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6 goals IT should use to better manage programs and projects


Last week, we considered what COBIT 5 prescribes for portfolio management. This week we turn our attention to the management of the investment portion of the portfolio. The process around the programs and projects is about managing to ensure they are aligned with enterprise strategy and coordinated through an initiate, plan, executive, and close phases. This includes importantly a close phase post-implementation review. In terms of purposes for the process, they are as follows:


1)      To realize business benefits

2)      To reduce the risk of delays, costs, and value erosion by improving communications to and involvement by   business and end users

3)      To ensure the value and quality of project deliverables

4)      To maximize their contribution to the investment and service portfolio


COBIT 5 goals for programs and projects

To improve the management of programs and projects, COBIT 5 suggests IT organizations measure themselves against six process improvement goals. Let’s explore each along with their recommended metrics. 


1.                  Relevant stakeholders are engaged in programs and projects. Clearly, the effectiveness of each is determined by the regular involvement of key stakeholders—customers and users. Two metrics are used to measure success of this goal: percent of stakeholders effectively engaged and level of stakeholder satisfaction with their involvement. This goes right after how often are stakeholders really engaged? And, just as important, how do they feel about the quality of the engagement that is provided?

2.                  The scope of outcomes and programs and projects are viable and aligned with business objectives. This asks: are we focused on small wins versus big wins? Also, how well are programs and projects aligned to business objectives? Two metrics are recommended to measure this area: percent of stakeholders approving enterprise need, scope, and expected outcomes and percent of projects undertaken with valid and updated program value maps. These metrics go right after stakeholder approval of specifics and the quality of the relationship of projects and programs. This makes projects effectively an atomic component of a program.

3.                  Program and project plans are likely to achieve the expected outcomes. To me, this requires us to among other things actively measure things the health of programs and projects during the development phase. Two metrics are recommended here: percent of activities aligned to scope and expected outcomes and percent of active programs undertaken without valid and updated program value maps. We are being asked here a more fundamental set of questions by COBIT. Are the activities of a project aligned with the scope of the program? And, as important, can projects be related to the program objectives?

4.                  The program and project activities are executed according to plans. This gets to the details of the management of program and project health. Three metric are recommended here: frequency of status reviews, percent of deviations from plan addressed, and percent of stakeholder sign-offs for stage-gate reviews of active programs. This is not just about delivery but also the delivery of what is expected by customers. In my life as a product manager, I have seen scope cut out at the last minute to meet schedule—this says the customer has to always be involved in such a decision.

5.                  There are sufficient program and project resources to perform activities according to plan. This is big concern for most of the CIOs that I have met. Do I have the resources to deliver what I have promised when I have promised it? One metric is recommended here: number of resources issues (skills and capacity). This means that I need to understand gaps not just for a program or its projects but for the integrated development plan.

6.                  The program and project expected benefits are achieved and accepted. In my personal experience, many organizations do not do a good job here. This process goal requires you to have a clear ability to demonstrate value. I have suggested previously that if you focus on the enterprise capabilities system establishing value becomes easier. Three metrics are recommended to measure success: percent of expected benefits achieved, percent of outcomes with first-time acceptance, and level of stakeholder satisfaction expressed at project closure review. These are all great measures. They go after value as well as the quality of delivery.


So where should you start?

Once again, my suggestion is you start where the most immediate value can be driven. But if it were up to just me, I would start by showing stakeholders are happy with scope of outcomes from programs and projects. What do you think? I would love to hear back from you.


Related links:

Blog post: 3 ways IT leaders can strengthen compliance and control

Blog post: Making COBIT 5 part of your IT strategy

Blog post: COBIT 5 guides IT leaders to better manage future orientation in their organizations

Blog post: 7 goals in COBIT 5 that will improve your operational excellence

Blog post: COBIT 5’s scorecard measures IT’s relationship with its customers

Blog post: COBIT 5 scorecard measures the quality of IT’s financial performance


Solution page:  IT Performance Management

Twitter: @MylesSuer


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About the Author


Mr. Suer is a senior manager for IT Performance Management. Prior to this role, Mr. Suer headed IT Performance Management Analytics Product Management including IT Financial Management and Executive Scorecard.

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