How To Use the Cloud To Speed Up IT Projects

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The explosion in the popularity of cloud computing has brought with it challenges to IT solution providers, who are expected not only to craft innovative offerings to solve customers' problems, but also to provide tangible ways for customers to increase agility and profitability. Kevin Kern, CEO of cloud solution provider Innotas, shows how IT solution providers can employ Project Portfolio Management (PPM) to manage IT projects and resources effectively.— Jennifer Bosavage, editor

Cloud computing has emerged as one of the most significant game changers to hit the technology landscape in the past 20 years. According to the Gartner Research report, “Reimagining IT: The 2011 CIO Agenda,” cloud computing ranks number one on the CIO technology priority list for this year.

Additionally, today’s knowledge-based workforce, like cloud computing, has become more agile, flexible, and highly mobile. The confluence of these two elements -- always available cloud computing and mobile knowledge workers -- has propelled work to be done faster and cheaper, while inputs and outputs follow the sun with 99.9 percent uptime for both. Cloud computing has enabled the virtual world of development, product management, and project management in ways that were unforeseen in the last decade, and the landscape continues to evolve at light speed for collaboration, alignment, and velocity.

However, the explosion of cloud computing and mobile workforce has been a bit of a “Catch 22” for IT departments and their solution providers.

Today’s demands for IT are not simply knowing technology but applying it and aligning it to the strategic business goals of the company. Using IT as a competitive advantage to increase top line and control expenses isn’t simply dialogue or prose, it’s now expected. Accountability and governance in all departments including IT is stronger now that it’s ever been. The rush to provide services and results to the business requires agility and flexibility and cloud computing enables both.

As cloud computing has dramatically increased the profile and influence of the IT department, it has also brought a tremendous amount of projects and demands. Seemingly, every department from marketing to customer support to finance is lining up with requests for new solutions and applications they want to host in the cloud.

To solve this problem, business pressures are driving a renewed focus on Project Portfolio Management (PPM) and respective solutions to manage IT projects and resources effectively, according to the March 2011 Aberdeen report, “Project Portfolio Management: Selecting the Right Projects for Optimal Investment Opportunity.” The pressures that are forcing leading IT organizations to seek better project management and reporting tools include:

• Increasing risk exposure across the project portfolio
• Lack of available skilled resources needed for projects
• Decreasing visibility and transparency across projects and allocated resources

Reducing these challenges will be critical as IT departments and its providers will not only be accountable for the IT function’s success and business process transformation, but will adopt a more company-external focus and concentrate the majority of its time on using information to drive innovation and strategic advantage in pursuit of business goals.

The contradiction that is developing, however, is while many organizations are realizing the potential of the cloud to deploy and deliver powerful analytics and visibility to other areas of their business, they are still overlooking the massive opportunity to build out their cloud roadmap with a hosted solution for IT Management.

By adopting cloud-based Project Portfolio Management (PPM) and Application Portfolio Management (APM) solutions, many leading organizations in industries such as manufacturing, government, retail, and telecom have achieved the same deep analytics and reporting capabilities across their IT portfolios that other areas of their businesses have already benefitted from the cloud.

These IT management solutions are improving an organization’s ability to collaborate and prioritize strategic areas of the business and associated IT projects. IT management solutions are enabling their IT teams to focus on the projects that are central to profitable growth, rather than building and maintaining internal applications and managing their IT projects with just spreadsheets.

From our work with organizations in technology, manufacturing, government, and other industries, we have learned that implementing a hosted PPM solution has improved productivity by eliminating about 50% of an IT organization’s previous “workarounds” that end-users had relied on to deal with the organization’s Legacy computer system’s shortcomings.

These cloud-based IT management solutions raise the bar by shifting the focus of IT implementation away from simply installing new technology to re-engineering business processes and facilitating change management.

IT solution providers should become strategic partners to IT organizations to help them make the transition from cost center to change agent. PPM and APM solution could be one instrument in the arsenal of tools to achieve this transition.

Lee Iacocca once commented when discussing Chrysler’s turnaround, “there are those who the make dust and those that eat it.” Cloud computing and cloud-based IT management solutions are the V8 engines creating the dust these days. The time to make the move is now as procrastination is the thief of dreams.

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