Five apps to help CIOs do their job successfully

Take a look at five tools to help a CIO manage their IT department's business interaction.

The role of the CIO is generally a non-technical one. Sure, they should be comfortable with technology and perhaps even have some background in IT, but it's not a requirement. Instead, CIOs are the interface between IT and management; the advocate for the IT department to ensure the essential projects get approved - and sometimes even the fun ones. Because of this relationship, CIOs are often called upon to perform the non-technical tasks required to keep an IT department operating; things like Requirements Management, Project Management, IT Portfolio Management, and Enterprise Architecture / Business Strategic Management. And in those cases when there is another person on the IT staff who is able to perform some or all of these functions, they still work closely with the CIO - especially when it comes to Strategic Management.

For this edition of Five Apps, we take a look at five tools to help a CIO manage their IT department's business interaction.

This article is supplemented by a TechRepublic Screenshot Gallery.

Five Apps

1. AceProject

Project Management is one of the key pieces of information a business needs to understand the when assessing the performance of the IT department. AceProject is a web-based package that contains everything you need for simple-to-intermediate project management with a few other bells and whistles thrown in. For example, the Dashboard; here the CIO can, at a glance, see the status of project tasks, review time spent, and check on the overall status of projects. In addition, the Tasks have many of the fields Project Managers and users are accustomed to from other project management software packages, project expenses (time and otherwise) are easily tracked, and documents can be attached. One final standout feature of AceProject is branding. You can change the logo, page title, color scheme, and other aspects of the site to fit your organization. The free version allows for three active users, two active projects with 50 active tasks between them, and up to 250MB of storage space.

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2. PPM Roadmap

PPM Roadmap is another web-based project management tool that allows you to capture some of the same types of information as the others but also adds a really nice dashboard that breaks availability and utilization down to the role and to the person. It also makes great use of color to help you understand where your department is and how healthy your projects are. Once you drill into the project, there is a project-level dashboard comparing plans to actuals as well as projected status. Finally, you can look at the list of items assigned to each user, which the user can use to log their time on each task. Roadmap has a 30-day free trial and then three paid versions that offer additional numbers of projects and features.

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The Battle for the Soul of IT

3. Zoho Projects

Zoho Projects takes all of the common features of project management apps and adds the ability to create web pages and dashboards to extend your Zoho site. It also adds a nice forum feature to help keep projects and team members organized and a bug tracking feature for those projects that generate bugs. Finally, there is a calendar view to keep track of your employees' schedules and help meet deadlines. Zoho is free for one project. Paid versions allow unlimited projects and many more features.

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4. Open Source Requirements Management Tool

When managing projects, especially those including development, it is often necessary to manage requirements. Open Source Requirements Management Tool (OSRMT) does just that. With this simple tool, you can easily capture requirements broken into various categories and assign priorities and version numbers. Further, you can attach files to requirements and capture the dependent requirements. OSRMT is open source and completely free.


5. Planware Online Strategic Planner

Planware's Online Strategic Planner is a simple web site that helps capture various strategic measures such as SWOTs, Vision, Mission, Values, and Key Strategies. It then compiles these into a formatted report. Planware also offers several other business planning pages and software packages; some free, some for a fee. The Online Strategic Planner is free.

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Bottom line

A CIO's job is, of course, never this simple. There are many other tools available to help get the job done as easily and efficiently as possible. However, not all of them are free. What are your favorite tools (free or not) to perform one of the activities above or another common CIO activity? Share your suggestions in the comments below.