Many solution development organizations within IT still have permanent teams in place, either for maintenance purposes or because prior attempts to create tool-based flexible centres did not produce the expected results.
The strength claimed for these teams is that they conserve knowledge of the client and the client’s part of the business.
This may well be true (it is not always). But they come at a high cost, as well.
Many enterprises fund only a limited number of key projects these days. Other projects receive no more funding than the base that pays for the project team to be there waiting for work.
What happens in these circumstances is that projects in the pipeline that have not yet received the funding to proceed are assigned and worked on anyway.
Meetings are held. Reports are written. Studies are done. A lot of initial work takes place on the corners of peoples’ desks.
This not only draws key resources away from the work that is funded, it creates momentum toward a specific solution far sooner than it should be developed.
Early work to assess risks, to understand objectives, to cost the project and to determine the value to be gained by doing it is very much in order. These are the things a Governance Board should expect be completed before releasing the project in any way. (A full-blown project plan should probably not be drawn up until an initial release is given.)
What happens in this situation is that the solution gets determined early — either as an extension of what exists, or a commitment to a package (and its modifications) made ahead of the architectural process taking place.
From the client area’s point of view, the work is meaningful (otherwise why take part). The permanent team thus becomes the internal “salespeople” for what that work has produced.
Sometimes you get lucky, and this is the course of action that would have been best for the health of the portfolio, achieving the lowest total cost to own and operate, and best fitting the emerging information needs. In that case, no real harm done.
Most of the time, though, one or more of these governing objectives isn’t achieved — but the future is committed enough that it’s a huge fight with the client to make any changes. So the enterprise suboptimizes its future rather than have that fight.
For the enterprise as a whole, it would have been so much better to have not done any work at all!
This is the hidden cost of permanent teams. Let the client relationship be held by client relationship staff. Take the technical skills and put them in competency groups, to work on the funded activities. Govern the IT value chain and the phases from idea to worked out concept to planned project accordingly.