Friday, June 10, 2005

Portfolio Management

Computer Associates acquires Niku, variously described as IT Governance, Business Portfolio Management, Enterprise Portfolio Management and Business Service Optimization.

Niku's main product is Clarity, described as "a project and portfolio management solution that provides comprehensive management of IT projects, programs and initiatives as a portfolio of projects". Some of the marketing material talks so generically about investments and assets that the product appears to be usable for managing any investments, not just IT acquisitions and developments.

The obvious comparison is IBM's acquisition of Systemcorp, which is now incorporated in the Rational product suite as Rational Portfolio Manager. Other independent tools include Planview. Presumably Clarity is being positioned as CA's offering in this space, and I look forward to seeing appropriate integration with other development tools from CA and third parties.

Portfolio management is seen as a way of connecting the business with software development, and extends the scope of the software process. Besides good tools, there is a clear need for process guidance. See for example Scott Ambler's piece on Extending the RUP with the Portfolio Management Discipline.

Much of the time, an IT portfolio is assumed to be a portfolio of (development) projects. Like an open-ended development programme, but with greater distribution of responsibility and diversity of outcome. While many of the disciplines of programme management also apply to portfolio management (including quality management and risk management), there is a greater emphasis on business investment and ROI. Some proponents of IT portfolio management (arguing from the analogy of financial portfolio theory) see it as a way of smoothing IT risk across the enterprise. See for example this IBM paper on What CIOs can learn from portfolio theory.

But of course IT isn't just about projects. IT management includes the delivery and support of services via a complex set of assets and relationships. A complete IT portfolio includes assets, contracts, services and lots of other stuff.

CA already has a separate tool (Unicenter Argis) for portfolio asset management. In the longer-term, it would make sense for CA to bring together all aspects of IT portfolio management into a single tool, to support optimization across the whole of IT.

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