Education Technology

Developing IT Governance and Portfolio Management Processes to Govern Projects


  • Kelly Block, AVP for Administrative IT Services, University of Illinois Central Administration
  • Michael Hites, CIO, Southern Methodist University
  • Sarah Sage, IT Project Manager, Southern Methodist University
  • Cynthia Cobb, Director, Portfolio and Process Management, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Teena Newman, Director of PMO, Southern Methodist University

Nice packet of supplemental information was provided for participants of this workshop.

IT Planning in Higher Education: pretty new to campuses. We have some catching up to do compared to our peers.

Strategy sets a destination, governance provides a route.

  • Allocation: who, why, how
  • Defines: processes, components, structures, participants
  • …for making decisions regarding the use of IT

ITG is useful for creation of scorecards; mandatory versus customer-requested project hours (shows technical debt and staffing levels); on-time performance (on budget/off budget); opportunities for vertical and horizontal collaboration and communication encourages better decisions and improves relationships; transparency.

Positive Factors for ITG Effectiveness

  • Active design of ITG
  • Ability of ITG participants to describe ITG accurately
  • Frequency of participation, providing input, etc.

Governance, Portfolio and Project Management

Group discussion on participant’s challenges and successes with IT Governance and PPM

  1. What works well?
  2. What are areas for improvement?
  3. How would you like to see things change?

What works well?

  • Transparency: post minutes to LMS
  • Make sure it’s customer-focused
  • Communication: “roadshow” describing why governance process is useful and necessary.

What are areas for improvement?

  • Informative versus action-oriented
  • Accountability
  • Improving metrics: urgency (mandated versus anecdotal need) and measurement of actual impact
  • “Whole institution mindset”
  • Managing sheer volume of projects & resources

A repeatable, rational process to collect ideas, select initiatives, prioritize among them.

ITG Components

  • Purpose & Scope: what needs to be governed? Topics, functions, summary topics; units & colleges; strategy/operations/service levels, performance measurement. Definitions will add clarity to the process! Identify the subject material.
  • Participants: determine who should advise versus who should make decisions; consider existing groups/positions/functions. If things are run through a transparent process, then they’re easily defensible. Determine specific roles (advisory/decision-making, group sponsors, chairs/leads/owners, governance office/portfolio management). Key element is how the structure connects everyone and connects to other decision making processes. Over time, it’s important to identify/review/repurpose/dissolve committees.
  • Decision-making: set specific decision points; set policy & standards; project selection & prioritization; resource allocation (resources have to be connected to decision points, incentives for participation). Has access to resource pools. Funding model components for consideration: base funding for enterprise/campus services; project funding for one-time initiatives; ancillary funding for college/department level services; fee for service (use-based chargeback). Need clear review and decision points for projects. Define a process for exceptions. Projects that are 10%+/- on their estimates go through a exception/review process. Have a mechanism to limit our work-in-progress. Review every few years.
  • Structure:
  • Communication & Coordination: transparency about the process, requires dedicated staff!

Portfolio Management

Collection of projects grouped together to facilitate effective mgmt of that work in order to meet strategic business objectives. Main activities of a portfolio manager are:

  1. Facilitating project selection and prioritization
  2. Scheduling and resource management
  3. Managing (aka monitoring and controlling) the portfolio
  4. Providing project management standards and guidance

Other activities include:

  • Facilitate ITG; manage resources; manage portfolio; ensure project success.
  • Portfolio manager has lots of activities! Many are centered around communication.

Spent some time reviewing forms and processes

  • Project proposals
  • Project summary and rating
  • Portfolio strategy and rating
  • Priority details
  • Budget Impact and Ranking for New Projects


  • Estimating costs & benefits
  • Sponsor buy-in to process
  • Keeping up/not becoming a bottleneck
  • Not becoming too heavy
  • “We don’t have time for this” argument

0 to PPM

Work > Portfolio > Projects > Systems


  • ID all the types of work done your org
  • Define high-level categories (“buckets,” split between project & operations)
  • Start with PMBOK definition, then customize for your org
  • Numbers are just a guideline
  • Projects for PM activity get broken into different levels (“bracketing” of time, hours, risk)
  • Inventory will allow you to populate your portfolio
  • Assign ownership; institute status/reporting/guidelines/cycles; set expectations from upper management for reporting
  • Time reporting: record effort expended to make assessments (resource availability, project health, scheduling new work, staffing levels)


  • Controls flow of work
  • Establish proposal template, clear process for submission, review groups, etc.
  • Set up regular reporting cycles
  • Show value quickly
  • Keep it simple at first!
  • Set expectation that this is the system of record
  • Establish prioritization and scheduling process; communicate priorities; regular review cycle; tools & reports


  • Select PMO model: supportive, controlling, directive, optional service provider; staffing options, executive support, culture, evaluate org pain points, identify states
  • Develop standards: best if designed by group; lighter the better; use PMI (or other org) as a starting point. Develop as a group! Have a PM toolkit, SDLC standards. Build the PMO! Hire discipline over personality. Adopt systems as appropriate to your processes (Box, TeamDynamix, whatever you need).


Origination > Initiation & Planning > Execution > Closing

  • Origination: document business case & project proposal for review & approval.
  • Initiation: develop project charter & communication plan; formalize & communicate goals, deliverables, participants and roles.
  • Planning: Develop detailed and complete work plan, including finalizing tasks, assigning resources, setting schedules, and gathering estimates.
  • Execution: do the work; execute, monitor and control the project and communication plan.
  • Closing: tie up loose ends, hand off results, assess project performance and release team.

Agile: value delivered iteratively, high trust collaboration, self-organizing teams, focus on MVP

Hybrid: any combination of PMM, work measurable and focused on milestones and/or key deliverables.

By Paul Schantz

CSUN Director of Web & Technology Services, Student Affairs. husband, father, gamer, part time aviator, fitness enthusiast, Apple fan, and iguana wrangler.

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