The Missing Word in IT's Vocabulary

If you ask any IT leader to describe their schedule they would say it's full.  Full of meetings, full of problems, and full of projects.

They can go on and on about all the things happening in their lives.

Now ask them what they completed in the past year...

... as in finished, delivered, shipped.

I thought so.

It would seem that the word "done" is missing from most CIO's vocabulary.

Common reasons I've heard?:

  • Infrastructure projects are never "done", there are always ongoing upgrades.
  • Support services are never "done", they are ongoing.
  • New projects are incremental... you start small and keep going...
  • Users are always coming up with new requirements!
  • The technology has changed.
  • We ran out of money / people / time.
Sound familiar?

If you don't understand the concept of "done", you are sabotaging your department's reputation and your chances to advance your career.

Without knowing when things are "done", how do you plan? How do you budget appropriately? How do you measure progress? How can you (or more importantly your team) feel a sense of accomplishment?

So where do you start?

Let's start with learning the basics of project management.  I'm not talking about the "project management" I typically find in an IT department... "I'm in charge of this project, that must mean I'm the project manager!"

To be clear, I'm not talking about Gantt charts, ITIL, COBIT, PPM (Project Portfolio Management), Six Sigma or other tools (although they are useful to manage your projects and you should know about them). Starting a project with the purpose of "implementing ITIL or PPM" is not going to make you any more productive.

You need to "start at the end" and  understand the concept of "results".

Using PPM and having documented processes will help you achieve results - they should not be the end product of the project.

So ask yourself:

  • What are services you need to provide to your organization?  
  • What services are you currently providing to your organization?  (Check out my previous post What Does the IT Department Really Do? for a tool I used to document this.)

Do the lists match?

Which items are mission critical?

Which ones differentiate your organization?

Where are the gaps?

Where do cumbersome IT processes hinder people from getting their work done?

What do you need to do to close the gaps?

What can you quit doing that consumes time, talent and resources that don't contribute to either mission critical or differentiating services?

Which of the mission critical but non-differentiating services can you outsource? (Perhaps email?)

If you've gone through this exercise, you should now have a list of what you need to do (tactical items) to deliver results (strategies) for your organization.

Now you have to lay them out on a timeline and prioritize them: (Hint: This is not a solo exercise.)

  • Which are most important?
  • Where do you need skills in your team to accomplish them?

Now it is time to break down the list into discrete deliverable segments, with the operative word being deliverable.

Gone are the days of the mega-project, the multi-year deliverables, the waterfall method of development. Today it's about agility, adaptability and responsiveness.

Once you've done this, your team can get to work.  Be sure to review your progress regularly, and be flexible enough to adjust your list and schedule based on changing demands beyond your control.

In this way, you will experience the concept of "done".  Genuine, actual completed projects that you can include in your quarterly report.

As you develop your skills in this area, you will have a track record of being able to deliver - on time, on budget and with well defined results.  This is the kind of IT department that matters, that gets budgeted appropriately.

So I've said all of the above to say this... Simplify, and deliver technology that supports results.

Related Posts:
What Does the IT Department Really Do?
Blowing Up the IT Department
Start at the End
Pursuing Service with Passion
#3/10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO - Collaboration


  1. Organizations need to be assured the individuals that manage their projects can integrate methods to achieve sustainability goals and still achieve project specific objectives. Project Managers need credentials that validate their proficiency with these specialized qualities. PMP Certified and scrum certified project managers can learn, apply, and validate mastery of sustainability based project methods to meet these demands.

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