IT on automatic pilot

By Steve Alexander, InfoWorld |  Software

HERE'S A SHOCKER: IT departments are using software to automate -- themselves. It helped Walter Weir get a handle on IT projects at the University of Nebraska. Cheri Tell says Eaton figured out which programmers were doing a good job. And Bob Gupta says Esco saved $250,000 a year by automating software code changes.

These IT departments are improving their efficiency, turning around projects faster, measuring programmer effectiveness better, and saving money with new software tagged "technology chain automation" or TCA. Some users say TCA helps measure project progress, eliminate development bottlenecks, and rank project priority, all in a more proactive way than traditional project management software.

TCA tools are still new enough that their track record is scanty, says Colleen Niven, vice president of enabling technologies at Boston-based AMR Research. Niven believes that TCA' s big contribution is that it helps IT departments do a better job of controlling workflow than do other methods.

Technology chain automation

Users say that new technology chain automation helps IT departments do a better job of controlling workflow than was previously possible with project management software.


1. Forecasts IT project requirements, including labor hours

2. Defines project value based on complexity, strategic objectives, and number of end-users to be affected

3. Sets schedule for IT project

4. Automatically sends e-mail to solicit action approval from supervisor

5. Updates IT department on project status

Source: Steve Alexander

Niven also says that TCA software from companies such as Kintana of Sunnyvale, Calif., IntelliCorp of Mountain View, Calif., and ProSight of Portland, Ore., helps automate the business processes of an IT department's daily work. Components are as simple as generating automatic e-mails to a supervisor when approval is needed. Other parts are complicated and subjective, such as assigning comparative values to different IT projects for prioritization and then dividing projects into groups -- such as high and low complexity -- to be monitored separately.

When automation drives project management, IT managers need to "take care that they don't invest more in the tool and feeding the tool than the value of the tool's feedback," says Stan Johnson, associate executive director of Information System Associates at the UCLA Anderson School, in Los Angeles.

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