IT Bridges To Nowhere

In 2005, Congress approved funding for a bridge to Gravina Island (later known as “nowhere”), Alaska. At that time, the island had a population of 50 people and was served by a regular ferry service. There is little doubt that this bridge could have been successfully completed. Similar bridges had been constructed before, and there was never any concern about the difficulty of engineering the bridge. But yet, even though the bridge could surely be built, taxpayers balked at the prospect of building a $400M bridge to an island with only a few residents.

Just as there are bridges to nowhere, there are also applications and web sites to nowhere. And just as the American taxpayers revolted when they saw a project whose value was out of line with its cost, we should all be focused on ensuring our organizations do not embark on any IT bridges to nowhere.

It is well known that a staggering proportion of IT projects end in failure. The most commonly asked questions to determine project success are:

  • Did the project meet its objectives?
  • Did the project complete on schedule?
  • Did the project finish on budget?

While these are good questions, one can better measure project success by asking: “Did the project add value to the organization?” and, “Was the value it added greater than the project cost?” Although these questions are rather obvious, IT project value is not quantitatively measured in 73% of companies. The question to ask the companies that don’t measure the value of their projects is, “How can a project that is completed on budget and on schedule be considered successful to an organization if it added little value relative to its cost?”

One way to minimize IT bridges to nowhere is through IT portfolio management. IT portfolio management is the quantification of IT activities and can enable better decision making on which projects to pursue.

Another way to focus on project value is with ISACA’s Val IT Framework. The Val IT framework adds Value Governance and Investment Management to Portfolio Management, creating a holistic framework for guiding IT activities.

Maybe if there were enormous empty bridges left over after low-value IT projects, there would be more focus on avoiding them. But unfortunately, these IT bridges to nowhere are often swept under rugs by those who pushed for the projects. Managing and evaluating the value of IT activities is essential for maximizing an IT department’s effectiveness within the organization it supports.

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