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Demand management?! What is it? Why do I need it? If your IT work is coming in faster than you can deliver it, you need a Demand Management process to give order and priority to your work. And your IT teams will thank you for that.
What is Demand Management?
Demand management is a process which guides how customer demand is taken in, analyzed, prioritized and planned. Proper demand management helps IT:
- plan and prioritize their organization’s work, services and assets
- staff the IT organization to support customer needs
- identify trends in demand and help their customers take a more proactive approach to technology needs
- anticipate and budget for future work
Business analysts are at the forefront of many of these activities in their IT organizations.
A Demand Management Process
I’ve been around a lot of work in-take processes, simple and complex. What I’ve discovered is there’s really just one process for managing project demand. It contains 4 simple phases and a few stage gates. The process can be scaled up or down depending upon the type of work requests that are coming in.
For the purposes of this article, the steps within the phases are placeholders for activities that an organization can tailor to their needs.
My simple demand management process looks like this:
This first phase, called Exploring, is all about clarifying the problem to solve and deciding if it even needs to be solved. The stage gate at the end of this phase asks question “Are we going to pursue this piece of work?” This question acknowledges that evaluating the work request has an unrecoverable cost so the organization should be confident that this is a problem worth solving.
The request is declined if the answer is “no” at this stage gate. Else, the request moves onto the 2nd phase: Pursuing.
The Pursuing phase involves diving into a high level of requirements and solutioning to understand more about the request, its costs and impacts. The organization is not creating a full set of requirements but just enough to provide a high level estimate.
IT “big thinkers” perform most of the work of this phase. They dedicate their time, away from planned IT work, to learn about and envision solutions for the proposals. Their outputs include cost and resource data.
This phase ends with with a stage gate that asks the question “Are we going to do the work requested?” “No” means that the work will not be pursued. “Yes” means the request will be pursued and is forwarded to the next phase.
The Planning phase involves setting the budget and finding resources to perform the work. Some approved work may not be formally budgeted. Support work, for example, may be part of a team’s Run budget. But every approved work request includes the costs, time and resources. These outputs are documented so they can be shared with the delivery team.
The 3rd stage gate in this process does one last check to make sure the work is still needed. “Has the priority or need for the work changed?” A “no” stops or delays the work until the time is right. A “yes” forwards the work to the next phase.
The final step in the demand management is the execution of the work.
- the work request is transitioned into the software development lifecycle (SDLC) that is in place for the teams OR
- tracking of the delivery work can be setup to happen through the demand management tool for small requests or in IT departments if there is no work management tool
The next article in this series discusses demand work categories. These are critical to scaling your demand management process and determining the right activities.