Portfolio Management Still a Key to Realizing EA & IT Benefits

Enterprise Architecture as long been considered a planning discipline.  Many times when asked about the value of EA, people will comment with the old axiom, “What is the value of a plan?”  While there is certainly some inherent value in the artifacts, processes, and relationships developed by EA in and of themselves, the real benefits are achieved through the implementation of EA plans.  However, a conflict has always existed between the EA representation of a long-term enterprise view and the near-term bounded perspective of implementation projects.

For many years, well over a decade, we have been helping organizations overcome this conflict by developing a portfolio perspective of the many (sometimes hundreds or thousands) of implementation projects underway, approved and being considered.  While more organizations are attempting to maintain a portfolio perspective, there is still a decidedly immature approach to making portfolio decisions (managing the portfolio) from an enterprise perspective.

There are a variety of reasons for this:

  • Complexity / Volume of the project portfolio
  • Lack of tools in use to help organize / analyze the project portfolio
  • Lack of business participation / Perception that the project portfolio is an IT organization/CIO’s responsibility

The good news is that these problems can be overcome.  For instance, not every single unit of work defined as a project has to be accounted for in the portfolio.  Most successful portfolio management efforts include the creation of criteria for inclusing into portfolio analysis.  These factors can range from duration, budgeted expense, capital expense, and resource allocation to strategic impact, level of risk, ROI, and number of depencies.

As organizations continue to mature their approach to portfolio management, they quickly find out that it is not all about realizing benefits from EA.  It is about making vastly better investment decisions for the enterprise.  The EA deals with the future vision of the enterprise.  The project portfolio management process, if done well with the input of EA, will provide a balance to fulfilling the immediate needs of the enterprise while also advancing the strategic vision of the business.