Wednesday, February 27, 2008

IT Portfolio management

IT portfolio management is the application of systematic management to large classes of items managed by enterprise Information Technology (IT) capabilities. Examples of IT portfolios would be planned initiatives, projects, and ongoing IT services (such as application support). The promise of IT portfolio management is the quantification of previously mysterious IT efforts, enabling measurement and objective evaluation of investment scenarios.

Debates exist on the best way to measure value of IT investment. As pointed out by Jeffery and Leliveld (2004) [1], companies have spent billions of dollars into IT investment and yet the headlines of mis-spent money are not uncommon. Nicholas Carr (2003) has caused significant controversy in IT industry and academia by positioning IT as an expense similar to utilities such as electricity.

IT portfolio management started with a project-centric bias, but is evolving to include steady-state portfolio entries such as application maintenance and support, which consume the bulk of IT spending. The challenge for including application maintenance and support in portfolios is that IT budgets tend not to track these efforts at a sufficient level of granularity for effective financial tracking.[2]

The concept is analogous to financial portfolio management, but there are significant differences. IT investments are not liquid, like stocks and bonds (although investment portfolios may also include illiquid assets), and are measured using both financial and non-financial yardsticks (for example, a balanced scorecard approach); a purely financial view is not sufficient.

Financial portfolio assets typically have consistent measurement information (enabling accurate and objective comparisons), and this is at the base of the concept’s usefulness in application to IT. However, achieving such universality of measurement is going to take considerable effort in the IT industry.

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