Introduction: About the use of Zapier for portfolio management
Zapier is a web service that allows you to integrate cloud applications with each other without the need of programming them. A few weeks ago, the Zapier team announced that they had exceeded 1000 applications in their directory, so you can find any service you need.
If you are an ITM Platform user, the integration with Zapier is very simple. You just have to choose the app you want to connect and follow the step-by-step guide that Zapier offers on its website.
Our clients use integration to connect teams without methodological knowledge of project management using task managers such as Trello. These applications help to collect tasks in project initiation meetings or to manage the demand.
In this article, we will focus on this last case: how to manage demand taking advantage of the possibilities offered by the integration of ITM Platform with Gmail through Zapier. But let’s review the demand problem first.
The problem of demand
One of the common features of any IT department or, more generally, an organization that manages internal and transformation projects, is that the demand for work is always greater that the capacity of the team. This problem cannot be solved on the satisfaction side: resources will always be a “short blanket” that can only cover part of the demand.
As is well known, the most important thing is prioritizing the really important work instead of finishing the maximum number of task. If you were to complete the largest number of requests, the result would be that resources are allocated only to those small tasks, simple to solve. And projects of greater dimensions and with greater transforming potential would be relegated to oblivion.
The centralization of demand
One of the reasons why it is so difficult to prioritize is that, often, requests are processed informally and addressed to different interlocutors, so they are difficult to measure in their entirely. It is possible that nobody knows with certainty what is the totality of the work that is being developed. And without having that complete catalog, it is not feasible to prioritize the demand in an orderly manner.
The problem is even more complicated when requests come from managers or influential people with a great capacity for persuasion, pressure and negotiation.
Therefore, a necessary condition to prioritize the work is to centralize it in a single repository.
This centralization should comply with the following aspects:
It is important that this centralization is communicated very clearly to the entire organization, noting that no one in the IT department can devote efforts to proposals, incidents or projects that have not been completed through the chosen channel.
Of course, the formalization should be clear to all concerned: IT experts should be well aware that their work cannot be extended to projects and tasks not approved; but this restriction will be really difficult to implement if the middle managers do not respect the system. It is, after all, to transform the work culture.
For the cultural change and the formalization to be successful, it is fundamental that the communication channel chosen to filter the demand is not difficult to use. For example, the most practical thing is to allow existing channels to be used, without the need to use complex forms or other bureaucratic formulas.
Centralize the demand in ITM Platform with Zapier
As we said at the beginning of the article, an example of communication channel for demand management that covers all the conditions just listed is the connection of ITM Platform with email through Zapier.
The Gmail zap to ITM Platform meets all the necessary conditions. In particular, it perfectly fulfills the need to combine formalization and simplicity. What could be easier than sending an email?
These are the advantages that make several of our clients already taking advantage of this way of working:
The channel gives access to all the users of the organization, without necessarily being members of the projects or having ITM Platform licenses. Simply send an email to an email address created on purpose (for example: email@example.com) and follow the nomenclature that has been decided in the subject. The simplest thing is to put “[proposal]” followed by a brief description.
It allows to formalize the review process through a Kanban panel, which brings together the advantages of the operations work with the one based on projects (DevOps). In this way, there is no problem in bringing together in the same channel maintenance work and updating, along with larger projects that deserve to appear in the portfolio of the organization.
The portfolio manager (CIO/portfolio manager /PMO) has a unique dashboard to receive all the suggestions and can check the availability of the team to assign them to an analysis as part of the same project.
In this way, for example:
1.The first column contains the received proposals;
2.A second column may include those that are pending analysis, already assigned to someone who has the capacity for this work
3.Third column for the analyzed proposals, with an estimate of hours and a breakdown of additional tasks
4.Fourth column for the approved tasks, distinguishing in swimlanes:
If they are assigned to a project manager, it will be to create the corresponding project
If they are simple maintenance tasks, they will be assigned to another expert to develop then.
Thanks to ITM Platform, you can manage all the work of your teams in one place, no matter who asks for it and to whom it will be assigned.
This method of demand management is also compatible with some departments in your organization sending their tasks from other tools, such as customer service with Zendesk.
In this way, the management of internal demand and the demand for change of customers can be unified in the same environment. This solution would allow:
Having indicators on the number of hours dedicated to each demand management project.
Treating with simplicity the maintenance of applications and technology in a support that coordinates it with the management of the projects: pure philosophy DevOps.
Dealing with the most scheduled maintenance work through the services sections of ITM Platform.
If the problem of demand management has no place in your company, there are other ways to collect tasks that can be interesting. For example, you can use this Google Sheets template for your project meetings and leave the meeting with a fairly complete draft project, from which the project manager’s work will be much simpler.