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Why IT Never Has Enough Resources to Go Around

In November, Donna Fitzgerald from Gartner gave a presentation at the Carlson School of Management. I wanted to share some thoughts from her slides. Donna's talk was titled "Herding Cats: Practical Approaches for the PMO" [Project Management Office].

It's a long presentation, but I think the following slide sums it up nicely:

The Problem

  • When IT is a cost center, all IT resources are free
  • Every business unit is entitled to 100% of the available resources
  • Having too many demands means the common resource of IT is "over-grazed," leading to diminished throughput

The Solution

  • Limit access to resources based on strategic importance
  • Establish means to allocate resources based on needs of the organization as a whole

We've tackled this problem before. It's also somewhat related to my earlier post, Why it's hard to say "no".

A large portion of Fitzgerald's presentation addresses work planning - it's a great way to help an organization identify the work that needs to get done, versus the work that we'd like to get done. You may also have heard of this as "Critical v. important". And of course, we have been doing quarterly work planning since July. Hopefully, you have started to see the benefits to this level of prioritization.

We often view IT as having limitless resources, but really that's not the case. Our time is often our limit - there's only so much we can get done in a work day. So, we need to prioritize what we do, what we're going to focus on.

For more than a year now, I've made Simplify, Standardize, Automate a priority for the Operations and Infrastructure teams. This helps to address the very real problem of "how do we manage an ever-growing set of responsibilities with the same size group?" In other words, this helps us to put strategic importance on the things that we do, the services that we offer, and allows us to allocate our resources more effectively based on the needs of the university as a whole.