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A Mariner from Serena

Developments in Portfolio Management

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Ever since I first read Geoff Reiss’ Programme Management Demystified, I’ve felt there was something wrong with most conventional approaches to IT project management – most IT projects aren’t discrete units of work but share resources (including people) with other projects - including past projects, now in “maintenance”. And, real projects generally don’t end, they go into maintenance.

So, you don’t want “Gantt chart generators”, providing artificial metrics to feed back to management, you want programme management tools, which can deal with many projects at once, sharing a pool of resources and dealing with contingencies that can “poach” pre-allocated resources. I think this becomes “portfolio management”, which is about doing the right projects (rather than just doing projects right), in the context of the resources available and the business benefits on offer. Portfolio management – which is demand-based management, I guess – may even involve the timely (i.e. early) cancellation of a well managed and “successful” project because there is no longer any demand for it. Sometimes, the business just moves on….

Which made a phone call from Eddy Pauwels from Serena interesting to me, because he was talking about Mariner, Serena’s Portfolio Management tool, which goes into Beta soon.

According to Pauwels, Mariner comes out of a team that originally addressed the shortcomings of Microsoft Project (back before Serena bought them), so the tool should complement basic project management tools well (the original MS Project was little more than a project tracking tool, although I believe that the latest Project Server is much more of a pukka project management aid).

Pauwels claims that Mariner delivers more mature project management than most other tools - based on measuring the value to the business and managing demand. In essence, it lets you rank projects in order of “business value”, supporting, a portfolio selection process, although it also does rather more than that. Instead of assessing the work to be done from a project point of view, it assesses from portfolio viewpoint, so, with Mariner, you are (in no particular order):

  1. Managing demand – using IT and business value info, and defining “adequacy” (fitness for purpose) for management.
  2. Managing projects - resources/time/tasks/people/resources. “The rest start bottom up,” Pauwels says, “we start top down”.
  3. Processs neutral – from scrum to waterfall. Whatever your management sees as “the way we work”, the tool can apparently cope with it.
  4. Collaborating on assets (sharing models); exchanging task info; exchanging appropriate “knowledge” amongst all the stakeholders in the business.

Pauwels says that this all works very well in conjunction with Dimensions and supplies project progress metrics in manager-friendly dashboard form. Well MRDA, but I think Marina and similar tools are going to be worth a longer look – so keep reading Reg Dev!

On IBM's Telelogic acquisition

I also took the opportunity to ask Pauwels what his part of Serena thought of the impending purchase of Telelogic by IBM. “In short term, it takes a strong competitor out of the market,” he replied – and no doubt, IBM feels much the same.

In the longer term, he suggested that it does give IBM a stronger and more complete ALM offering around Jazz (although, he says, Jazz is still rather tied to the IBM-centric part of the Eclipse backend). Perhaps ALF (which, he claims, IBM is working on, although it’s keeping a low profile about it) has a future tying together semi proprietary ALM frameworks from the likes of IBM Jazz, Borland, Microsoft and so on.

He guesses that Telelogic’s Doors could replace Rational’s Requisite Pro and thinks it’s a stronger product. He also thinks that Synergy is stronger than ClearCase, but that IBM has so much invested in Clearcase and Jazz that Synergy might be in trouble. However, Telelogic’s System Architect for Enterprise Architecture(and the full Zachman framework thang) could be very complimentary to the Rational line. And IBM has Rational Portfolio Manager but hasn’t done a lot with it so far, in Pauwels’ opinion (perhaps the Telelogic injection will change that).

So, interesting times, but I think Portfolio Management will be a feature of them. Now to find a writer who can do a good comparative roundup of portfolio management tools….

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