Reigning In IT Chaos is the Goal of Innotas
January 29, 2008 Alex Woodie
As an IT pro, you’ve witnessed the state of near chaos that many IT shops call the norm. Projects go off-track like clockwork, budgets balloon to stratospheric levels, and management keeps dreaming up new projects with unrealistic goals. All the while, you must keep the “legacy” stuff running. If this sounds too much like your shop, you could be a good candidate for Project Portfolio Management (PPM), a discipline that Innotas is bringing to the software as a service (SaaS) world.
Long ago, during the wild-west frontier days of IT project management near the turn of the century, spreadsheets were the main tools IT managers used to track their posse of cowboy coders. If Jeb the Codeslinger was spending too much time fussing around in Java, it was up to ye olde IT manager–probably an old COBOL hand who was brought up during the punch card era–to reign him in and set him straight. That approach can still work at the smaller outfits. But as IT organizations have grown, and customers and suppliers have started playing bigger roles in shaping a group’s IT future, it’s become increasingly harder to keep track of what programmers and other IT staff are up to using spreadsheets, e-mail, and the telephone.
Enter PPM, a relatively new class of software or services designed to shed light on how an IT organization spends its time and money. “PPM was really implemented as a way to get visibility into what the project costs landscape was so they can better control cost,” says Demian Entrekin, the CTO and founder of Innotas. “PPM is a cost visibility control tool.”
Innotas’ PPM offering helps control several aspects of day-to-day IT management, including application portfolios, resources (or people and money), the change request process, and time and financials. Reports allow managers to drill down into their application portfolios to see the actual costs associated with them, while forecasts let them predict when they might need more C# programmers, for example.
“What PPM allows IT departments to do is to give them one place to see how their IT resources are deployed, primarily to projects and programs, but also the ongoing stuff,” Entrekin says. “You can see how much time and energy and money you’re spending on particular support environments, such as an old mainframe application.”
Innotas’ PPM also empowers IT managers to ask difficult questions, such as: Does it make sense to continue to support a legacy program? And is there a better way to accomplish that function? The company says research shows that CIOs spend about 70 percent of their IT budgets on maintaining existing applications, and only 30 percent on strategic IT projects. With Innotas tracking IT activity and spending, an IT manager is equipped with the facts that will lead to an answer.
Since Innotas rolled out its current line of SaaS-based PPM offerings in the 2003-2004 timeframe, it has been adopted by some of the biggest IT shops in the country. For example, UST Global, the IT outsourcer, recently purchased more than 4,200 seats of Innotas PPM to help its employees manage the IT projects of its clients. “For them, it’s not about managing a program or project, it’s really about the continuous flow of the project pipeline,” Entrekin says. “UST is a great example of someone who’s just constantly cranking through hundreds and hundreds of projects in a never-ending flow as they manage their customers IT shops for them. That becomes the primary control system for those implementations and maintenance projects.”
Not every IT shop is a good candidate for PPM. Entrekin says a tipping point is often reached when 50 to 100 people become involved in an IT organization. At that size, the sheer number of projects and the relationships among people become so numerous and chaotic that it’s too much to handle using Excel. Companies in the financial services industry, who must demonstrate good IT controls as part of an IT governance process, are also big consumers of PPM, Entrekin says.
But a company of just about any size can successfully use PPM. “There are other organizations that bring a sort of visibility bias to the table regardless,” Entrekin says. “So they only have 20 people, but they have that total quality management pedigree, and they just think visibility and measuring is how you do business. It’s not a pain-driven implementation, just a process bias. If I can’t get visibility into the process, how do I know what the heck is going on?”
The move to a SaaS model was a no-brainer as the current incarnation of Innotas PPM was being created, Entrekin says. “It just makes sense to not trap the PPM implementation inside a traditional network installation,” he says. “So the Web was a major driver to us. When you get deployed, working with suppliers, working with customers, working together, collaborating on projects, putting it on the Web and making it a public service just made a lot of sense.”
Innotas PPM is available on a subscription basis starting at $45 per user per month. For more information, visit www.innotas.com.