Forbes Media: Driving Growth with Projects

By Mykolas Rambus  |  Posted 2008-09-02 Print this article Print

Forbes Media uses SaaS for managing its IT project portfolio to better predict and monitor a projects' success and track ROI. Using project software, collaboration tools and effective project management principles, Forbes Media was able to realize the benefits of implementing business software as a service. Implementing tracking software and planning software can be a huge undertaking, but Forbes Media discovered a SaaS service they were able to get up and running quickly.

Forbes Media: Driving Growth with Projects

Soon after implementing the on-demand project portfolio management solution, we learned that more than 75 percent of IT resources were being spent on infrastructure maintenance, and less than 25 percent were dedicated to business growth. Our biggest success has been our ability to reverse this trend: We now focus the majority of our resources on projects that drive business growth, such as key product-development initiatives.

Project portfolio management gives our IT organization several powerful tools. The first is transparency into all our projects, all the time. With our project portfolio growing by the day, we need the ability to drill down, much as a sales vice president does when investigating the status of target sales accounts.

We also have peace of mind knowing our system is helping to enforce and audit a process designed to deliver predictable project results. Most important, portfolio management provides us with a strategic view of our IT investments, so we can fulfill our primary goal: delivering earnings to Forbes Media.

Predictability is another key benefit. Delivering IT projects in a predictable manner is “table stakes” in today’s enterprise. Imagine the fallout that would result if CFOs said they weren’t sure if they could close the books on time each month or whether they could properly implement Sarbanes-Oxley.

Project portfolio management software delivers a predictable series of results when combined with a project management methodology that is in tune with an organization’s political, cultural and capability environment. Our methodology, which is customized to our requirements, governs how we handle project postmortems, communication with stakeholders, documentation, change orders and everything else we do.

One example is our way of ensuring that we get the highest ROI on IT investments, while mitigating risk. Market conditions can have a severe impact on projects that last more than three months. Consequently, we always aim to deliver value in three-month increments or less, dividing project deliverables into quarters, even if the total time for the project is 12 months.

Delivering Business Value

IT can deliver value in two ways. The first is by enabling business functions to do what they do—but better. The second is by taking advantage of the unique position IT holds (being able to look across the organization, in terms of people, processes and information) to identify trends, risks and opportunities that we can capitalize on.

Some IT executives find it difficult to transform IT from a vehicle that “keeps the lights on” to one that drives value for the organization. The first step is always operational excellence. With technical operations working well at Forbes, our focus is on constant optimization, rather than on break/fix or uptime. We devote the bulk of IT projects to revenue growth, instead of infrastructure and maintenance. These projects are more valuable and visible, and have more impact than our historical portfolio could ever have.

A large percentage of our IT staff is dedicated to working with our clients to come up with innovative ways to enhance their businesses. Our most-senior staff members focus on “game-changers”—opportunities that are disruptive, in the best sense of the word, to Forbes’ current business environment.

A great example is product development. In the media business, that’s all about connecting customers with content. Forbes Media has print, online, television and events businesses, among others. Several recent IT projects have focused on using business intelligence and data mining to understand the company’s assets and connect them with customers. This can lead to developing a new magazine or a specialized Web site, or to repurposing existing content for a new audience.

By enabling us to see the big picture, Innotas has put IT in a strong position to connect dots across the enterprise. For example, prior to implementing portfolio management, IT might have had five separate projects that added functionality or tools to customer-facing Web sites, with no ability to coordinate or prioritize the various threads. Now we can give senior leaders the data and transparency to determine which projects—or combinations—will deliver the highest ROI.

Mykolas Rambus is CIO for Forbes Media.

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