Specifications for Decisions Support

Identifying the business value of your portfolio is critical to overcoming hurdles

 I was talking with one of our Enterprise Architecture and IT Strategy partners the other day and he brought up an interesting request from a client. The client was in the midst of deploying a large enterprise portfolio management solution and the client said that his real concern was in developing the specifications for the solution. If you look in Webster’s Dictionary, the term specification is defined as “a detailed precise presentation of something or of a plan or proposal for something.[1]” It took me a few moments but I think it is one of the more insightful requests I’ve had from a client in a long time. They were in the midst of developing a solution that would provide them with a great deal of insight into their existing portfolios and enable them to identify opportunities to rationalize their application portfolio, identify redundancy and generally increase efficiency and effectiveness; but this particular stakeholder was already looking forward to developing the plan to maximize the effectiveness of the new insights that would be gained from the tool. I’ve touched on this in the past in “The Value Landscape” and “Living in a Post Troux Transformation World,” but I want to get a bit more into the types of things that forward thinking clients will need to address as they implement Enterprise Portfolio Management solutions as a part of the decision support and analytics available to senior executives and decision makers.

 During the planning and initial deployment of an Enterprise Portfolio Management solution, much of the focus and excitement is on the value “pop” that will come after the initial load of the system. No matter where that initial focus lies, whether it is the application portfolio or some other area, it is likely that the organization will see a big initial opportunity for savings or cost avoidance. This focus, anticipation, and excitement is warranted and I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade when I say that this initial step is just that—an initial step. Getting to real and lasting value only comes when you fix the problems that made the one time “pop” possible. This requires developing a real set of specifications and plans for the post implementation world AND this effort should begin before you finish the implementation. If you are like most large organizations your decision-making processes have evolved over a long period of time—simply pulling up a new system with fancy dashboards and analytics isn’t going to change the way you operate over night. One of the great things Enterprise Portfolio Management and Enterprise Architecture are supposed to do is change your decision making by providing specific informational support to specific decisions that result in a return on investment or value for the customer. In order to make this happen the organization has to develop the list of decisions that need to be made, identify the stakeholders involved in those decisions, identify the specific informational input and format required, as well as the appropriate flow through the organization. This is THE critical step required in order to ensure that your organization takes its investment in better information and analytics, and maximizes the value that it can bring to the organization.

I also believe that it is worth every organizations’ time to take the specific decisions I mention above and define not only their value to the organization but to define a value framework that enables the organization to understand the specific value in answering these organizational questions; both to the specific stakeholder and to the organization as a whole. This is critical not simply as a mechanism for ensuring ongoing funding, although it plays a critical role in that activity as well, but as one of the huge failings that technology organizations make in working with the business is a failure to speak their language, something I address in “Can you talk to the business in business terms?.” Being able to talk about the decisions you make and their relationship to outcomes is the critical first step in developing an ongoing partnership with the business. That is why it is critical that you define the business value your Enterprise Portfolio Management solution will have on ongoing decision making as part of your lead into the deployment of the solution to your organization. It also addresses many of the hurdles you will overcome in deploying and gaining the type of buy-in required to deliver a solution that delivers long term value. By developing the complete stakeholder landscape, decision support landscape, value proposition, RACI, and associated decision process flows, the organization ensures maximum value from its investment.


[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/specifications

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