Johanna Rothman is a management consultant, a regular TechWell.com and Better Software magazine columnist, and the Agile Journal’s technical editor. In this interview, Johanna talks with online editor Jonathan Vanian about the year in software, the rise of project portfolio management, and whether or not we will continue to see organizations adopt agile in the new year.
Jonathan Vanian: What were some of the biggest highlights in the software world this past year?
Johanna Rothman: For me, there were two things that really struck me. The first was that people are starting to pay attention to project portfolio management. I mean, I wrote the book two years ago! What’s really cool is that people are actually starting to pay attention to it, and that, to me, is a huge thing. So, it’s not that people are buying the book all of a sudden—although I wish that they would—it’s that people are saying, “Multitasking is wrong. I should really start paying attention to which projects I want to fund and when, which projects do I want to commit to, which projects do I want to not commit to for now.”
People are actually using the language of project portfolio management, which I think is really exciting, because this means that people are thinking about “What do I want to do? what do I not want to do?” If they are thinking about that for the projects and the programs, it will trickle down to the people.
JV: How do you know that people are actually paying attention to this now? Are you coming across these people in your consulting work?
JR: I’m seeing it in my consulting, and I’m seeing it in the way people are talking about it. I see it at conferences. It used to be that people would say, “I don’t have enough people to plug-and-play into my projects. I have to have people 100 percent utilized,” and now they aren’t saying that as much. Some people are still saying it, but a lot more people are saying, “I know that 100 percent utilization is not exactly what I want, so I’m rethinking that. I know that I have to say, ‘What projects do I want to do now, and which projects do I want to do later?’” And then they turn to me and say, “Right, JR?”
JV: Are there any particular industries in which this is more prevalent?
JR: I see it a lot more in IT, because in IT the customers are right down the corridor. In product organizations, there’s more money riding on the products, so it’s easier to have a strategy that says, “This product; no, this product,” and the product people fight it out. But in IT, it’s harder to say, “This project; no that project, or this system.”
So, that’s one of the two things I’m seeing.
The other thing I’m seeing is that agile is making its way into larger and larger programs, and that’s why I’m writing the agile program management book. That’s why I’ve been writing a lot more about large agile and program management.