"Business as Usual" Projects

It's a week or two later and I have finally realized what was bugging me about a recent conversation with a group of representatives of an IT organization within a major company. The theme of the conversation was how to measure the value of IT in a way that the businesses would understand.  In setting the scene for me, my new-found friends described all the classic symptoms.  The business can't understand why IT projects cost so much and are often late; they perceive that they can't possibly be getting optimum value because IT is a monopoly (with all that that implies).  On the other hand, the IT group can't see how they can be expected to work in an optimally efficient way when the businesses cannot even execute a simple task like defining what they want perfectly first time. Of course, I asked some questions specific to their environment and started the discussion about how they might make some progress.  It was this part of the conversation that started the niggling warning buzzer in the back of my brain.  They talked to me about the spread of their projects - nothing unusual there except the terms they used - something over half of their projects are "business as usual" projects and the rest are "initiatives."  We continued the conversation to discuss which have business cases, how the business cases are monitored, how priorities are established and so on.  We started the conversation about how to work with the businesses to pick out value and compare it across projects. Throughout the conversation, during the drive back home, through a very pleasant long weekend in Manhattan until now, the buzzer has been going in my brain.  What had I missed that might help? Finally, a conversation with a client who used the same term this week unblocked my brain. What business value can there possible be in "business as usual" projects? Of course, in hearing the term the first time, I just automatically translated it to the category "maintenance" projects.  But, hey, as an IT Value consultant, I think I prefer "Business as Usual" projects. How many "Business as Usual" projects do you have?  By definition, they must deliver zero value to the business.  How much are you charging for your "business as usual" projects?  Do you think the business might have better ways to spend that money? This led me to thinking about whether all maintenance projects are "business as usual"?  My first reaction to this question was that its a great value differentiating question.  I suspect that in most organizations the maintenance projects are a mix of business as usual and some tangible improvement to the business.  That bug fix - if left unfixed is it losing the business customers or costing money through some work around or is it just being fixed because its on a list that someone has? The IT value optimization trick is to have a process in place that allows IT and the business to have a serious (but short) conversation about why IT is doing the ones that are truly "business as usual".

Written by Michael D. Harris at 14:23
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"It's frustrating that there are so many failed software projects when I know from personal experience that it's possible to do so much better - and we can help." 
- Mike Harris, DCG Owner

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