Michael Schrage's "Making IT Work" editorial in the January 2006 CIO Magazine, Do You Believe in the Backlog Fairy?, riffs off the results of the magazine's State of the CIO survey. The survey says that the biggest "barrier to job effectiveness" for CIO's is a huge backlog of requests and projects. And there is too little money and too little time for strategic planning. Schrage's response to this finding:
Excuse me, but if you don't have enough time or money to plan, strategize or prioritize, just what the heck do you think will happen to all those project requests? My bet is that you'll get—yes!—a backlog.
Backlogs in project management are a classic symptom (not the cause) of poor planning. And this backlog is usually projects that have started but have not yet completed for any variety of reasons. In project management, the backlog appears as an ever-growing pile of Gantt charts or project workspaces that haven't been closed out. This is also known as work in process (WIP), particularly in the manufacturing world. In manufacturing, the backlog is much easier to see because uncompleted parts and assemblies become stacked all over the plant.
Schrage goes on to talk about the importance of strategic planning and working with one's colleagues throughout the business. At the CIO level, there had better be a solid understanding of how the projects (requested and in-process) relate to the goal of the business: how will the successful project affect Sales, Variable Costs, Operating Expenses and Investment? How does this compare to the cost of the project? Is it worth it?