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The communication stage is not part of a sequential stage in portfolio building. Communicating happens throughout all stages of the IT portfolio management process. As previously mentioned, technology does not make decisions; people do! This includes identifying key audiences and key messages and measuring communications success. Mapping communication content to each audience is based on the results of stakeholder analysis and assessment. It involves understanding the best way to communicate to each audience, how often, and how to address peoples needs and concerns, the medium that should be used, and knowing who should do the communicating. Above all else, IT portfolio management is about:
Identifying the need for change and communicating that need to the right people
Enabling analysis now and in the future, and communicating the need for change
Driving support to make agreed-upon changes to the portfolio
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Setting up a structure to communicate changes to the portfolio that may require adjustment, balancing, or resetting of expectations
Setting up a structure to communicate changes in the environment that will affect the portfolio
Enabling a constant dialog between IT and business to improve effectiveness and reduce tensions
The communication stage should be treated much the way project management is treated. The traditional phases of project management are start-up, managing, and closure. You do not simply wait until the system is complete to start project management. Conversely, you cannot do all project management at the first stage. You must intersperse project management and communication tasks throughout the IT portfolio management plan.
The very first step in any initiative should be stakeholder analysis. This is certainly true of IT portfolio management. Yet all types of initiatives devoid of stakeholder analysis are common. This is simply wrong and must be corrected. Many excuses exist (e.g., I did it in my head, we dont need that at our company, its so easy). They are unacceptable. Stakeholder analysis will help frame the issues and communication styles of those who can make or break IT portfolio management.
Another common mistake is to fixate on one type of communication. Many IT portfolio management initiatives have fixated on bubble charts. Clearly bubble charts enable understanding of the portfolio view, but they do not serve as very good invitations to key meetings. In general, a communication plan must exist and must be refined throughout the evolution and maturation of IT portfolio management. The plan must be acted upon and must at least contain these core components:
Communication goals and metrics
Early in the portfolio management process, the communication focuses more on communicating the value of portfolio management to solicit support. As portfolio management understanding and adoption increase, communication focuses on sustaining support, eliciting participation, minimizing criticism, setting expectations, and demonstrating progress. Further along, communication tends to shift to support management of change and expectations.
For example, the changes and results of the balancing stage are communicated to all stakeholders of that stage. These stakeholders include representatives from the business, the executive steering committee, and possibly a program or project
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office. The key messages are identified, as well as a mechanism for measuring communications success. For the balancing stage, the communication tasks added to the overall communication plan might include:
Mapping communication content to each audience based on the results of stakeholder analysis and assessment. This involves understanding the best way to communicate to each audience or individual and knowing who should be doing the communicating
Delivering the actual messages to various parties
Identifying acknowledgement of receipt of the messages surrounding changes to the portfolio and making suggested adjustments or receiving general acceptance
Communicating back to key stakeholders about the value received during the balancing stage, possibly coupled with a message relating the value to preceding stages and the involvement and benefits expected in succeeding stages
For many companies, implementing IT portfolio management is a large change from the current status quo. Changes must be communicated in a consistent manner. The rationale for how objectives are defined, metrics existence and purpose, and the scoring approach must be clearly communicated and agreed to by personnel responsible for feeding and managing the IT portfolio management process. Relating these areas to employees asking, What is in it for me? conveys the need for information to be transparent. Training also plays a significant role, especially during times of massive changes. In addition, accountability, authority, responsibility, and related incentives and rewards must be in place and supported by employees.