The new millennium provides a vantage point from which to look back at our past and
ahead to our future. Many people at the end of the century emptied their bank
accounts, stockpiled food and water, and even went so far as to head for the hills for
fear that computers would crash and civilization would fall into mass confusion.
Fortunately, the reported Y2K computer-related problems were few and not especially
critical. Was the problem hyped? Not really. Was there really a problem? Yes! Many
companies spent millions of dollars to change and test the dates in their computer systems so the passing of January 1, 2000 would have no effect. Just ask one of the many
IT professionals who worked hard and long on a Y2K project. You may even know, or
be, one of those people.
What made the Y2K problem fascinating was that just about everyone was in this
together and the project had an immovable deadline. As a result, the field of information
technology received a great deal of attention in the media and the boardroom. Even
though it was shortsightedness that created the problem, the few reported Y2K problems prompted some to believe this was the IT profession's shining hour. Moreover, the
risks and costs associated with the Y2K problem captured the attention of senior management. As a result, people at different levels, including senior management, and inINTRODUCTION
different functional areas became more involved with and interested in information
technology. The good news is that the world of IT moved from the back office to the
boardroom. The bad news is that IT may be doomed to repeat past mistakes.
After Y2K, it appeared that companies now had the time and money to start on
their IT projects that had been on hold. Electronic commerce and the integration of
enterprise resource planning (ERP) packages were at the top of the IT project list for
many organizations. The demand for skilled IT professionals and project managers
to head up these new initiatives had never been stronger. It seemed as though
recruiters couldn't hire experienced professionals and university graduates fast
enough to meet the demand.
Unfortunately, this golden time for IT did not last. The tragic events of September
2001 had a profound impact on the world and the global economy. As a result, many
organizations were forced to make some difficult choices in order to survive.
Seasoned professionals and new graduates who once commanded high salaries and
choice assignments found themselves facing a tough job market. The bubble had
burst. If nothing else, we learned that things can change quickly and without warning.
As you read this, think about what is going on in the field of IT right now. Is the
demand for IT professionals and IT projects strong? Or, are there fewer jobs and projects available? If the demand for IT projects and professionals to work on these projects
is strong, many organizations will probably have to choose from among projects that
have been sitting on the backburner for some time. On the other hand, if time, money,
and resources for many organizations are limited, then only a few, select IT projects
can be funded.
In both good times and bad, senior management will make a certain level of funding
available for IT projects. The budgeted amount will depend upon such things as the
economy, competitor's actions within the industry, and the organization's strategic
plan. Regardless whether an organization's budget for IT projects shrinks or grows, the
resources available for any given period will be relatively fixed. Quite often the total
funding requirements for the proposed projects will be greater than the available
budget. As a result, any project that receives funding will do so at the expense of
another project. The competition for funding IT projects proposed by the various business units within an organization will be especially keen when the budget is tight.
Projects that do not receive any funding will either have to wait or fall by the wayside.
Therefore, the decision to fund specific projects will always be an important management decision because it will have a major impact on the organization's performance.
The decision to fund or invest in an IT project should be based on the value that
the completed project will provide the organization. Otherwise, what is the point of
spending all that time, effort, and money? Although senior management must make
the difficult decision as to which IT projects receive funding and which ones do not,
others must plan and carry out the project work. Which situation is worse:
Successfully building and implementing an information system that provides little or
no value to the organization, or implementing an information system that could have
provided value to the organization, but was developed or managed poorly? It is probably moot. In either situation everyone with a direct or indirect interest in the project's
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