7 October 2010

Utility and Strategy (and the stuff in between)

Martin Fowler blogged a while back on a project dichotomy of strategic or utility. Not bad for a code monkey, although I prefer the model which splits projects into three categories;
  • Run the business
  • Grow the business
  • Change the business
The idea is that strategic projects are more risk tolerant and higher stake than utility projects and should thus be run differently. This idea makes a huge amount of sense.

And this is why the project management office has been introduced into many organizations and why so many important application development projects are run outside of the IT department.

This is the standard operating mode for most of the ‘strategic’ projects I have worked on. The IT department is good for many things. IT is a competitive advantage for many organizations, but not for all.

Project leaders are used to working to the agendas of multiple stakeholders, but at the end of the day they’ll follow their incentives. If you want your strategic project to be run to the IT dept’s agenda, run it from there. If you want a broader perspective bring it into a PMO or report into a C level with the right spread of authority.

1 comment:

  1. slightly tangental comment... IT departments are not strategic advantages for most organizations. its kind of like saying having a CEO with a vision is a strategic advantage, which it isn't. all CEOs have a vision (ok, most), but its how well that vision matches/shapes reality and how well its executed that makes all the difference. if IT enables the vision, especially if it is there and waiting for when the CEO has her brainstorm, then it is a competitive advantage. if the functionality isn't there, but it can be developed first, and more importantly correctly, then it might still be an advantage. all other situations make it business as usual or a hindrance.