Our dark secret: We weren’t managing our IT project portfolio
At ServiceNow, growth and digital transformation go hand in hand. By streamlining, automating, and consumerizing our processes, we’re accelerating our business, creating visibility and control, and delivering fulfilling experiences for our customers, partners, and employees.
Digitalization depends on a close partnership between IT and the business. Delivering innovation is a team sport, with every player doing their part. For our IT organization, that means understanding business needs, prioritizing work to maximize business value, and executing with agility and precision.
However, here's a dark secret–although it probably sounds familiar–up until a few years ago, we were struggling with our internal IT projects. ServiceNow’s IT team had skilled developers, experienced project managers, and a passion for success–but everything was disconnected. We wrestled with emails, spreadsheets, and siloed project management tools. There was no easy way to consolidate and prioritize business demands, create consistent visibility across projects, or to ensure we had the resources and budgets in place to deliver across all of our commitments.
In other words, we were managing individual projects–but we weren’t managing our project portfolio.
In this case study, we explain the Strategic Portfolio Management (SPM) journey—how we’ve transformed the way we manage our IT project portfolio to deliver predictable, high-value business outcomes. As we share our experience, you’ll learn about our challenges, how we overcame them, and the benefits we’ve seen as a result.
Meet Lilly Souksamlane
Faced with an unsustainable IT project delivery model, we asked Lilly Souksamlane, one of our most senior IT program managers, to lead the way forward. Lilly has been responsible for transforming how we manage our IT project portfolio, leveraging SPM to:
- Create end-to-end visibility
- Enable data-driven decision-making
- Strengthen relationships with our internal business partners
- Accelerate and safeguard project delivery
Disconnected data and manual processes
Lilly says, “When we looked at how we managed our IT projects, we knew we could do better. Data was spread out over emails, spreadsheets, internal wiki sites, and SharePoint, which made information hard to find and even harder to understand. When a business partner wanted to know the status of their projects, it would take us days to pull everything together. And by the time we did, it was out of date. Since we had no real-time view, we would end up recalling and resending status reports because the situation had changed. That doesn’t build confidence with the business.”
Into the black hole
It wasn’t just about reporting project and portfolio status. “Because we didn’t have a consistent way of capturing business demands and committing to delivery, projects went into a black hole. Here’s a case in point: One of our business stakeholders needed a project delivered, and got a verbal commitment from one of our development managers. However, the development manager forgot to put the request into his spreadsheet. Finance came back six months later and asked where the project was. It hadn’t been started,” said Lilly.
Managing resources and budgets across projects was another major issue. “We committed five resources to work on a project without knowing that these people were overloaded on another project. Because we had no centralized way to assign resources and track actual resource utilization, we couldn’t see the problem."
Taking back control
So, how did we go about transforming the way we manage our IT project portfolio? How did we leverage SPM to create business alignment, make more informed decisions, identify and eliminate risk, and execute faster and more predictably?
Creating visibility and aligning processes
It all began with visibility. “Our first step was to get all of our project plans in one place. We could have started by having a business process consultant look at our processes. This is a good approach–and one that I would recommend. However, in our case, we were desperate for visibility, so the first thing we did was to import all of our project data into SPM. This only took about a week–we could import Microsoft Project files just by clicking the button, but massaging spreadsheets took a little more time,” said Lilly.
“As soon as we did that, the issues became crystal clear. For instance, we tried to run a report showing the milestones of all of our projects. Guess what? We didn’t have consistent milestones across projects. Right away, we knew we needed to fix this–which we did. And as we worked through the data, we uncovered other process changes and improvements we needed to make. Even today, we continue to refine our processes by looking at the data. Learning from real project information early on is really powerful–as long as you go back to designing new processes up front once you have the fundamentals under control.”
Eliminating the black hole by empowering business partners
Now that there was clean data in the system and our project managers were actively using SPM, it was time to engage with internal business partners and other stakeholders. Again, delivering visibility was a top priority. By giving each business unit real-time visibility of its projects, our IT team strengthened its relationship with the business by enhancing communications, transparency, and accountability.