Sunday, January 27, 2008

Project Management & Release Management

The following article on the inherent relationship between Project Management and Service Management (essentially, Release Management) was featured on the OGC's Best Management Practice website:

Bridging the Gap between Project and Service Management by FGI's Ruth Phillips and Angelina Lukehurst

Despite the widespread adoption and success of ITIL and PRINCE2, organisations still face a challenge: the lack of alignment between their project management and service management functions.

No matter how much these frameworks recommend closing the cultural gap between 'the Business' and 'IT', and stakeholder involvement including both 'users' and 'suppliers', there still seems to be a barrier between Project and Service Managers. At best, Service Management will only start at 'go-live', once the Project Management team has been disbanded.

Does this sound familiar?

Some issues that arise during the course of a project highlight the inability of project management and service management to work together:

  • Due to poor communication, neither function understands the complete picture leading to high rates of project back-out and poor success rates in change implementations.
  • Instead of a 'controlled close', there is a gradual drift into operational running with the application being supported by the project team rather than the service management function.
  • Capacity, availability and financial issues surrounding ongoing support costs arise soon after go-live due to poorly defined release policy.
  • Issues with technical, configuration and user documentation result from project teams being unduly pressured to complete projects within unrealistic timescales.
  • Project teams, predominantly made up of third-party suppliers, do not have an interest in the ongoing operation of the service.
  • Post Project Reviews are planned but not carried out, when they are, there is little or no involvement with service management.
    These issues, and others, give rise to a general dissatisfaction among customers with the IT department's inability to provide and end-to-end IT service solution.

So, what's the answer?

The goal of any organisation should be to effect a smoother transition of projects from the development to live environment by aligning the two structured frameworks of ITIL and PRINCE2. The objectives of which should include:

  • Project and Service Management processes aligned to provide end-to-end coverage over the lifespan of an IT service from conception to decommission.
  • The cross-fertilisation of ITIL and PRINCE2 among project and service managers to promote greater liaison, communication and understanding so that each function recognises the respective strengths and weaknesses of the other, and plans how each is implemented and managed. An organisation can put in place specific procedures to help deliver this alignment.
  • Gain sponsorship for an end-to-end IT service delivery process from the highest levels of IT management.
  • Clearly defined objectives and goals for the project from both functions.
  • Agree and document roles and responsibilities within both functions and ensure these are working effectively.
  • Identify a structured approach to service management involvement at key points in the project management lifecycle and regularly review that this is being carried out.
  • Ensure end-to-end processes and procedures are in place and adhered to by both function's managers and carry out regular process reviews.
  • Service Management participation in End Stage/Exception Assessments guarantees the regular health checks.
  • Draw up plans that allow ample time and resource for staff training and skills and capability transfer from project to service management teams.
  • Close the project in an orderly way, ensuring the final product gains operational and maintenance acceptance to aid a smooth transition into the live environment.

The benefits of implementing ITIL in a PRINCE2 environment

There are obvious ways in which an organisation can benefit from project management and service management working well together, including:

  • The ability to take a comprehensive approach to change. ITIL change process interfacing with project authorisation and scheduling allows for better risk and impact analysis on the IT infrastructure as a whole and not just on the project deliverables.
  • No waste or duplication of effort as clearly defined roles and responsibilities will ensure no gaps or overlaps.
  • Reduction in IT costs from structured, streamlined processes and reduced rework required during and shortly after go-live .
  • Fewer service outages due to better prepared and trained staff.
  • Increased IT service provision as resources can be better controlled and utilised.
  • Increased IT productivity by taking a pro-active rather than reactive approach.
  • Improved IT service delivery leading to increased customer satisfaction .
    Increased business benefit realisation as project and service management are working in harmony.

Many organisations are well on the way to the successful adoption of both ITIL and PRINCE2, however organisations now need to take a holistic view of IT service provision and implement ITIL concepts within PRINCE2 projects to align process and service management functions and reap even greater benefits from using a structured, Best Practice approach.

Go to the OGC website for more on ITIL, Prince2 and Best Management Practice.

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