BCS – Experiential ‘Alignment’ workshop
The BCS Service Management Specialist Group in London organized a ‘Business & IT Alignment’ workshop event using the Grab@Pizza business simulation. You may think that Business & IT Alignment is the wrong terminology – it should be Business & IT convergence or Fusion. However trends reveal that ‘Alignment’ is still an issue. Many IT organizations are still struggling to gain ‘Trust’ and ‘Credibility’ and are not seen either as a strategic, or as an equal partner.
I asked people at the start what they hoped to gain from the event. Answers ranged from networking (and sharing), fun, see what a simulation is, learn more about ITIL, learn more about COBIT, gain new insights.
At the start of the session we explored some of the latest trends in Business & IT revealing that IT Service Management is now, or must be, a Strategic capability. However many organizations are struggling to make the transformation to strategic partner. We throw many frameworks at the problem e.g ITIL, COBIT, BRM and struggle to translate the theory into practice.
“Also to fully realize this partnership position it requires both business & IT to change attitudes and behaviors”.
A game to solve the problem?
So how can a simulation game help solve the problem? A business simulation game is an ideal instrument to bring both business and IT together to explore weaknesses and identify and agree improvements together. A simulation not only provides an environment to experiment with ‘communication’ and ‘collaboration’ but also an environment to experience how to translate theory into practice in a safe environment, and to explore and capture improvements that can be taken away.
We played one round of the business simulation Grab@Pizza. It is a highly interactive, dynamic learning environment. Grab@Pizza is the name of a successful company selling millions of Pizza’s every year. But after 6 months in the current year, the sales figures are far below expectations. IT is posing a significant business risk due to downtime and the inability of IT to respond to changing business needs (Risks). The CEO urged the Business Managers to make a challenging recovery plan. This plan is based on a 6 month strategy to bring the sales and profit back on target, to streamline operational processes and to improve the image and reputation of the organization (Value & Outcomes). Existing IT capabilities are poor, resources are tied up in ‘Keeping the lights on’ rather than supporting and enabling new innovations (Investment Costs). The IT department must ensure the appropriate capabilities are in place to execute the strategic plan and sufficient and effective resources are allocated to ensure both Value realization and Risk mitigation (Resource optimization).
After the month $25 million revenue opportunities were not realized and $7 million was lost because of downtime and outages. The massive amount of ITIL theory in to room had created, in their words, ‘Chaos’, ‘Confusion’, ‘poor communication and decision making’, ‘ poor prioritization’, ‘SILO’d working’ … We then looked at the ITIL practitioner guiding principles and the CobIT goals cascade, primarily looking at ‘Focus on value’ and ‘Design for experience’ and how the CobIT Goals cascade can help business and IT focus on strategic goals.
At the end of the session we captured CSI improvements that the team would have applied in the next game round and explored how these relate to current reality ‘what IT organizations need to take away to help realize Business and IT Alignment’. These were the takeaways:
- IT needs to get the business to share the mission, vision and goals the business is trying to achieve. The CobIT goals cascade was recognized as a good ‘instrument’ to facilitate the dialogue between business and IT to identify and AGREE both business and IT strategic goals. This can be facilitated by the BRM function.
- The BRM function is often primarily a partner to the business. BRM needs to be a partner to the business AND to IT, helping ensure ‘business IQ’ is shared with IT and embedded into priority mechanisms, also to ensure that IT needs are taken into account and understood by the business, e.g. improved requirements definition.
- ITIL processes must break out of the SILO’d approach. Look for upstream & downstream needs. Ask ‘what information do YOU need from me to get YOUR work done’? E.g.Service Desk needs: Insight into changes done & NOT done, like new business changes, Known error changes not scheduled, types of changes,information from BRM or SLM identifying the impact of outages to business value (e.g. lost revenue, damaged reputation).
- Change management is often a ‘constraint’ or bottleneck. There is always too much work and a conflict between ‘innovation’ changes and ‘IT changes’ – there needs to be a priority and escalation mechanism to ensure changes are prioritized in terms of business value (benefits realization vs risk optimization).
- There needs to be visibility into all of the changes (types of IT work) and how these relate to business value, e.g. Capacity management needs to see business changes and expected usage patterns so that appropriate capacity can be planned accordingly (Design for experience and focus on value) to help
- Improved reporting. IT metrics and measures must not only help IT with improving efficiency and effectiveness but must also demonstrate achievement of BUSINESS value and enable effective business decision making.
- Service levels are often too focused on meaningless IT related metrics, e.g. %resolved, %availability and these are NOT translated into business terms and related to impact on business value.
- IT must learn to make (or recognize) business cases for changes. In terms of ‘Value’, ‘ Outcomes’ , ‘Costs’, ‘Risks’. Problem management needs to be able to make a sound business case for changes relating to known errors, the business risks these represent, the cost saving that can be made and the impact of KE’s to current and projected business value.
- There are often CSI initiatives at ‘local level’, e.g specific processes, there also needs to be a recognition of end-to-end CSI needs (business changes may also be needed, e.g business needs to help identify impact of outages, BRM needs to make the information available, priority & escalation mechanisms need to be aligned accordingly), BRM can help FACILITATE end to end CSI.
- There needs to be improved communication within IT and with the business – there are often too many assumptions. Lack of accurate, complete, timely, relevant communication leads to mistakes, rework, incorrect prioritization and resource wastage.
At the end of the session delegates agreed how this type of simulation is a powerful learning AND improvement instrument. ‘It is great for collaboration and team working‘, said one delegate ‘it gave me real insight into improvements I need to take away’ said another.
“This was a chance to be coached in a simulation of reality of how to better judge the impact of what we are doing in technology to serve and interact with the rest of our organisation. It made me think and it made the group involved think”. Daniel Breston.
You can follow the Twitter threads on what happened using the hashtag #bcsSMSG