time getting from their investments. 😉


(Source Graphic: Adapted by Andy Blumenthal from here)

Technology and Human Capital–They Go Hand-In-Hand

So there are some mighty impressive places to work that really shine in terms of the technology they use and the constant desire to upgrade and improve their capabilities. 


Usually, these are also the places that value and respect their human capital because they view them as not just human pawns, but rather as strategic drivers of change. 


Then there are the places that are “so operationally focused” or just plain poorly run that they can’t be bothered to think about technology much at all or the people that make up the organization and its fiber. 


In many cases, the wheel may be turning, but the hamster is dead: 


There is no real enterprise architecture to speak of. 


There are no IT strategic or operational plans. 


There are no enterprise or common solutions or platforms. 


There is no IT governance or project/portfolio management. 


Even where there are some IT projects, they go nowhere–they are notions or discussion pieces, but nothing ever rolls off the IT “assembly line.”


How about buying an $800 software package to improve specific operations–that gets the thumbs down too. 


Many of these executives can’t even spell t-e-c-h-n-o-l-o-g-y!


It’s scary when technology is such an incredible enabler that some can’t see it for what it is. 


Rather to them, technology is a distraction, a threat, a burdensome cost, or something we don’t have time for.


Are they scared of technology?


Do they just not understand its criticality or capability?


Are they just plain stupid? 


Anyway, organizations need to look at their leadership and ask what are they doing not only operationally, but also in terms of technology improvement to advance the organization and its mission. 


Look to the organizations that lead technologically, as well as that treat their people well, and those are ones to ogle at and model after.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Can’t Live With Them, Can’t Live Without Them

Project-success
I remember years ago, my father used to joke about my mother (who occasionally got on his nerves :-): “you can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them.”Following the frequently dismal state of IT project performance generally, I’m beginning to think that way about technology projects.On one hand, technology represents innovation, automation, and the latest advances in engineering and science–and we cannot live without it–it is our future!On the other hand, the continuing poor track record of IT project delivery is such that we cannot live with it–they are often highly risky and costly:

  • In 2009, the Standish Group reported that 68% of IT projects were failing or seriously challenged–over schedule, behind budget, and not meeting customer requirements.
  • Most recently, according to Harvard Business Review (September 2011), IT projects are again highlighted as “riskier than you think.” Despite efforts to rein in IT projects, “New research showssurprisingly high numbers of out-of-control tech projects–ones that can sink entire companies and careers.”
  • Numerous high profile companies with such deeply problematic IT projects are mentioned, including: Levi Strauss, Hershey’s, Kmart, Airbus, and more.
  • The study found that “Fully one in six of the projects we studied [1,471 were examined] was a black swan, with a cost overrun of 200% on average, and a schedule overrun of almost 70%.”
  • In other words there is a “fat tail” to IT project failure. “It’s not that they’re particularly prone to high cost overruns on average…[rather]anunusually large proportion of them incur massive overages–that is, there are a disproportionate number of black swans.”
  • Unfortunately, as the authors state: “these numbers seems comfortably improbable, but…they apply with uncomfortable frequency.”

In recent years, the discipline of project management and the technique of earned value management have been in vogue to better manage and control runaway IT projects.

At the federal government level, implementation of such tools as the Federal IT Dashboard for transparency and TechStats for ensuring accountability have course-corrected or terminated more than $3 billion in underperforming IT projects.

Technology projects, as R&D endeavors, come with inherent risk. Yet even if the technical aspect is successful, the human factors are likely to get in the way. In fact, they may be the ultimate IT “project killers”–organizational politics, technology adoption, change management, knowledge management, etc.

Going forward, I see the solution as two-pronged:

  • On the one hand we must focus on enhancing pure project management, performance measurement, architecture and governance, and so on.
  • At the same time, we also need to add more emphasis on people (our human capital)ensuring that everyone is fully trained, motivated, empowered and has ownership. This is challenging considering that our people are very much at a breaking point with all the work-related stress they are facing.

These days organizations face numerous challenges that can be daunting. These range from the rapid pace of change, the cutthroat global competition at our doorsteps, a failing education system, spiraling high unemployment, and mounting deficits. All can be helped through technology, but for this to happen we must have the project management infrastructure and the human factors in place to make it work.If our technology is to bring us the next great breakthrough, we must help our people to deliver it collaboratively.The pressure is on–we can’t live with it and we cannot live without it. IT project failures are a people problem as much as a technology problem. However, once we confront it as such, I believe that we can expect the metrics on failed IT projects to change significantly to success.(Source Photo: here)

>TechStat For Managing IT Investments

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TechStat is a governance model to “turn around or terminate” underperforming projects in the IT portfolio.

This is one of the key tenets in the 25-Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal IT.

The training video (above) is an introduction to the TechStat model.

The goal is improved IT investment management and accountability for IT programs.

More information on TechStat, and in particular the toolkit for implementation, is available at the Federal CIO website.

>Toward A Federal Enterprise Architecture Board

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A Federal Enterprise Architecture Board (FEAB) would provide “teeth” to further implementing enterprise architecture across government.

We have a Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA) that provides a government wide framework for architecture strategy and planning, but we do not have a FEA Board to govern the subsequent IT investments through capital planning and investment control (CPIC). CPIC is the governance process whereby we select, control, and evaluate new IT investments.

Interestingly, The Federal CIO Council’s Architecture Alignment and Assessment Guide (October 2000) specifically calls for complementary EA and CPIC functions (see graphics).

In this paradigm, the enterprise architecture (EA) informs, guides, drives the CPIC, and in turn the decisions from the CPIC governance process updates the EA planning, so that the EA and CPIC processes are seen as mutually supportive.

In the federal government, we have departmental and agency architectures and boards that serve to plan and govern IT investments at their respective levels. However, as we seek to build greater standardization, interoperability, and reuse across government with IT initiatives that cut across traditional government boundaries driven and guided by the Federal CIO and Federal CIO Council, there is a need for a FEAB to review new and major changes to IT investments.

There would be many purposes for the FEAB.

  • Strategic alignment: One would be to ensure strategic alignment not to any single department or agency mission, but rather to the greater federal government strategy and policy. Some examples of this would be data center consolidation, green IT, open government, and more.
  • Streamlining of investments: Additionally, the FEAB would assess IT investments to ensure that there is no overlap or opportunities for consolidation of initiatives. OMB performs some of this function today, but a FEAB would augment their capability with IT subject matter experts from across the government.
  • Other key benefits: Of course, the FEAB would also look at things like return on investment measures, risk mitigation plans, technical compliance to federal architecture standards and mandates (security, privacy, records, FOIA, Section 508, etc.).

The FEAB would not be a substitute for the EA Boards that provide oversight functions at the department and agency levels, but would provide governance for the largest and riskiest IT initiatives and those that cut across different agencies.

While the OMB currently assesses IT investments using Exhibits 300s and 53s, which include EA assessment questions, the FEAB would provide a governance board made up of cross-cutting governmental IT subject matter experts to vet these business cases from an EA perspective thoroughly and provide recommendations to the Federal CIO Council and the OMB on approval or denial. Therefore, and not unimportantly, the stand-up of a FEAB would add an important human factor to the Federal Enterprise Architecture and make it “real.”

Of course, with a portfolio of some 10,000 IT systems, the FEAB would not be able to govern every new Federal IT investment. Therefore, it would be critical to establish thresholds that would be practical for implementation.

I would envision the FEAB being chaired by the Federal Architect and the board being a recommendation body to the Federal CIO Council and the Office of Management and Budget, Executive Office of the President.

Critical initiatives by Federal CIO Vivek Kundra to effectively manage (i.e. CPIC control phase) IT investments through the Federal IT Dashboard and TechStat sessions would be augmented by the FEAB work to carefully recommend for selection (i.e. CPIC select phase) new federal IT investments.

Together, I see the federal select and control mechanisms of CPIC functioning in harmony to enhance governments IT planning, investment decision-making, and execution. Essentially, the FEA (architecture) and FEAB (governance) on the “front-end” will guide new IT investments, and the IT Dashboard and TechStat sessions on the “back-end” will ensure IT investments are properly progressing for the taxpayer based on cost, schedule, and performance measures.

In summary, the Federal Enterprise Architecture Board would be the governance arm of the Federal Enterprise Architecture, and serve as a support to the IT leadership of the Federal CIO, the Federal CIO Council, and the IT budgetary functions performed by the Office of Management and Budget.

>Listening to Each Other to Succeed as a Team

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There is an oft-cited best practice for conflict resolution called the speaker-listener technique—in which the speaker explains their position and the listener repeats back to the speaker what he heard him say. Then the speaker and listener switch roles.

After both sides have had a chance to express themselves, and the other side has repeated what they heard, both parties are ready to resolve their differences with greater understanding of each other.

The Wall Street Journal, 27 July 2010, in an article called “Fighting Happily Ever After” promotes the speaker-listener technique for improving couples communications and making happier, longer-lasting relationships.

I believe that the speaker-listener technique works not only because it improves the actual information flow and understanding between people, but also because it improves the perception that people have towards each other—from being adversarial to being collaborative.

In the sheer act of reaching out to others through genuine listening and understanding, we establish the trust of the other person that we want to work toward a win-win solution, as opposed to a clobber the other guy with what you want to do, and go home victorious.

In contrast, think of how many times people don’t really talk with each other, but rather at each other. When this occurs, there is very little true interaction of the parties—instead it is a dump by one on the other. This is particularly of concern to an organization when the speaker is in a position of authority and the listener has legitimate concerns that don’t get heard or taken seriously.

For example, when the boss (as speaker) “orders” his/her employees to action instead of engaging and discussing with them, the employees (as listener) may never really understand why they are being asked to perform as told (what the plan is) or even permitted to discuss how best they can proceed (what the governance is).

Here, there is no real two-way engagement. Rather, workers are related to by their superiors as automatons or chess pieces rather than as true value-add people to the mission/organization.

In the end, it is not very fulfilling for either party—more than that when it comes to architecture, governance, and execution, we frequently end up with lousy plans, decisions, and poorly performing investments.

Instead, think about the potential when employers and employees work together as a team to solve problems. With leaders facilitating strategic discussions and engaging with their staffs in open dialogue to innovate and seeking everyone’s input, ideas, reactions. Here employees not only know the plan and understand it, but are part of its development. Further, people are not just told what to do, but they can suggest “from the front lines” what needs to be done and work with others from a governance model on where this fits in the larger organizational context.

Speaking—listening—and understating each other is the essence of good conflict management and of treating people with decency and respect. Moreover, it is not just for couple relationship building, but also for developing strong organizational bonds and successfully planning and execution.

To me, creating a framework for conflict resolution and improved communication is an important part of what good enterprise architecture and IT governance is all about in the organization. Yet we don’t often talk about these human factors in technology settings. Rather the focus is on the end state, the tool, the more impersonal technical aspects of IT implementation and compliance.

Good architecture and governance processes help to remedy this a bit:

With architecture—we work together to articulate a strategic roadmap for the organization; this provides the goals, objectives, initiatives, and milestones that we work towards in concert.

With governance—we listen to each other and understand new requirements, their strategic alignment, return on investment, and the portfolio management of them. We listen, we discuss, we understand, and we make IT investment decisions accordingly.

Nevertheless, at this time the focus in IT is still heavily weighted toward operations. Research on IT employee morale shows that we need to better incorporate and mature our human capital management practices. We need to improve how we speak with, listen to and build understanding of others not only because that is the right thing to do, but because that will enable us to achieve better end results.