The Secret to Managing IT Projects 

In this year’s Connectivity Benchmark Report, we recently surveyed over 950 IT decision makers and the results were startling. Only half were able to complete all the projects asked of them last year, and 60% say that they are not adequately resourced to meet all their organization’s digital transformation goals in the next 12 months. Managing IT projects to get them done quickly is clearly becoming increasingly challenging due to the sheer number of projects on IT’s plate and the time it takes to get them done.

IT executives are taking a number of approaches to manage IT projects more efficiently, like IT outsourcing or adopting agile methodology, but with the ever-increasing demands that technology trends like mobile, SaaS, and IoT are putting on companies, the backlog of projects that must be completed grows ever upward, which cannot be solved either by adding more resources or allowing more projects to be completed more quickly.

In order to become more successful at managing IT projects, a new way of thinking about how IT works with the business is required, a way to close the IT delivery gap. The secret to managing how IT projects is to change the way that they are delivered from a production model to a production + consumption model, which is done through an API strategy called API-led connectivity.

Managing IT projects the traditional way — with a production model

The traditional way of managing IT projects is a very top down model. Someone in “the business” — perhaps someone in the C-suite — announces that the organization is going to undertake some sort of business initiative to respond to or take advantage of some new technology.  For example, the IT team at a retail company might be told that it has to implement Click to Collect functionality to improve online shoppers’ cart abandonment rates. This is a relatively complicated capability that requires uniting a number of disparate systems, which must be added to the backlog. Often when these projects are in the midst of production, the business’ needs will change or something new will be added or priorities will change, which changes and often adds to the IT team’s work, and those changes must also be added to the backlog.

This top down, “fast food window” way of managing IT projects leads to frustration for many IT teams, and can lead to technical problems as well. To get the endless backlog complete, developers will often create shortcuts with point to point integrations, which can ensure projects are delivered on time and on budget but lead to technical debt, lack of security, and a brittle infrastructure down the road. In the long term, the production model of managing IT projects actually can create more problems than it solves.

A better way of managing IT projects — changing the way projects are delivered

What if, instead of endlessly delivering on requests for others, IT recast its role in the enterprise not as a sole deliverer of projects, but rather as a strategic partner to the rest of the business, creating capabilities for business functions out of reusable portions of previous projects? Rather than doing the same projects over and over again, IT could publish and govern projects with reusable components in a central IT repository like Anypoint Exchange and then provide guidelines and visibility to the rest of the organization to enable developers to complete their own projects.

In this method of managing IT projects, consumption is emphasized as much as production. Traditional IT project management — e.g. SOA —focused exclusively on production for the delivery of projects. Here, IT changes its mindset to think about producing assets that will be consumed by others in lines of business. The assets need to be discoverable and developers need to be enabled to self-serve them in projects.  The virtuous part of the cycle is to get active feedback from the consumption model along with usage metrics to inform the production model.

managing IT with API

This vision of managing IT projects is made possible through an API strategy we call API-led connectivity. 

Managing IT projects with the strategic use of APIs

API-led connectivity provides an approach for connecting and exposing assets. With this approach, rather than connecting things point-to-point, every asset becomes a managed API – a modern API, which makes it discoverable through self-service without losing control.
The organizational approach to API-led connectivity empowers the entire organization to access their best capabilities in delivering applications and projects through modern APIs that are developed by teams that are best equipped to do so due to their roles and knowledge of the systems they unlock, or the processes they compose, or the experience they’d like to offer in the application.

system api - process - api - experience - api

This approach to integration drives the production + consumption model to empower teams throughout the organization to innovate on their own. Central IT produces reusable assets, and in the process unlocks key systems, including legacy applications, data sources, and SaaS apps.  Decentralizes and democratizes access to company data. These assets are created as part of the project delivery process, not as a separate exercise. LOB IT and Central IT can then reuse these API assets and compose process level information. Then, app developers can discover and self-serve on all of these reusable assets, creating the experience layer of APIs and ultimately the end applications.

The responsibility to establish the discipline of reuse and composability within the organization now rests with the IT team, and there are solutions like a Center for Enablement to make establishing that discipline much easier. This is a major culture shift for IT and its role in the business, but numerous customers who have adopted this approach have achieved their digital transformation goals of becoming more productive, more innovative, and more agile. 

The secret to managing IT projects is the holistic and strategic use of APIs. Once your organization gets used to using APIs to create reusable, composable capabilities from your projects, that backlog will shrink.

For more resources on this approach, take a look at our whitepaper, take a look at the whitepaper Closing the IT Delivery Gap, and end the IT project delivery hamster wheel.

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