ITSM: raising the game

Published on Monday 19 December 2016 by in News with no comments

John Custy together with Jason Stonehouse organized a Business and IT ‘alignment’ workshop hosted at Akamai in Boston. The event was attended by IT professionals representing different organizations. The workshop made use of the Grab@Pizza business simulation game to explore more about what ‘Alignment’ means, how it relates to ITSM and what delegates can take away and do differently in their  own oganizations.

Why did John organize this event?

Business & IT alignment…or ‘convergence’ is still a number 1 concern in CIO surveys.

More importantly it is becoming a hot topic on CEO agendas. The increasing power of IT to transform the way business is done and the potential business risk and damage of getting it wrong makes it a ‘C’ level concern. For too long now in IT we have struggled with ‘Alignment’. Why do we continue to struggle, what MUST we in IT start doing differently….and equally important ‘what must the Business start doing differently’? It is time we stopped talking about ‘Alignment’ and started talking about ‘Convergence’.

The business simulation game was used to highlight current ‘issues’ with the Business and IT relationship and capabilities and to capture takeaway learning points and actions.

Grab@Pizza …..a game !? How is THAT going to help?

As one delegate said after the event ‘I was told to come, I didn’t expect this. This was a great learning experience and has given me insights into how I can do things differently as a person and what we need to takeaway and apply in our organization’!

Grab@Pizza is a dynamic, business simulation in which IT and preferably Business managers can come together to explore Business & IT alignment. In this simulation a team of players plays the business and IT management team of an international Pizza corporation Grab@Pizza. The business wants to realize an ambitious set of business targets for revenue growth and customer loyalty through the successful adoption and deployment of IT.

In the simulation IT must also manage and maintain the Infrastructure to ensure that it poses no risk to business operations and continuity. The game simulates a year in the life of the Grab@Pizza organization. The first fictive 6 months were dramatic in terms of IT and business performance. A Transformation is required. The delegates must work as one team to prioritize their IT investments and IT project portfolio for the remaining 6 months of the year. Failing to align business and IT will cause wasted costs, lost business opportunities and revenue, lose customers and damage the company reputation. Between game rounds the team will apply CSI (Continual Service Improvement) and assess their alignment capability, agreeing executing improvements. At the end of the session the team will discuss and explore success and fail factors they experienced and identify actions they can take away and apply into their own organizations.

What happened?

At the end of the first game round the team reflected on what had happened and equally, what they recognize from reality!


  • Poor communication between business & IT about real ‘needs’ vs ‘wants’ , priorities, status. Lack of clear formal roles and lines of communication. Information wasn’t shared across the value chain.
  • Poor decision making in relating to change priorities.
  • Reports from IT did not enable effective business decision making.
  • No insight into the business strategy or the pipeline of investment decisions impacting IT.
  • No understanding of impact of outages. IT did not seek to understand and the business did not share.
  • The SLA was meaningless to the business.
  • The BRM role was an ‘order taker’ but unable to ensure delivery of promises.
  • Prioritization was based on ‘who shouts loudest’ – fortunately IT pushed back using a business case and getting C level commitment.
  • ‘IT didn’t ask, business didn’t tell and both blame the other’!
  • Poor end-to-end alignment of processes, critical, timely, relevant information did not ‘flow’ accurately or completely through the value chain.

How to improve?

We then explored and applied some CSF’s (Critical Success Factors), starting with VALUE.  COBIT explains value creation as ‘Benefits realization’ , ‘Resource optimization’ and ‘Risk optimization’, ITIL describes a services a ‘a means of delivering Value to Customers by facilitating Outcomes they want to achieve (benefits realization) without the ownership of specific Costs & Risks (Resource optimization & Risk optimization), BRM describes ‘Value creation’ vs ‘Value leakage’ – None of these terms were understood or applied to ‘resource optimization’ and prioritization. This also scores as a number 1 issue in workshops with more than 3000 organizations ‘IT has too little understanding of business impact and priority’.

The BRM role then facilitated the CSI (Continual Service Improvement) session to agree changes to both IT and the Business. In the second round all targets were achieved, the team was less stressed, the business was happy. IT was in control!

What can we……..MUST we,  take away from this exercise?

We then asked the team ‘what did you apply in the game to realize this turn around, that you NEED to take away and apply in YOUR organization’?

  • Right people in meetings ‘decision making authority’ using ‘facts’.
  • Collaboration – open communication, sharing the ‘why’
  • More leadership and ownership for making the alignment work. The importance of BRM as a strategic partner to the business AND IT – providing valuable business intelligence to IT.
  • Interconnection of processes – ensuring right information flows between processes, asking ‘who need what from who’. With clear RACI who to ask, who is responsible.
  • The importance of breaking down SILO’s – this game helped bring people together to do this.
  • Trust: from understanding the bigger picture then demonstrating and focusing on what is needed, which creates more trust.
  • Visibility: ‘reason behind the priority’ – linked to strategy/goals/vision
  • Forecasting: trend growth of incidents and using problem management to understand patterns and trends (types of incidents and reasons) and be pro-active in reducing incidents. PM needs to be able to make a business case to effectively manage risk and protect value.
  • Change: ‘Asking the right questions’ – ensuring a sound business case for the prioritization and understanding of impact and risk of bouncing changes. Need for tool visibility linking changes to business portfolio to vision and strategic goals.
  • Linking incidents and SLA’s to business criticality and impact – understanding vital business functions and patterns of business activity.
  • Not focusing on my needs and ‘telling people’, more listening and questioning – focus on why and what can we do to change things.
  • Understanding the SLA in terms of business and IT consequences and impact. SLA’s must be fit-for-use and fit-for-purpose our SLA’s were used to ‘defend’ and were ‘internal metrics’ – no SLA relation to business value.
  • Importance of business forecasting – the ‘pipeline’ and the fit with strategic goals. The importance of the BRM is gathering this.
  • Need to invest in more BRM capability when business has high innovation and investment appetite.
  • BRM must demonstrate an understanding of business drivers, strategy, goals – ensure BOTH business and IT take ownership.
  • BRM helps cross reference changes to VOCR. Balancing resources against benefits realization and risk optimization.


It was clear that a sorely missing component, perhaps one of the reasons that ‘Aligment’ scores year after year as a top issue, is the lack of a strategic BRM capability – a capability that will help us shift from ‘Alignment’ to ‘Convergence’.

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