Users seek tools to ease project risks

Enterprises are turning to project management tools to monitor risks and justify investments for application development efforts.

Users at IBM's Rational Software Development Conference in Las Vegas said last week that tools like IBM's Rational Portfolio Manager are helping development groups better align projects with overarching business goals.

International Paper turned to IBM's portfolio management product to provide visibility into its complex development pipeline, said Mark Towne, senior manager of IT solutions and services.

"We were flying blind -- we had 600 to 700 projects going on, bu) we had no handle on whether we could deliver what was in the pipeline," Towne said. "There was no process in our $US26 billion company for deciding how our IT spending was going to get done strategically."

Beginning in January, the paper company required that all new development projects be managed in the Rational system. Now International Paper has 439 proposals, 427 projects and more than 1100 application enhancements being planned and monitored in the system, Towne said. The company can check potential development projects against business goals earlier in the process, he said. Portfolio management "can be a weapon to drive shareholder value" by identifying and rejecting early on projects that won't provide a healthy return on investment, he added.

IBM is one of a number of vendors selling IT portfolio management tools, said David Kelly, president of Upside Research. Some suppliers, like Compuware, have long sold such tools, he said. Others in this business include Borland Software, Oracle, Mercury Interactive, Microsoft and ProSight.

IBM joined the fray late last year with its acquisition of Systemcorp and its PMOffice tool. The vendor plans to update the tool at some point to provide a direct feed from development products to Portfolio Manager, said Roger Oberg, Rational's vice president of product marketing.

Kristin Leard, an architect at Hartford Financial Services Group, said her company is looking at the IBM tool's dashboard feature, which is designed to provide tables, maps and graphical displays of status and comparisons to detail ROI and payback of projects.

Karen Abernathy, senior technical consultant at HSBC Bank in New York, said her company is eyeing Portfolio Manager to provide transparency and ensure that the company is choosing the right projects to gain business value.

Visa USA is rolling out Portfolio Manager to help display the status of development progress to upper management. Visa has used Rational's RequisitePro requirements management tool to monitor the risks and progress of IT projects.

"We want project managers actually mitigating risk throughout the project," said Michael Levine, project manager at Visa.

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