What should an IT leader do when the number of projects far exceeds their organization’s capacity?

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Board Member in Healthcare and Biotech, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
Now that many CIO's are beginning to see COVID-related challenges disappear or fade away, we have the problem of plenty. Organizations want to catch up on all the time that they lost and all the business that they could not do. Many people, including myself, are now struggling with how to tell the business, "I don't have the capacity. Even if I want to hire people, it's not going to be easy to get the resources or the skills to execute what you want."

It's been a very interesting situation, because the organization is willing to give us the budget but it's not about the money. The budget doesn't help me execute successfully, it only gets me started. Now every project is about building new capabilities, so I have to make sure the organization is internally aligned and able to absorb that change without disrupting business as usual, and then scale it from there.

For most organizations, the digital transformations that started three or four years ago were put on the back burner because revenue had dried up. Suddenly they are back because revenues are back up again. We are seeing tremendous growth. But salaries have gone up dramatically, and I’m struggling to maintain even help desk support people.
CIO in Software, 501 - 1,000 employees
I worked for someone years ago who used an approach that I found very effective. We had the problem of shared resources in IT and multiple business people who needed them. So he got all of the customers in one room and we prioritized together. It was so effective because instead of people thinking, "IT is not taking care of me,” they were like, "Oh, I get it. Here is the total list of tasks being done." There was a certain amount of horse-trading where someone would say, "I get it, your thing is super important. My thing can be moved down the list now, but someday I may come to you and say that I need mine to go to the top of the list." Maybe we were lucky in terms of the personalities involved, but that transparency really changed the dynamic. In the absence of that, people come up with stories in their head like, "IT just doesn't like me", or "People in other business units are getting all the love and I'm not getting any attention."
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CIO / Managing Partner in Manufacturing, 2 - 10 employees

I have had this experience a couple of times. You can have that whole conversation about the list and try to prioritize it based on business need or value, and somebody who’s halfway down the list will still say, “Yeah, totally agree. Now, what about my two projects?" The moment you cease that conversation, they immediately go back to that.

Associate Vice President, Information Technology & CISO in Education, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
Establish a prioritization committee which involves the stakeholders from areas of the business and let them decide on the order of delivery. Ensuring that you have valid assessment / evaluation criteria for the priority setting is key. Ultimately the business owns the list, and you deliver on it.
Chief Executive Officer in Software, 51 - 200 employees
Find out the trusted partner who can work with you to full fill the capacity. You can let your customer know about agency resources to have a trusted partnership with them.
1 1 Reply
CISO in Software, 201 - 500 employees

I agree, in today's industry, where businesses sometimes have high growth bursts.. a trusted partner is the way to go, while IT can create sustainable resource strength.. the tradeoff here is that if these bursts last too long, they could create huge gaps in the overall landscape of the company. If we are talking about people resources in particular, the talent acquisition functions should be strengthened to handle the traffic generated from growth and attrition

CIO in Education, 201 - 500 employees
Increase their capacity - w/ internal resources
Increase their capacity - w/ external resources/partners
Decrease the number of projects in flight via communication and collaborative (re-)prioritization

The last thing you can do is stay on current path. You’ll lose your best people and your projects will not be successful.
CIO in Education, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
Prioritize using governance, consistent with the highest business priorities.
Senior Director, Defense Programs in Software, 5,001 - 10,000 employees
Prepare 3 envelopes.
Director of IT in Software, 201 - 500 employees
The first thing to do is prioritize, then explore options to outsource and in parallel work to increase the organization's capacity, both in technology and human capital.

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