Why you (yes, you) should define Processes

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I often encounter a misperception associated with ITSM implementations – ITSM is “too hard to do”.  Well, I would agree—IF you’re trying to implement “everything” at once!  The most successful implementations recognize that ITSM takes a little time, planning, and persistence. But the basics of ITSM are quite simple.

  • Say what you’re going to do.
  • Do what you said.
  • Show that you did it.
  • Look for ways to improve.
  • Implement those improvements.
  • Repeat.

Sounds simple, right?  Common sense, yes?

The key to realizing basic ITSM is the defining (and subsequently executing) of processes- the heart of an ITSM implementation.  Yet I still hear the question “Why define processes?”  My thought is “why not?”

Other professions define and follow processes.  Think about it.

  • Accounting –The accounting profession is built on processes; processes that have been used since the days of the abacus. Defined processes work for them!
  • Payroll –How would you feel if the payroll profession didn’t have and follow processes to ensure that the proper amount of withholding is done with each paycheck? Even worse, your net pay was incorrect? Defined processes work here, too.
  • Emergency Services – Yes, processes have even been defined and work here as well, like responding to automobile accidents or fires. Defining and following processes are paramount for responding to such situations in the most effective and efficient way. Think about what it could be like if processes weren’t defined…you’re lying in the back of the ambulance, and the driver turns around and asks, “hey buddy, where to?”  Yes, defined process work for them.

Is there value in defining processes?  In my opinion, yes!  Then why is there often hesitancy in defining processes within IT?

A couple of reasons I’ve heard:

  • “Process design takes too much time” – True, defining processes can and should take a little bit of time, but it shouldn’t become an exercise in “analysis paralysis”. Take the time to adequately understand where issues exist and how implementing defined processes will help. But balance the process design work with the understanding that the longer it takes to implement processes, the longer the organization must deal with the very issues that the process design is intended to help. Remember, ITSM implementation is all about continual improvement – one step at a time.
  • “We’re going to use the ‘out-of-the-box’ processes” – Most of the ITSM tools on the market today do provide much of the basic workflow and data capture needed for many of the processes. Keep in mind, however, that ITSM tools were not designed with your specific challenges and unique business needs in mind. Will the ‘out-of-the-box’ processes reflect your unique service offerings, or just a generic set of components and products? Will the ‘out of the box’ escalation rules, performance targets, and configuration item attributes reflect your organization’s needs? Without formal process design, the ‘out-of-the-box’ processes may not work as well as needed.

So what is the value in defining processes?  Here are five values you’ll realize by defining processes:

  • Gets everyone on the ‘same page’ – Clearly defining and documenting process roles, responsibilities, and procedures drives shared understanding, consistent execution, knowledge sharing, and repeatable actions across all IT services.
  • Help you develop your ‘shopping list’ and evaluation criteria for ITSM tools – By defining processes you’ll understand not only what you need in your ITSM tool, but more importantly, why you need it.
  • Basis for cost-justifiable, continual improvement- As part of process design, Critical Success Factors and Key Performance Indicators should be defined and underpinned by appropriate metrics and measures. By capturing, reporting, and analyzing the metrics and measures from processes, continual improvement decisions can be made based on facts.
  • Process design provides clarity – Documented processes remove the ambiguity in service delivery and support often found in IT organizations not practicing good ITSM. The IT organization also enables transparency by clearly defining the inputs, outputs, triggers, activities and controls that result from good process design.
  • Improves and deepens understanding of your business – By identifying and defining how processes enable the results needed by your business, you’ll learn more about how your business consumes and depends upon IT. You’ll also be able to better articulate the value IT provides within your business.

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