Strategic IT Project Planning: An Impressive Example

By Meghann Wooster posted 03-15-2012 15:10


I’ve been learning a lot about the agile project management methodology lately, and it certainly seems like a useful approach for ensuring collaboration, accountability and results. Unlike the waterfall approach, which stresses strict adherence to project plans, the agile method focuses primarily on adjusting to iterative change once a project is underway.

This fluid approach to completing work, however, does not mean that agile proponents should throw upfront planning out the window. Strategic planning at the outset ensures that the right tasks get plucked from the backlog and assigned to the team.

When it comes to strategic technology planning, I must say that I was impressed by MaineGeneral Health’s presentation at HIMSS.

After taking over as CIO of MaineGeneral in 2007, Danny Burgess recognized that his department needed guidance around how to be more strategic about technology planning. With the help of a consulting firm, which facilitated focus groups with MaineGeneral’s community-at-large, Burgess uncovered a number of important goals, including:

  • Strengthen project and portfolio management practices in order to deliver the right projects on time and on budget.
  • Bring more of a strategic and enterprise view to technology planning in order to ensure alignment with business objectives.

With these goals in mind, Burgess and his team created an abbreviated stage-gate governance model overseen by a strategic project oversight team (SPOT) that meets weekly to review all project requests that will require at least 10 hours of work from the IT department. SPOT members analyze the costs and resources associated with project requests to determine if and when a particular project fits into the IT department’s schedule.  

MaineGeneral has used this IT governance model for a number of years now, and it is an important factor in helping the team deliver a new facility in which providers will have the most pertinent, complete information available to them at the right times while simultaneously making IT “invisible” to patients. So far, the new hospital is on budget and is scheduled to be completed ahead of schedule.

I like this approach because it solicits new ideas from across the enterprise, and it brings together a collaborative team of senior business and IT leaders to evaluate project requests and determine their scope, scale and value.

Regardless of the governance model your organization uses for IT project planning, when you’re evaluating whether or not to move forward with an initiative, resources like the following charts provided by Ramsey County, MN—which conducted 500 employee interviews as part of its upfront needs analysis for its enterprise content management rollout—can help you pinpoint the staff members needed and time commitments required to successfully execute the project:

MaineGeneral Health’s strategic approach to technology planning is a great reminder that when you do the upfront analysis to ensure that the foundation upon which you’re building is solid, you are much more likely to successfully realize your goals.

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