The Support Problem


Whereas many organizations are beginning to address the serious issues associated with the project management, quality management, and project development techniques associated with new products, systems, and infrastructures , the management and control issues of production systems support have been generally ignored (with the exception of help desks).

In many organizations, the support of production systems is seen as " second-class " work and is often undertaken by new graduates or by developers on a part-time basis. As discussed by many experts (see Cougar & Colter, 1985; Parikh, 1979; and our P File for this chapter), this has resulted in the premature degradation of production systems and poor cost tracking and reporting.

At best, many organizations only track the level of production crashes and phone calls (through the help desk). At worst, organizations have a category of work called support (it might as well be called "stuff") that is used to capture time and effort following system development. This loose categorization of work that is not perceived as project work enables computer people to include enhancements, lost time, support, and all sorts of meetings as support. As a result, few organizations really understand what is happening to their vital production systems.

The Production Portfolio Concept

In effect, organizations invest time, money, and resources in five major categories and one minor category of project- related work. This investment should be viewed as a series of investment portfolios, each having an ROI for the company. The first three portfolios are, by nature, project work and should be managed using project management approaches.

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Managing product support is as important as managing a project.

New Products, Systems, Services, and Infrastructure

This includes the development of new business processes, products, or services; information systems (data, function, or business process); and technology infrastructures (hardware, communications, tools, etc.) and information system services (standards, consultancy, etc.). This work alters the organization's status quo in terms of capability for the business groups.

Enhancement or Continuing Development of Existing Products, Systems, Services, and Infrastructure

This includes the continuing development or enhancement of new business processes, products, or services; information systems (data, function, or business process); and technology infrastructures (hardware, communications, tools, etc.) and information system services (standards, consultancy, etc.). This work also alters the organization's status quo in terms of capability for the business groups.

Strategic Planning and Research and Development

This includes the analysis and determining of directions and opportunities for information systems (data, function, or business process), technology infrastructures (hardware, communications, tools, etc.), and information system services (consultancy, etc.). This work alters the organization's status quo in terms of awareness for the business groups.

The following two major portfolios for IT and business work are different in that they maintain the status quo of business capability and, as such, require different management approaches and skills.

Consultancy

This is the provision of expert and general (as distinct from system-specific) advice on technology application and opportunities, standards, practice, and techniques to both IT and business groups.

Production Support

This is the maintenance and support of existing products, services, production systems, infrastructure, and services at the status quo. This portfolio involves a number of subcategories of work (see later).

Termination of Production Systems

This minor portfolio is the complete removal of existing products, information systems (data, function), infrastructure, and services. Although this work is relatively minor and often occurs in conjunction with the redevelopment of a system, there are cases where an existing information system or product is no longer required.

Portfolio Investment Effort

Although the relative effort and investment in each of the preceding portfolios varies to some degree in each company, research by our group , Jones (1994), Rubin (1996) and others confirms the following average figures:

  • New products or systems: 30 “40%

  • Enhancement: 40 “50%

  • Production support: 30 “50%

  • Others: < 5%

However, as discussed, few organizations effectively monitor their investment in production support and some don't even manage the enhancement investment to the same degree of rigor as new systems work.



Radical Project Management
Radical Project Management
ISBN: 0130094862
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2002
Pages: 136
Authors: Rob Thomsett

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