IT executives look to the past for project management inspiration

TORONTO — Canadian IT executives see themselves as successors to the people who built the pyramids of Egypt and the Apollo Space Program, according to a survey released by The Strategic Counsel Thursday.

Based on data collected over the past two months, the survey on IT governance also asked about 150 professionals working in enterprises with an average of $87 million in revenue to cite examples of great human achievements based on sound project management practices. Warren Shiau, Strategic Counsel lead analyst for IT research and author of a report about the survey, said the pyramids and the Apollo Space Program are good examples of projects that received strong executive sponsorship and overcame political infighting among stakeholders.

Shiau also noted that IT executives tended to cite examples of projects that were intended to benefit their communities or the world at large, rather than projects related to war or battle.

“IT guys are lovers, not fighters,” he said.

The Strategic Counsel released the survey results at an event hosted by Computer Associates Canada, where executives demonstrated its Clarity software product and discussed governance and enterprise portfolio management issues. According to the survey, 71 per cent of executives feel that while their organizations are getting good value from their technology investment, it could be better. Less than half (49 per cent) surveyed said their projects are delivered on time and on budget three-quarters of the time or more.

Shiau said the problem was that many firms do not have the processes in place to support whatever IT governance framework they have established. Of the firms who said they were getting the most out of their IT investment, 96 per cent have business executives represented on IT steering committees, and 86 per cent have a project management office set up. Ninety per cent also have a formally approved policy on IT risk management in place, Shiau added. 

“If you think about merchant banking or venture capitalists, they know they’ll make four or five investments and that four will fail and one will be a bit hit,” he said. “They’re able to take a human gamble. Because they know what the risks are, their customer satisfaction around IT is much higher.”

Asger Khambati, senior manager at Toronto-based Deloitte, said his firm tries to help clients plan out their IT governance framework and portfolio management with an “enterprise value map” that puts shareholder value on top and links it to areas such as revenue growth, operating margins and asset efficiency. He said the big issue for many firms is figuring out how to roll with the punches.

“You can have a framework in place at the beginning of the year, but things are going to change,” he said. “You have to be able to step back and redeploy your resources when it’s necessary.”

The survey showed some regional and vertical market differences. Financial services firms were the industry that most commonly said firms get value from their IT investments at 26 per cent, while manufacturing was the lowest at 10 per cent. While about 21 per cent of respondents in English Canada said they received excellent value from IT, only three per cent of Quebec executives felt the same way.

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