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Nick Lecker

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Managing Agile Projects

While reading various articles in Information Management, I came across an article that has some direct implications to projects that I have seen managed in the past. I often see the development teams applying Agile practices, yet the project management team often does not know how best to “Manage” the Agile development process or teams (I have also seen the development team managing/driving the business, but that is a different thread.)

In the article “Project Portfolio Management Best Practices in Agile Software Development” by Mark Kromer, Mark does a good job as he describes the role of a Portfolio Manager to ensure that the projects align with the corporate objectives, meet the budgets, and ensure that value is returned to the business, while allowing the development teams to operate within their sprints and develop the required solutions.

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The Value of Business and Architecture Roadmaps

Where do current IT solutions fit within the overall business context?

When addressing issues, it is important to assess the overall picture versus the initial pain point. Often there are knee jerk reactions to immediate business requests that fail to get balanced against the overall business and technical architecture roadmaps, if the roadmaps exist. New IT systems are conceived that hold the promise to fix the issues of old, but how do they align with the overall business strategy?  

I find system and software architecture very interesting as compared to more classical engineering; be it civil, electrical, etc. IT organizations start building new capabilities or adopting new technologies but are they challenging their approach and asking “Where does this fit into the overall Business and IT Vision?” I have seen many IT projects start, and get cancelled, because they end up not aligning with the unstated goals. If we built roads like software, how many bridges to nowhere might we have?

We consistently face challenges of doing more with less and still provide high value to the business. These are the correct overarching goals, yet the lack of proper underpinnings be they process, discipline, or established vision cause the value to be diminished. I find that creating and following an architecture roadmap can help ensure the Business and IT efforts are successful over the long term and provide mechanisms to demonstrate true return on investment.

The definition of an architectural and business roadmap can be accomplished in any organization yet there are tough challenges, for both the Business and IT. The business needs to determine what is truly important and what is not (Where to spend your money). Helping our business and IT partners through these challenges by performing the architecture and business assessments, defining the business and technical roadmaps, and helping them define their path forward is a very rewarding and high value endeavor for our clients.

It is all about the data

Today there are numerous discussions about HIE, Meaningful Use, RHIO’s, EMR, and the list goes on. What is consistent about all of these? To quote a colleague several years ago “It is all about the data!”

As I work with multiple clients in support of their architecture strategy, I find that IT organizations have challenges with managing and understanding the overall breadth of all their data. There are multiple systems spanning several business functions often with vast duplication of information. This not only affects the IT organizations ability to develop, test and roll out new capabilities, this inhibits the business’s ability to provide customer facing initiatives such as EMR, HIE, etc.

Understanding the enterprise data and its pedigree is very important in any organization and must be addressed as a part of the overall architecture strategy and roadmap prior to jumping head-long into new initiatives. Personally, I find that it is a “fun” challenge to dive into the architecture and understand the inner relationships of the business systems by following the paths of the data. Ultimately, with a well-documented understanding of the “As-Is” picture of current systems and data, we can help our clients leverage that knowledge to provide higher value. IT organizations need to provide the business with timely and meaningful information; that information is all based on the data.