This is a great article written by Howard Anderson for InformationWeek. Howard gives some very straightforward insight into how to quickly decide what projects to hang on to when you’re faced with a critical IT budget issue. I like his style of writing and the content is great…please read on….

Project Triage: Skippy Must Die

You have a problem. Your project budget has been decimated. The suits are under serious budget pressure and are mouthing expressions like “shared pain,” which is never what you want to hear. So you’ll have to decide what lives and what dies. Further, some of your best people are on projects that will never see sunrise. Did I mention that there are some Sacred Cows out there protected by their Godfathers, but which should logically die? Can you figure out which Godfathers are on their way out?

This isn’t about technology; it’s about management. And you need help to plow through this mess to get to a point where you can do the fun part: showering money on sexy things that will wow Mahogany Row and drive business forward. But now is no the time.

Some of these projects are “strategically important” but might not survive the bloodletting – is there a way you can hide them? Some of these projects have so much management attention that you are not kill them, but they should mercifully be put out of their misery, because either they’re never going to work or the real cost is three times what anyone thought. Other projects made sense at the time but don’t now. Want to take that Big Write-Off now? Not such a good time.

Want to play company politics? Very risky. Ignore politics? More risky. This isn’t the time to bet your job. Here are Howard’s Rules:

  • Find a common enemy. Maybe it’s the economy. Maybe your company is at a crossroads. But use the common enemy argument to kill obvious losers. Kill any project where the ROI – and you know how to fudge those numbers – is more than two years out. Kill projects where the resultant savings/benefit cuts over multiple cost centers. Kill projects whose justification is flimsy, like they will save everyone 6.3 minutes per week.  
  • Move your best people into Safe Harbors, projects that can’t be killed, even if those projects aren’t quite as much fun or challenging. A great programmer is worth 10 average ones. A great project manager is the difference between on time, on budget” and Excuse City. Yes, you may lose a few people, but you’ll live to fight another day.
  • Protect projects that keep the lights on and will carry you to a better day. There’s a tendency to put off upgrades until “next year” – but next year may be worse.
  • Find projects to throw under the bus. You must show that you are a Team Player, so know what you want to kill and why. Smart CIOs will start to move their deadwood to those projects, so when they get killed, the people you’d like to go will go with them.
  • Get the operating divisions to kick in some of their budget to the Sacred Cows. That will force them to choose. 
  • Keep one or two Knock Your Socks Off projects. You need to retain a little sex appeal to give hope to the superstars. Do as little as possible as loudly as possible.
  • Pass out enough sugar to international so they don’t feel completely neglected. 
  • Combine projects where possible.
  • Realize that what you’re buying is Time. You just don’t have the budget you thought you did. Some projects must be cut to zero. And they must be cut right now.


This article was written by Howard Anderson for the March 14, 2009 issue of InformationWeek.