V O C R to make a difference

Published on Tuesday 3 April 2012 by in Blog with no comments

I genuinely believe that the definition is a service in ITIL is a great instrument for helping to get ITSM on the agenda, create a dialogue, prioritize improvements, get people to focus on the basics again and get the business engaged…..many people disagree and find the definition unhelpful or wrong, some even call me an Idiot, however I generally get called an Idiot so I’ll ignore that bit. However, is it unhelpful?

In this blog I want to explain what I mean and relate it to the significant challenges and trends facing many IT organizations. I also want to show how it helped one IT organization prioritize their ITSM investments in 2012…..together with the business (Now there is a novel idea, engage and involve the business in IT improvements…..whatever next!?)

The definition is ‘ A Service is a means of delivering Value to Customers by facilitating Outcomes they want to achieve without the ownership is specific Costs and Risks’.

I have already written a number of blogs and conference summaries showing how only 5% of ITSM people ‘ doing ITIL’ could tell me this definition!. So I won’t labor the point here! I’ve already, together with itSMF and Forrester blogs revealed the results of World-wide  ABC (Attitude, Behavior, Culture) worst practice surveys. These  reveal that ‘IT has too little understanding of business impact and priority’ and is ‘too internally focused!’, so I won’t labor THOSE points here either!  To me there are 4 key words – VALUE and OUTCOMES against COSTS and RISKS. These are the basics of why we as IT professionals get paid to do what we do. These need to be balanced when we are scoping ITSM improvements and investments, and  these need to be implanted firmly between the ears of EVERYBODY in IT. Not just the select few IT managers and Service level managers and business relationship managers –  but EVERYBODY, dare I say it, including the business.  It isn’t the select few who are managing my servers and applications, it isn’t the select few that needs to know what will happen to my business when a server goes down at a critical time in the month. It is the people who need to fix it and get it up and running again. Also the business needs to understand its role in helping IT make the right decisions and understand the business impact.

The latest publication of ‘Trends in Business & IT 2012/13’ (NL) has been released by The Business & IT Trends institute in the Netherlands. The Global Top 5 IT Management concerns were:

  • Business & IT productivity
  • IT and Business alignment
  • Business Agility and speed to market
  • Business process management and reengineering
  • IT reliability and efficiency

The first 4 are all about creating Value and Outcomes for the business. Increased productivity (outcomes), business agility and speed to market (value), Business process reengineering to help create value and deliver outcomes or streamline processes to reduce costs. All of these represent a significant investment in, and dependence on IT. The last trend mentioned above  is primarily focused on reducing or managing IT Costs and managing Risks for the business. These trends clearly show that ITSM is becoming a strategic asset and must become a strategic capability if the business is to really achieve the value and outcomes and not suffer or fail because of IT risks. This means that IT people, including the technoids…..are now strategic assets! Gulp!

One IT organization has been ‘ doing ITIL’ for a number of years.  It was time to improve the ITSM capabilities and achieve maturity level 3, as defined in the ITIL framework definition.  The driver for this was because of the trends above. The business was making increasing demands for more, newer, faster access to  IT functionality, driven in part by the lemming approach of ‘the-guy-next-to-me-on-the-train-had-an-Ipad- so-I-want…er… NEED-one-too!’.

‘Let me get this right….you haven’t used your Laptop at all at home to access work, but now you NEED and Ipad? Why?’

‘er….to access critical business data I need to be able to function’

‘What critical business data?’

‘…..er the critical business data that I NEED an Ipad in order to access!’

As well as these growing business demands, IT wasn’t getting the value it expected from its ITSM investments, nor the buy-in it needed to improve the maturity.

The IT executive management team, including CIO and a senior business representative took part in the business simulation game Grab@Pizza. The idea was to create more awareness, attention and enthusiasm for  ITSM and to gain insights into possible weaknesses in their current ITSM improvement focus and approach. They played the business and IT management team of a fictive Pizza company called Grab@Pizza. IT was crucial in enabling the business to realize growth, revenue and customer loyalty. In the game the team is faced with increasing business demands for realizing value and outcomes. IT changes are required.  Outages and delays can be costly. Especially with the superbowl looming on the Horizon. During the superbowl  1000’s of pizzas are sold every second across the states! In the game IT struggles to convince the business that IT changes also need to be made for fixing problems, reducing outages, upgrading outdated technology. At the same time IT needs to invest in operational improvements and resources.  Because IT is unable to present the business case for the IT changes, the business insists all its changes fill the change calendar. The budget for IT support is also put under pressure.  Needless to say the IT changes that don’t occur, and the lack of increased support capability significantly impact the realizing of the business value and outcomes.  In the simulation I play the CEO and blame both the business & IT managers in the game for allowing this to happen. The team then realizes it needs insight into a portfolio of changes, representing both business demands, balanced against the IT changes focused on reducing or preventing excessive costs and reducing risks and threats that may prevent value realization.

The end of game reflection revealed the following changes in the ongoing IT improvement program, projects and allocation of resources.

  • SLM will focus not only on the business relationship but also ensure all in IT understand business value and outcomes to be achieved and how their behavior influences costs and risks and is a barrier to value realization. IT staff will spend a day in the business learning this. Business managers will present at IT team meetings. This will help change the attitude and become more ‘Customer and Service focused’.
  • The CAB would have a more ‘Advisory’ role. Helping balance decisions on which changes contribute to, or are a barrier to V,O,C,R.
  • Process managers would be made responsible for reviewing and improving processes and relate improvements to concrete goals relating to V,O,C,R. They would adopt a pragmatic approach to CSI (continual Service Improvement) as was experienced between the simulation game rounds.
  • When the business demands fast, agile, deployment of new Information systems then more will be invested in the operational support capabilities to ensure there are no excessive support costs and risks of unacceptable delays and outages resulting from the fast deployment strategy. The business who participated in the game saw, felt and experienced the downstream impact of their fast and agile strategy on IT support and found it a potentially unacceptable risk.
  • There would be a focus on Service portfolio management to help gain an early insight into business demands in the pipeline and to help gain more business insight. Business and IT managers would engage and get together to do this. (They actually found it valuable being together in the simulation to work together to solve problems, and discuss and agree priorities! Duh! As my 16 year old daughter would say!

All this because they started using the definition of a service in deciding IT SERVICE management improvements, together with the business. Who said it is an unhelpful definition?

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