CXO

Appetite for destruction: CIOs need to make more time to kill off zombie projects

IT chiefs should start taking out the tech trash...
U-turn sign

CIOs need to spend more time getting rid of underperforming projectsPhoto: Shutterstock

CIOs should place as much value on decommissioning and simplifying projects as they do on creating new ones.

Most IT departments are expected to absorb an increasing number of projects without setting aside time to get rid of projects that are no longer useful, according to analysts.

"In general we have been piling more and more onto the IT staff in companies. Business units and functions are constantly demanding more stuff," Dave Aron, Gartner fellow, told silicon.com - and this accumulation of tasks can stifle the potential of IT staff to think creatively about how IT can improve business processes.

IT departments need to have a bit of space built into their workload and budget, according to Aron, and that can only be achieved if they're getting rid of projects as well as taking them on.

"Of course everyone recognises that things eventually get decommissioned but it tends to be pretty accidental, so you get systems that live on too long that become very complex and fragile," Aron said.

"You also get zombie projects, projects that keep going well past their sell-by date either because it's too politically embarrassing or it's too complex to stop them or it's become habitual."

CIOs need to address the balance of priorities within the IT department so that greater time is spent on identifying projects that should be canned.

"Not enough planning effort goes into how to simplify, how to decommission, how to get rid of stuff that is no longer necessary or no longer the best way to do things," Aron said.

"There isn't a good balance in most IT organisations or indeed most businesses in planning the destruction [of projects] as well as creating."

CIOs must also work to change the way the IT department is viewed by the rest of the business, according to Gartner, if more time is to be spent on destruction. IT chiefs should reposition IT departments - and the CIO role itself - to be seen less as order-takers and more as business partners who are involved in the future of the business.

"It is very hard to do that creative destruction if all you are doing is taking orders for more and more [IT projects] from the rest of the business," Aron said.

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