Five ways to win at project management
Behind every winning CIO 100 project, there's a successful management strategy. This year's winners offer a few techniques that should be in every IT executive's bag of tricks. Here are five worth noting:
1. Hold leaders doubly accountable. Go Daddy forced team leaders to manage the contradictions of pushing an innovation agenda while engineering a solution. While building its winning one-click application- and server-provisioning project, Go Daddy assigned what it called an "innovation engineer" to lead each subteam.
Each innovation engineer coordinated both the ideas generated by the subteam and the engineering blueprints that resulted to ensure the project came together smoothly. "This made them take ownership of a very complex process, which showed bottom-line results," says Neil Warner, Go Daddy's CIO.
2. Give suppliers more attention. CIOs who manage multi-supplier environments face the vexing task of ensuring everyone plays nice. Hess (HES) outsourced its global infrastructure and an SAP application to IBM (IBM), and an accounting business process to Accenture. To support these initiatives, Hess created its winning supplier-governance model, aligning internal project managers with peer IT supplier managers.
The governance model enabled effective collaboration among Hess managers, ensuring joint ownership of a plan that addressed project scope, design, resources, issue management and schedules. Building relationships among middle managers as Hess did should become a standard industry practice, not just for getting better results but also to reduce finger-pointing if a project goes awry.
3. Make time for face-to-face meetings. Virtual teams are common, but face-to-face meetings help build good team dynamics. To roll out its winning project--smart grid technology for managing electricity usage--OGE Energy (OGE) brings its team, including contractors, together every morning. Everyone stands. Each person reports what they're working on, plus any problems they've encountered and plans to resolve them. "Except when the CEO showed up, it minimized the grandstanding and supported the right connections," says CIO Reid Nuttall.
4. Involve your stakeholders. In a diverse organization, leaders can generate momentum by creating communities that support an innovation. The General Services Administration (GSA) built its winning Data.gov site to give the public a consistent experience when accessing government information. The project brought together hundreds of employees from across the executive branch who are involved with data stewardship, publishing, open government and related activities.
These officials "are driving a cultural change at their agencies to make open government data a key aspect of what they do," said David McClure, associate administrator with the GSA Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, in an email interview. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published tools for accessing real-time data about the aftermath of the March 11 Japan disaster. "Having the EPA as a partner brought those tools to the forefront for the public in a way that wouldn't have been possible before," McClure said.
5. Find quick wins. Whether your work benefits taxpayers or shareholders, you need to show results. The District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority set out to equip its infrastructure (such as water mains) with instruments to collect data for advanced analysis. This CIO 100-winning project is helping the agency save money and water, in part by identifying equipment that needs repair.
CIO Omer Siddiqui and his team broke the project down into smaller parts that could be easily understood and that would generate value prior to the full integration. "Successfully building complex analytic solutions is an iterative process of feedback and review," says Siddiqui.
Rick Swanborg is president of ICEX and a professor at Boston University. Read more about innovative IT practices at www.icex.com.