HP follows Mercury deal with tool to help CIOs with project management

HP has followed up its acquisition of Mercury Interactive earlier this year with a software tool designed to help CIOs manage projects across the enterprise.

The company has released Mercury Project Portfolio Management Center 7.0, which uses an “optimization engine” to organize projects and operational activities based on user-defined criteria such as budget allocation and human resources.

HP acquired Mercury Interactive, which is based in Mountain View, California, for US$4.5-billion in July, following a stock options probe at Mercury which lead to the resignation of three senior executives and its delisting from Nasdaq earlier this year. It is best known for testing and performance products such as BTO enterprise and Quality Center. The deal was HP’s biggest since its US$18 billion merger with Compaq Computer in 2001.

Chad Haftorson, HP director of product management and a former Mercury employee, described the product as “ERP for IT,” referring to enterprise resource planning systems that handle major loads of financial, HR and sales data. The idea is to address the challenges companies face in aligning their IT around the business around providing the value CIOs say it does.

The Web-based dashboard allows CIOs, portfolio managers or division owners to pull together a series of projects and proposals and look at the investment required and the expected benefits.

“Comparing those against constraints or overall budgets, you can push a button and tell (senior management) what the best mix is for net present value or to minimize risk,” he said. “Trying to do that manually over more than two dozen projects is next to impossible.”

If you look at any process in IT and portfolio management, proposals and projects typically have to go through a series of “gates” and committees before they move forward, said HP senior vice-president of strategy Zohar Gilad and also a former Mercury employee. Some of those gates or committees are governed by regulations or internal controls, he said.

“The question is, how do you ensure transparency and visibility in the process?” he said. “The only way is through automated system.”

At an event focused on enterprise portfolio management (EPM) last week, Deloitte senior manager Asger Khambati defined EPM as the people, processes and technology to enable IT and to support business objectives in a measurable way.

“You have to be able to measure these things,” he said. “If you can’t, you aren’t going to get the go-ahead for the project.”

HP already offers system management software under its OpenView brand, but Gilad refused to give details on whether the company will formally set up a Mercury division for its project management and other software tools. He said those decisions will be announced in about two weeks at an HP conference in Vienna.

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