Dec 31 2009

Turning a Potential into a Payoff

Photo: Mark Battrell

It is hard to keep up with all of our opportunities.

Some are great: the opportunity to serve as a chairperson for an organization that does good works in the community or to participate in a task force at work that's authorized to make needed substantive changes. There also are the not-so-great opportunities. Think back to the last time you surfed the Web, and undoubtedly you will recall a series of pop-up diversions, which promise myriad enhancements, free entertainment and instant wealth—all in exchange for a simple click-through.

In information technology, opportunities are often moving targets. Hardly a project starts that doesn't deviate from the goal at inception. Why? There are so many opportunities to improve, add and subtract our way to greatness. Sometimes, this is a good thing—particularly when the involvement of end users and other stakeholders reshapes the deliverables to more accurately reflect their needs. Yet, more often than most people would like to admit, a once simple project may encompass a lot of low-hanging-fruit opportunities that were haphazardly welded on ad hoc.

In our current issue, there are a number of articles that offer insights on keeping your IT projects on track and sanity in check while evaluating the real worth of opportunities that present themselves along the way.

Here's a quick preview:

Document the evolving relationships between the enterprise vision and the blueprint. The last thing that most program managers want is another best practice, yet Paul Wohlleben makes the case for formalizing the link between an enterprise vision and architecture through an integration management framework. This framework, explained here, forces team members to coordinate, synchronize and communicate deliverables. One of the critical functions of this framework is documenting decisions at key stage reviews and getting approval before moving to the next phase of the enterprise vision life cycle. This will help assess and document changes that happen on the road to enterprise architecture fruition.

Extrapolate viable best practices from the success of others. Like Wohlleben's column suggests, communicating and sharing best practices is critical to ensure that team members stay on task, but finishing and communicating those lessons learned is always a challenge. Our story details the efforts of two feds—CIOs Charles Havekost and Dave Wennergren—to help agencies vet their best practices and transform those examples into tools that agencies across government can use as project building blocks.

Open your "think" stream. All of us tend to go to the usual suspects in our organizations for personal inspiration and as sounding boards when we want to try something new. Here, the Agency for Health Research and Quality's David Introcaso argues that a critical examination of our network of resources can help identify areas of weakness and strength—and incite us to seek out fresh sources.

Focus on what counts. Unfortunately, in the world of IT, we're often imprisoned by our start. When we start off without thinking through how we will measure success, it's the beginning of ending up where we didn't actually want to go. In "How to Build an Effective Exhibit 300", we share some of the key steps that the business case process requires, which will hopefully keep tech investments in line with agency goals and not sidetracked to the latest opportunity.

Lee Copeland

Editor in Chief