According to #b#Steve Romero#/b#, a self-described IT governance evangelist, every enterprise must ensure its business priorities and investments are tightly linked.

Project and portfolio management (PPM), a governance mechanism to make rational and reasonable spending and investment decisions to enable companies to meet their growth strategies, is one means of doing this. The goal of PPM is to ensure an organization’s overall portfolio is aligned and contributing optimal value to the organization’s strategic objectives.

Romero will present “Take the Project & Portfolio Management Journey” at the New Jersey Technology Council on Thursday, May 27, at noon at Advanced Health Media, in Bridgewater. Cost: $65. Visit www.njtc.org

Romero will provide an overview of PPM and how it enables an enterprise to meet its strategic goals and objectives.

Romero, an IT governance specialist with Computer Associates, based in the Princeton South office park in Ewing, is a 30-year veteran in the field. He develops IT governance processes, improves IT governance maturity, optimizes IT portfolio decisions, aligns IT with the corporate strategy, and maximizes IT’s return on investment.

Romero’s interest in PPM dates back to 1980, when a mentor in data communications and teleprocessing introduced him to project management. “Even our systems development projects, which are few and far between, didn’t apply discipline and project management rigor to them,” he says. “Let alone what I was involved with at the time and that was data communications and infrastructure deployment. He showed me this project management methodology and talked to me about project management and it was peas in a pod. Lights came on. It was this incredible process that could enable me to get work done.”

As he progressed, he was surprised to see people forced to use PMM to do their work. “I was always dumbfounded by that,” he says. “I wasn’t using project management methodology and following process because I had to. I was doing it because it made my work possible.”

Romero spent the next 30 years of his life in love with process, the formal way of getting the work done efficiently. “That made me an anachronism in my environments. I basically spent my time evangelizing these things.”

His last job was as IT governance officer for AAA Northern California, a fully process-centric position, where he was in charge of all governance. “PPM is one of 11 governance processes that I talk about. So it’s a subset of IT governance. But it is the king of governance processes.”

#b#What can PPM do#/b#? IT can identify the right projects to work on and prioritize. Romero believes many organizations are working on too many projects that are not in line with the resources available.

“Portfolio management is more than just choosing the right things,” Romero says. “In the process of giving a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down to that type of work, the people making those decisions are also tempering it with the reality of what they are capable of doing. So the business process tells them not only should we do it and is there value, but can we do it? Do we have the resources, the time, the money, the capacity, the capability to actually execute against this?”

When someone requests a product or program, he suggests asking whether it will be in a critical system. “In many cases they are unknowingly investing in systems that aren’t that important. In many cases the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.”

#b#A holistic view#/b#. “We’ve got to get past viewing and managing and monitoring and making decisions one part at a time, and really look at products in the context of the overall portfolio in which they exist,” says Romero. “They are put in a single portfolio because they have a shared goal. It’s the cumulative, the aggregated execution of these multiple efforts that will ultimately enable us to achieve the overarching strategy or objective. When we look at any one of them, we are not only thinking what does this mean to the success or the effort but we’re looking at, what does this mean to the other things in the portfolio and how might its success or its failure affect that.”

#b#Balance in the project mix#/b#. Romero gives the example of an investment analyst helping a client set up an IRA. If she asks a 20-year-old about their investment objectives, goals, and the mix of investments they’d choose, she’ll likely receive a different answer than she would from another client much closer to retirement.

“Every enterprise has those same characteristics in that they have different things they want to achieve, they are at different states, they have different resources, capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses,” says Romero. “Given all of those things, what is the right mix of investments for you, as opposed to your competitor? You need to determine what the right mix is for you, then you need to start manipulating that mix that is specific to you. PPM brings that to bear.”

#b#Identify projects to kill#/b#. “A huge aspect of PPM,” says Romero, “is taking $5 million mistakes and turning them into $1 million mistakes. Making those kill decisions is critical because a lot of organizations don’t even understand what a kill decision is.”

Romero believes too many projects fail. “They take longer than we commit to, they take longer than we say they are going to take, they cost more than we say they are going to cost, so they don’t deliver what the business needs to meet their objectives,” he says. “When I characterize a project as a failure, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have done the project, it just means somebody made a decision on an investment based on commitments we’ve made and we didn’t meet those commitments. So something in the system failed.”

What would greatly reduce that failure rate, according to Romero, is good decision making upfront and oversight and data to provide monitoring of progress. Once it is identified that a project isn’t progressing as anticipated or that it isn’t going to provide the value anticipated, an organization must decide whether it is better to spend extra money to fix it or to take the loss and kill the project.

“We’ve got to reduce our product failure rates,” says Romero. “Most organizations look at execution as something that is going to fix things. I’m going to tell them by the time you get to execution, you’ve probably already made the wrong decisions.”

Romero was born in San Francisco, but grew up in Sunnyvale, then a brand-new community that became the heart of Silicon Valley. He was the oldest of six children. His father was a mechanic at United Airlines who rose to maintenance inspector and also worked part-time at the horse races.

His mother was an artist who stayed home to raise the children. “My dad never invested in college,” Romero says. “The only way I was going to get through college was if I joined the service.”

So he did. After finishing high school Romero signed up for five years as a data processing technician with the navy, then extended for another two years. He worked during the night and studied business management at the Coronado extension center of the University of Luverne.

His first job was with the data communication, network administration and management group of Pacific Bell, where he met his wife.

Romero says the focus and main goal of his life is his family, his children, and putting his children through good schools. But as his business card and his enthusiasm point out, he is also devoted to promoting the benefits of process and portfolio management.

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