Tag Archives: Business-IT Alignment

You’re Talking About Value Wrong

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“Value” is one of the most overused and misunderstood terms in business today.

It is often thrown around in meetings and on company websites but while many organizations talk about value, very few get it right.

Why is that? What is the problem with value? For starters, value is a perception. What is valuable to one organization -or one person – may not be as valuable to another. And many organizations don’t define value at an enterprise level. As a result, company initiatives are fractured and less impactful because everyone within the organization is using their own value measuring stick.

The second problem with value is that too many organizations equate value only with cost savings. This is a misconception that can cost organizations a lot of money and time with little to show for it. Fact is that organizations, just like people, are happy to pay for things that they perceive as being valuable – cost is secondary.

If you’re talking about value wrong or worse, not talking about it at all, here are three points that will help you reframe the value conversation.

Value does not equal cost savings.

When thinking about value, it’s easy to just think in terms of dollars and cents. It’s straightforward and unlike value, everyone knows exactly how much dollars and cents are worth.

Now, cost is a factor in value but it should not be the leading factor of value. Because in addition to a price tag, there are intangible costs with any transaction. These intangible costs include things like time to make the purchase, the ease of making a purchase, the time to get set up with a product or service, etc. These intangible costs factor into the value and depending on the end-user, they could mean much more than a specific dollar amount.

When you’re discussing value — whether it’s the value of your product or service, a new technology, or your own IT services, don’t forget the intangibles and factor those into the value.

Outcomes by themselves don’t deliver value.

In an article for SysAid, I explained the difference between outcomes and outputs in reference to ordering a pizza. The outputs are the operational measures, like when you order a pizza and it arrives on time and at the agreed upon price. The outcomes are the results that show the value of that pizza delivery, such as did you get the pizza you ordered, was it hot and fresh, did it taste good and so on.

More IT professionals are beginning to focus on outcomes instead of outputs, which is very important! However, outcomes alone don’t get the job done when it comes to value. Competition is too intense these days and consumers have a lot of options, and high expectations.

So what combines with outcomes to create value? The experience of the transaction.

Part of value is experience.

If you don’t provide or enable a good experience, you’re not offering value. The experience is just as important today. In fact, Salesforce found in a survey that 80% of customers say the experience businesses provide is just as important as its products and services. And Gartner found that 81% of businesses compete primarily on customer experience.

Customer experience is more important than ever and if you want to deliver value through your products and services, you have to offer a seamless and personalized experience for your customers.

The Role of Service of Management in Value

By this point, it’s clear that value isn’t just about a price tag. It’s a combination of understanding what’s important to your consumers and consistently delivering those results – along with a great experience. In short, someone finds value when they can say “I got the outcome I needed and expected and I had a good experience while doing it – at the price I was willing to pay.”

The connection between the experience and outcomes lives in your service management foundations. Service management is how you can monitor the experience and ensure you deliver the outcomes that a customer wants so they can recognize the value of your products and services.

Is your service management approach strong enough to deliver value? Have you done these things in the last 12 months?

  • Met with your key stakeholders to review and agree on a shared definition of value
  • Mapped your value streams with all stakeholders, not just IT
  • Audited your workflows to identify and implement improvements
  • Implemented continual improvement strategies

Service management is an ongoing initiative but it can — and will — help to deliver value if it’s done properly with buy-in from the entire team.

If you’ve been struggling with showing how IT delivers value to the bottom line and you want to elevate your IT organization, you need to be sure you’re talking about value correctly. Review your service management approach. Examine the customer experience. You may just find the areas where IT can fill any gaps and deliver the value your customer needs.

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The Consequences of Undefined Services

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Delivering IT services is at the core of any modern IT organization. IT provides services to deliver or enable business outcomes and value. It seems straightforward.  So then, why do so many IT organizations struggle with undefined services?

As it turns out, what an IT service is actually is often misunderstood by IT professionals – and as a result, services do not get correctly defined.  Instead, many IT organizations identify things like laptop computers, password resets, and installing software as “services”.  And while these service actions (which is actually what these things are) are important for the end-user, none of those things indicate a business outcome.  The consequence of not formally defining services in terms that business colleagues can recognize as business outcomes and capabilities could be causing cracks in their organizations.  

Let’s break down what an IT service is – and isn’t – and examine just how impactful well-defined services can be for an organization.

What are IT Services?

As defined by ITIL4, a service is “a means of enabling value co-creation by facilitating outcomes that customers want to achieve, without the customer having to manage specific costs and risks.

Add the phrase “through the use of IT” to the end of the above sentence, and you have the definition of an IT service. 

Specific IT services will differ from organization to organization depending on their industry and their business needs and requirements.  But any service definition always has its basis in creating value and delivering or enabling business outcomes.

Think about it.  A laptop computer – by itself – provides little value.  But when a laptop computer is used to securely access a corporate network, enabling use of a system that controls the manufacturing of widgets, which in turn, are sold to end-customers….now we have a different perspective.  It’s not about the laptop computer – it’s about having the capability to manufacture widgets. 

In other words, the laptop by itself does not deliver a business outcome.  But combined with all of the other things mentioned about (and more!), a business outcome (widgets to be sold to customers) is enabled.  And achieving that business outcome provides value. 

Why do IT services matter?

If we look back at our earlier definition of value, the important part of it is “delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve.

Harvard Business School marketing professor Theodore Levitt famously said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”

The value is achieving the quarter-inch hole, not in the drill. 

To put it in IT terms, it isn’t about the network or the cloud or AI or the laptop or having a password reset.  It’s about the result. And if that result is considered valuable.

IT services deliver value to customers and enable customers to achieve business outcomes. It’s a vital capability, especially today when customer expectations are so high. 

But it’s more than that.

Having well-defined IT services demonstrates to the rest of the organization how well IT understands the business of the business. 

Well-defined IT services speak the language of the business.  Colleagues that work outside of IT can quickly recognize and understand the expected business value and business outcomes from the use of that service.

And well-defined IT services illustrate how IT contributes to the organization’s success.  

This all means that  IT must have a strong understanding of what outcomes the business needs to realize or enable, and how the people, processes, and technology delivered by IT contributes to those outcomes. Many IT pros struggle with this. It’s not enough for IT professionals to primarily focus on systems and technology anymore. They have to understand how what they do – and how they interact with others within (and outside of ) IT – contribute to the success of the organization.

It’s not about the drill.  It is about all of the things that work and are delivered together that results in the quarter-inch hole. 

But unfortunately, many IT organizations only talk about the drill. 

Why Do Organizations Resist Defining Services? 

Why do so many organizations struggle with defining their IT services? 

The first reason is that IT sometimes struggles to understand the customer’s perspective. Simply put, many IT professionals don’t understand the business of the business.  Therefore those IT pros are unable to articulate what they do in terms of defined services, and how those services provide a real business value to the customer. 

Another reason why many IT organizations don’t define services is that they have a resistance to governance. They look at governance as being overhead or something that gets in the way of getting work done. When you define an IT service, you’re creating a structure and setting good expectations for how IT enables business success.  And governance – done well and as appropriate – enables organizations to achieve their vision and objectives. 

But some IT organizations take governance too far.  Those organizations tend to stand up processes for process sake.  As a result, no one ends up following processes (much less understands the intent of the process to begin with) or using services as has been defined.

Defining IT services also helps the organization understand if its investments in technology are meeting the needs of the organization and helping the business achieve its vision and objectives. 

This has terrible consequences for the organization!

What happens when IT Services are not defined?

One of the biggest consequences of undefined services is that it causes tension between IT and the rest of the organization. Without defined services, there are no shared expectations – either within or outside of IT. The rest of the organization have no idea what IT is capable of doing for them. Services give IT the ability to set expectations and to create healthier relationships between IT and the rest of the organization. 

Undefined services also impact value and the way IT’s value is perceived. Without defined services, IT will have difficulty articulating the value they provide to the organization. This hurts IT’s ability to justify budgets and get buy-in for investments. If you can’t articulate the value of IT, you can’t show the ROI on any tool, piece of technology, or investments in IT. 

Finally, it’s difficult to prioritize work without defining services. When you don’t define your services, everything will seem like it’s the most important thing that needs to be done…until the next thing comes along.  IT will find itself responding to requests from users and working on projects that organizational leaders may not have any interest in doing.  

How to Start Defining Services

What is the best way to start defining services and showing true integration with the business? 

Begin by understanding business needs.  That means engaging your key stakeholders and decision-makers.

To define your services properly, ask these key stakeholders and decision-makers what outcomes they need to achieve to meet business goals and objectives.  Ask how they envision the use of or how they are using technology in achieving those goals and objectives.  Ask how they perceive value – and how they would measure that value.  

Then start identifying and defining your services based on what you heard from those stakeholders. Identify what it takes to deliver the outcomes and value that stakeholders need.  Identify the costs and risks involved in delivering those outcomes – and how IT will manage those costs and risks. 

Then write it down and publicize it using terms those stakeholders will recognize and understand. Any time you talk about technology, talk about it in terms of services.

And you’ll be on your way to much better business-IT alignment

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Business-IT Alignment isn’t a 50-50 Deal

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More and more companies are transforming via digital transformation and discovering new lines of business or radically changing their existing business models through the use of technology.  What does this mean?  It means that IT and the business have no choice but to become aligned if they want to succeed.

It’s no longer just “nice to have” alignment between business and IT. If the IT organization isn’t aligned with the business, the business will go around IT to make their initiatives happen — and that can have catastrophic consequences for everyone. 

It’s one thing to have a meeting with both the business and IT in the room and claim that you’re aligned.  But the realities of what alignment looks like and what it really means for IT and the business is more complex than simply adding IT to meeting agendas. 

What does it mean for the business and IT to be aligned? Who’s responsible for creating that alignment?

From Service Provider to Solution Provider 

According to Tim Winders, Vice-Chancellor of Information Services at Purdue University Northwest, “IT is aligned with the business when IT moves from being a service organization to delivering business solutions.”

The subtle difference between providing business solutions and being a service provider requires a proactive approach. As Tim explains it, “In the reactive model, IT fixes problems but is outside of the decision-making process.”  Being proactive as an IT organization means being “a collaborative business partner delivering solutions that solve specific business problems. IT collaborates with the business to identify business problems to provide proactive solutions, improving products, customer experience, and business reputation.”

The days of IT just implementing the right technology are long gone. IT has to be an engaged part of every business strategy discussion because technology touches every piece of the business.  IT must be engaged from the beginning if that technology is to work to enable value to the business and its end users. 

Mike Gill, CIO at Marian, Inc, explains it this way, “You need to ensure your solution delivery provides value. The value is not if you have the best technology or it runs the most efficiently, the value is if it solves a problem the business has.” 

Of course, it’s easy to say that the IT organization is driving value and is aligned with the business. But what does ‘alignment’ actually look like?  How do you know if you’re aligned? 

What Does Business-IT Alignment Look Like?

If business-IT alignment is connected to driving business value, then you have to start there. Of course, as I’ve pointed out before, the problem with “value” is that it’s a perception. What’s valuable to IT might not be valuable to the business – and vice-versa.  So it’s important that value is identified and agreed by every stakeholder in the organization — customers, partners, suppliers and internal stakeholders. Defining and agreeing on the definition of value as an organization is the first step to getting IT and the business aligned. 

Once value is defined, you can refine your workflows and processes to ensure they are actually delivering business value, including the appropriate measures within those workflows to check for value. For example, Mike shared a way that he can determine if IT is aligned with the business. 

“We have an internally developed ERP system and have the freedom to implement workflows that provide maximum business value – it is a custom system tailored to our company. One sign that we are aligned is looking at transactions in the system,” explained Mike. “Are users doing all the steps in real-time or are they catching up transactions at the end of the day? Looking at the logs you can see if a process that should occur over a longer period (days, not minutes) is mirrored by a similar timeline of transactions in the system. If I see those transactions happening by different people over the course of a day or two then I know the system is aligned to the business (both function and usability). If I see all those transactions happen within minutes of each other then I know they are just catching up work into the system because they must – [which indicates that IT is] not aligned.”

The key here is that Mike made sure the technology fit and supported the workflows of the business, instead of the other way around – a key to business-IT alignment. This enables the technology to be instrumented or monitored to confirm business value – and therefore, better aligned with the organization. 

Additionally, to ensure you’re aligned, look to see if IT is being invited to new projects and initiatives at the kickoff meeting. According to Mike, “It is easy to invite IT leadership to monthly and annual executive status meetings and feel like you are giving them importance or that you are aligning business and IT. That does matter, but it matters more when the regular business projects and initiatives are inviting IT representation in the first steps. It means the business and IT are given the chance to stay aligned from the beginning rather than create the feeling that IT just does what the business says – that never leads to good outcomes.”

IT leaders must regularly check in with other company leaders to ensure that IT is involved with all upcoming initiatives.  If you do that, you’re on your way to business-IT alignment. 

What To Do About Business-IT Alignment?

Once some signs of business-IT alignment begin to appear within an organization, you have to ask yourself one thing: “What am I going to do with this opportunity?”

I believe that IT organizations struggling with business-IT alignment fall into one of two camps. The first group doesn’t know how to achieve business-IT alignment. For that organization, they need to collaborate across the organization to define and agree on value, co-create workflows and solutions to achieve that value, and work together to monitor and continually optimize those solutions.

The other camp consists of organizations that believe that they have business-IT alignment – but they don’t. This is a much larger number of companies than the number of organizations that just can’t figure out alignment.  For these companies, the IT organization is in danger of losing its influence in the company – if it has any influence at all.

Business-IT alignment can often become performative in organizations. It’s easy to have meetings, to gain an agreement on a definition of value, and to create workflows that should enable the realization of value. It’s another thing to ensure that everyone in the organization – both from the business and from IT- is following through and living that definition of value. 

The important thing every IT leader must do is identify what happens after the big discussions, after the kickoff meetings,  and understand what is really going on in the day-to-day running of the organization. Is your team clear on the value it delivers and how it delivers it? Are you enabling your team to work across departments and proactively identify and promote the value you’re delivering? Are you enabling the rest of the organization to have input in how IT is operating and to provide feedback and suggestions for what needs to be done from a business perspective?

Business-IT alignment isn’t a 50-50 split. To achieve and maintain alignment, both IT and the business have to give 100 percent to make alignment work. But before they can both commit 100%, one team has to be the one to step up and put all the effort in first. I believe that team is the IT organization.  IT has to start giving 100% toward business-IT alignment,  even before the business commits to alignment. It’s work to get into alignment and the onus will fall on IT, especially in the beginning – but it’s work that pays off.. 

And remember, business-IT alignment isn’t a one-and-done activity. It’s a continual process that has to be monitored, mapped and measured on a regular basis. 

My challenge to you is to share: how are you staying aligned in your organization? What are your methods for checking and measuring business-IT alignment? Where are the gaps in business-IT alignment that you need to fill?

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Are You Inviting Trouble? 7 Signs You’re Attracting Chaos to IT

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CIOs are no strangers to chaos. Working in IT means you’ve dealt with your fair share of chaotic moments. Technology has an annoying habit of not working properly – even when everything seems to be set up correctly. IT pros have had to learn to keep their cool when the tech just isn’t working — and the end user is feeling the frustration.

Being able to handle chaos is a skill every leader must develop. But long-term success working in a continual state of chaos can cause problems. Chaos can cause a surge of adrenaline and some people begin to subconsciously crave that adrenaline rush they feel from chaotic moments. When that happens, they may start to create situations that result in chaos and can cause those adrenaline rushes. The best example of this would be a student who consistently procrastinates on their assignments because they feel they “work better under pressure”.

Is it really possible that accomplished professionals and industry leaders can repeat the same mistakes that a college student would make? Absolutely! Stress naturally spikes cortisol levels, which is the built-in alarm system in your body. That spike in cortisol is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s our “fight or flight” instinct and it plays a number of roles in our body. Specifically, it boosts energy so you can handle stress and then will restore the balance afterward.

Many driven and ambitious people love that energy boost and thrive on the tension that a challenge creates. After all, meeting and overcoming those challenges is how they found success!

But if you find your IT organization in a constant state of chaos, it might be time to check in to see if you’re causing it and making more trouble than IT needs. Here are 7 signs you’re attracting chaos to your IT organization.

You’re working in a vacuum

Siloed thinking and poor communication habits can cause many problems for an IT organization. Many technologists do not focus on their communication or collaboration skills. In many organizations, IT has been seen as unwelcoming and isolated. When you tune out other departments and their needs and don’t include them in solution designs, you end up with workflows that aren’t followed, products that aren’t used to their fullest capabilities, and too many “last minute” requests that cause stress.

You don’t communicate in business terms

Learning to speak the language of the business is one of the most important things a CIO can do. Without describing – in business, not technical terms – how IT solutions fit in to business objectives, you’ll spend a lot of time and effort defending your initiatives, shifting initiatives at the last minute, and potentially working on initiatives that don’t contribute to needed business outcomes. Once you start mastering how IT and technology contribute to business objectives, you can position your initiatives in a better light, and this will decrease resistance from the C-suite.

You have shiny object syndrome

Everyone needs the newest, fastest, shiniest technology, right?! No, they don’t. Non-technologists and leaders in the C-suite might always be pushing you to invest in new technologies, in the belief that those technologies will instantly solve every business challenge. But without proper analysis of the challenge that needs to be solved, this mistaken belief in bright and shiny new technologies will only keep IT and the rest of the organization spinning in circles. You will experience the tension and challenge of continually deploying and training on new technologies – and be blamed when those new technologies don’t address the problem that needed solving. And you’ll spend a lot of money on tools that “don’t work”.

IT success isn’t clearly defined

How is IT success being defined? Often IT success is defined only as delivering projects on-time and within budget. But that definition ignores IT’s contributions to business objectives and the organization’s bottom line. By defining IT success in terms of business results and bottom-line impact, the CIO becomes a strategic leader in the company, and IT becomes a valued partner within the organization, not perceived as a necessary, but expensive, cost center. By failing to establish IT success measures in terms of organizational success, you’ll spend time and energy on hitting metrics that don’t properly elevate the CIO or IT.

Pushing change at the wrong pace

Accelerated timelines can be common in IT organizations – but are they realistic? CIOs are often operating under unrealistic expectations (see above) and therefore trying to force innovation without laying the proper groundwork. This can sometimes feel like running straight on into a brick wall and expecting it to topple over on the first try. You will quickly burnout and exit out if you push change at an unreasonable pace. Instead, CIOs need to set realistic expectations with the C-suite regarding the pace of change and establish realistic and achievable milestones to show that digital transformation is on its way.

You spend all your time putting out fires

Are you constantly involved in every little fire that comes up within IT? If you can’t rely on your team to handle the day-to-day fires that will always exist in IT so you can free up your time to focus on the bigger picture and strategic initiatives, then you are contributing to that chaos. I’m not saying that you should ignore those fires, but as CIO, you have to trust your team to handle the day-to-day work and provide coaching and support to get IT out of fire-fighting and into leading business innovation. Your time is better spent focused on solving the bigger business challenges within the organization.

You ignore the foundations of your IT organization

Foundations can be boring. They do not cause stress or any excitement when (if?) you think about them but having a strong IT foundation is absolutely necessary. The foundations of your IT organization include your workflows, processes, and value streams, and are what keep the wheels of IT turning, even during the chaos. If you ignore the steps it takes to keep your foundations optimized, you will continually get stuck in day-to-day fires and siloed communications which waste your time and your team’s talent.

Having a little bit of chaos can be a good thing. It can inspire innovation and create motivation but it’s a little bit like rainstorms. You want enough of it to keep things growing but you don’t want to live in it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As the CIO, you have the responsibility to balance having that healthy level of chaos in your organization while at the same time, be the calm in the storm. That tension and those cortisol spikes will still come — only this time, it will be because you’re working on bigger challenges that will have a larger impact on the success of your organization.

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ESM is the Business Strategy Every CIO Needs

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As organizations continue to work through a pandemic, adapt to an ever-increasing digital world, and adjust to new customer and employee expectations, CIOs must continue to step up to the plate to help navigate these changes from a business perspective.

Perhaps with some organizations, CIOs have not been part of business decisions in the past. The pandemic has shown that organizations can have success when working with IT as a business partner. The reliance on technology and new remote work expectations have paved the path for CIOs into the role of business success partner. Smart CIOs are taking advantage of the opportunity by presenting a strategy that can help the business holistically — not just the technology aspects within the business.

And that strategy is Enterprise Service Management.

What is Enterprise Service Management?

Enterprise service management, also known as ESM, is an organizational capability for holistically delivering business value and outcomes-based upon shared processes, appropriate technology, increased collaboration, and better communication across the organization, not just within IT. ESM, done well, provides a strong foundation for a positive customer experience, positive employee experience, and digital transformation.

Before we dig further into what ESM is, let’s talk about what it is not. ESM is not just about extending ITSM into enterprise. This is not about IT barging in and forcing its workflows on the rest of the organization. It’s not just deploying instances of IT’s service desk tool across the organization. ESM is focused on leveraging the best practices of service management across the organization holistically to co-create business value for the enterprise.

What effective Enterprise Service Management does is get the entire organization on the same page. ESM processes reflect and support the entirety of value streams, not just the IT portions. This enables teams to have clarity around how work and value flows through the organization, and how technology underpins workflow and value. And in the digital age, knowing how work and value flows through an organization provides the ability to quickly shift and react to changes in market spaces and is critical for business success.

Why is ESM a business strategy?

The biggest misconception about service management is that it’s just something that is done only in IT. Service management has always been about delivering real business value and measurable outcomes for organizations. While service management is often associated with IT, many are often surprised to realize that service management is also being practiced in other parts of the organization, such as HR, customer service, and facilities. What effective ESM does is help organizations connect these often-disjointed pockets of service management together, creating a better working environment and improved results. That is especially important in our current world.

The way we do business now has drastically changed. Remote work has become more of the norm. We may have thought 2020 was the year of remote work but actually, it’s just the beginning. The percentage of workers permanently working from home is expected to double in 2021. Many organizations are creating hybrid models for working, allowing for both work from home and remote work opportunities. Forbes reports that by 2025, an estimated 70% of the workforce will be working remotely at least 5 days a month.

This divide in working conditions and how work is being completed will impact the efficiency of the enterprise. There are plenty of benefits to operating with remote and hybrid models, but enterprises also have a higher risk of creating silos. This isn’t a technology issue, it’s a business issue – and it’s one that ESM can solve.

When enterprises commit to and implement ESM, the result is enhanced visibility regarding how value flows through the organization. This makes it easier to identify problem areas, simplify workflows, and clarify expectations and roles. Over the long term, this will increase efficiency across the organization, which means decreased costs and possibly increased revenue.

As we said earlier ESM is not just extending ITSM across the enterprise. This should not be seen as a hostile takeover by IT. The goal is to leverage IT’s service management expertise to improve overall performance across the organization. In order for that to happen, the CIO and IT have to lead the way in establishing ESM as a must-have strategy in the organization.

ESM does incorporate principles of good ITSM, and the CIO and IT should know the best practices and mistakes to avoid when implementing service management. This is an opportunity for IT to demonstrate leadership based on their past experiences working with ITSM. By showing the rest of the organization real-world examples of how service management has improved collaboration and made work more effective and efficient in IT, IT can make the case for how ESM can improve the enterprise’s workflows as well.

The CIO and IT can make their case even stronger because IT are one of the few departments that interacts with every other department every day. IT understands the workflows of other departments because it helped design and implement solutions that support those workflows. Using this knowledge, the CIO can present use cases for ESM using actual workflows and initiatives from across the organization as examples.

The trick here is to understand the overall business goals and how the goals of the individual departments contribute to those overall goals. This especially applies to the CIO. If a CIO can demonstrate how ESM helps link departmental goals to enterprise goals, and makes it easier to accomplish both goals, they can convince other organizational leaders to rally around the idea of ESM.

How to Start Implementing ESM

ESM implementation is the opportunity for CIOs to exhibit their business savvy while delivering a solution that helps the organization work in a more holistic fashion. But there will be those who resist ESM and will need to be convinced. You need three things for a compelling argument.

Make sure the IT house is in order

If IT is not running efficiently or doesn’t have its service management house in order, no one will be convinced that ESM is the right move. Before taking service management out into the enterprise, make sure that IT’s workflows are running like a well-oiled machine and that there are no gaps in services, support, delivery, or communication. The successful use of service management within IT makes for a stronger use case for adopting ESM across the enterprise.

Collaborate with Other Leaders

As we discussed earlier, you have to rally the troops around ESM before it can be properly implemented within your organization. Start by having conversations with other organizational leaders about their 2021 goals, their challenges, and their needs. That’s the best place to start the conversation, because you need other leaders to see the “what’s in it for them”. If you can illustrate how ESM not only helps individual departments meet goals, but also link those achievements to organizational goals, they’ll be more likely to support your case for ESM.

Develop the Business Case

Finally, after you’ve ensured that IT service management practices are in order, and gained support from other department leaders, you’re ready to develop the business case for ESM.

When developing the ESM business case, focus on the five factors of value — improved productivity, competitive differentiation, improved customer satisfaction, decreased cost, and increased revenue. Link the anticipated outcomes from ESM to one or more of these factors, and you increase the chance that you’ll receive full support and funding for ESM.

Looking for more support on implementing ESM initiatives in your enterprise? Book a free consultation! I can help you develop a plan for bringing ESM to your organization.

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The Opportunity of Failed IT Plans

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What went wrong in 2020?

I know, it’s a big question and most people would probably say “Everything.” Or at least, many CIOs would confess that the original strategic plans they had for 2020 were not executed.

There were many initiatives that just failed to get off the ground in 2020 due to COVID-19.

Now that 2020 is winding down — what happens to those initiatives? Should you try to execute on them in 2021? Are they even still valuable to your organization? Will you still have the capital for them? How can you afford them?

Smart CIOs know they can’t carry on as normal. Just because something was on the plan for 2020 doesn’t mean it should continue to be on it for 2021. Yes, strategic projects are still strategic, but it’s time to address whether the strategy has changed. If it has, the CIO has to know how to protect IT’s budget while shifting initiatives.

This is where the opportunity of a failed plan presents itself and where innovative CIOs can reset their priorities, align themselves with the rest of the organization, and ensure budget protection for 2021.

Revisit Your Organization’s Existing Strategic Plan

First, it’s important to understand what impact COVID-19 has had on your organization. This means more than just a workforce that is now working remotely. How did it impact the way your business operates and delivers value to customers? Did business models change? Did you add any new capabilities that are still contributing to ROI?

Now look at your existing IT strategic plan. Does it incorporate the changes made because of the impact of COVID-19?

It’s possible you could have some major changes to make to the IT strategic plan. For example, if your organization has added new revenue streams, then you may need to completely change the strategic plan to incorporate those new streams.

Look for Opportunities in your Value Streams

As you review what has changed in your organizations, you should also be identifying the opportunities for IT inside of this new strategy.

This exercise is best if you know the value streams in your organization (whether they are brand new as a result of COVID or they were already in place). If you don’t know the value streams of your organization, then now is the time to map them along with other members of the executive teams.

Remember, this is a chance for meaningful, impactful change. It’s no longer “business as usual.” We can’t say “Well this is the way it’s always been done” because organizations have proven they are capable of agility and making big changes quickly. When mapping value streams and looking for opportunities, don’t be afraid to open up to possibilities that might have seemed impossible a year ago. After all, most people would have said taking an organization completely remote in 48 hours would have been impossible this time last year but by now, most IT organizations have accomplished exactly that!

Fix any Value Leaks

Now, after you’ve reviewed value streams and are fired up about the new strategic projects you could bring to the organization in 2021, there’s a big question to answer: Where do you find the budget for it?

Some IT organizations were fortunate enough to have larger budgets this year while they enabled remote working — but those checkbooks won’t be as open in 2021.

Here’s what you can do right now to protect your budget in 2021

Look for the value leaks in your organization. Value leakage is a common problem in every organization but few leaders know to look for it. Businesses don’t operate on a consistent basis every single day. Value leaks can occur when changes in business workflows aren’t reflected in technology workflows, or people weren’t trained on new products or features, or when services or products aren’t retired appropriately. Value leaks occur due to poor communications, or when the organization fails to fully understand the costs and risks of any change, no matter how slight it may seem. If no one is monitoring value streams and measuring how value is delivered, then value will start getting dropped along the way.

In the context of protecting the budget for 2021, you can start finding and addressing the value leaks that are happening right now in 2020. When you start to fix the leaks, you can prove to the organization that you’re creating more value. The more value you bring to the table, the more you can justify your future budget and protect the budget for those bigger strategic projects you identify when mapping your value streams.

The Key is the Big Picture

The most important thing any CIO can do to seize the opportunity of failed plans is to not lose sight of the bigger picture. 2020 didn’t go to plan for anyone and every organization experienced shifts that will impact future strategies.

Your strategic projects from 2020 might still make sense in 2021. Or they might not. What’s important now is to look at how the organization delivers value to its customers and the opportunities for IT to enable and co-create that value. Then look at how IT can create even more value by fixing existing value leaks.

I think everyone will say that 2020 changed everything. But only the most innovative CIOs will be able to say that 2020 changed everything in the best way possible.

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Can the CIO Save The Day?

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This year has been a banner year for IT. It’s only because of IT that so many organizations could continue operating in the face of the pandemic. IT has done its job on winning over the rest of the organization and most of the organizations now know they can count on IT. According to the 2020 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey, 61% of the 4,200 IT leaders surveyed said that the pandemic has permanently increased the influence of the technology leader. So how can the CIO and IT leverage this new-found influence? How can IT become more than the team that keeps the lights on? 

I think that this new influence can help the CIO become the most valuable player on the leadership team because they’re the glue that keeps everything together.

Now, some may argue that the CIO has been thought of only as leading a support team for decades. So they could not in fact be the glue holding an organization together. But that was before the technology boom. Today, technology is a foundational component for every business. From communication to employee experience to the customer journey, technology plays an important role in every piece of every business. As the impact of technology has grown, so must the role of IT. While IT and the CIO used to only solve technology issues, they now must solve business issues because the business needs technology. 

That’s why the CIO has the opportunity that no other executive does. No other executive can impact another department as much as the CIO can.  

This is, of course, a force that can be used for good – or evil. The CIO can be the bottleneck, holding back every initiative due to poor service or inefficient workflows. But they can also be the hero of the organization: playing an integral,difference-making role in every initiative.

John Bruno, Chief Information Officer at Aon, explains that the CIO role can become “an integrator – someone that works across the entire organization.”  

So what can a CIO do begin breaking down the silos and helping other departments?

 

  1. Get out of IT and into other departments.

The biggest problem so many CIOs have is that they can’t see the forest through the trees. Or to put it in more blunt terms, they can’t overcome the IT fire-fights that come up every day to actually get out of IT to see what’s happening in the rest of the organization. It is absolutely imperative that today’s CIOs do this. If you don’t feel that you can see beyond IT issues, then you’re not going to be able to support the organization as you need to because CIOs have to be the integrator. They have to be the ones to connect the dots and it’s impossible to do without collaborating with other executives and understanding what is occurring in their departments. 

What would happen if you as the CIO were able to take 2-3 hours a week to meet with other executives to understand their initiatives – and how IT can help make those initiatives successful? What would it cost you? If your IT organization were to implode because the CIO took 2-3 hours every week to work with other departments rather than help put out IT fires, then your approach to service management needs attention. The right service management workflows and foundation ensure that IT runs smoothly and is able to serve the organization, while the CIO works to innovate other areas of the organization. If you’re struggling to even find the time to work with other departments and trust that your IT team can keep running, it’s time to clean up your service management. Book a consultation with me and we can discuss how to get started.

 

  1. Identify the impact of technology in other department initiatives 

As I said earlier, technology is the thread that ties everything together and as the CIO, you hold the thread. You should be actively looking for ways to enhance other department initiatives with technology. 

In the old days of IT, many CIOs would roll their eyes at the idea of making more work for themselves by collaborating with other departments. But today, the innovative CIO knows that it’s not about making more work for IT. It’s about unlocking opportunities for IT to step up and play a more influential role in the organization. 

That means that CIOs have to get comfortable offering suggestions and solutions to other executives. Imagine what would happen if a CIO offered to support the head of HR in automating and digitizing the employee onboarding process. Imagine HR and IT co-creating that solution together, instead of HR assuming what technology they needed or IT forcing a solution upon HR without even understanding the complexity of the problem. 

Instead of a forced solution where neither side is happy, everyone would walk away with a collaborative outcome that improved the business overall.

And this isn’t just an HR opportunity. The CIO could do this for every other department.  Because you as the CIO are the expert in technology, you can offer your expertise to every area of the organization. 

 

How to Get Started

First, before you start working with any other department, you need to be certain that IT can operate efficiently. That means optimizing workflows and identifying any gaps in your service delivery. You can’t offer value to anyone else without first cleaning up your own department. (And if you need help, that’s my specialty! Book a consultation here.)

Once you’ve done that, begin forming partnerships with other executives. Invite them to ongoing meetings to learn about their initiatives and technology needs. If you approach this partnership as an opportunity for their department to achieve their initiatives faster and with less resistance from IT, then they are going to be onboard with working with you. 

Slowly but surely, you can begin to work with every department in this manner and before you know it, the CIO has not only elevated the status of IT but also the entire organization. 

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How IT Can Enable Organizations to Make Data-Driven Decisions

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Technology is one of the biggest and most important investments that any organization can make. In the past, many decisions about technology investments were made within the C-suite or demanded by other departments and IT simply complied with those requests.

But as the world has become more dependent on technology, IT has started to play a larger role in influencing technology investments and decisions. I would actually argue that IT should play a major role in helping the organization make good decisions, not just about IT and technology, but also the overall organization. Why?  

Organizations need data to make decisions.  Having the right data at the right time enables the organization to make good decisions.   And who manages the systems and services that produce most of that data?  The IT organization.  Therefore, it only stands to reason that IT should be involved in most organizational decisions.  But for some organizations, this means a mind shift change about the role of IT in decision-making.

The good news is that this shift doesn’t require a bigger budget, more staff, or even the encouragement of upper management. Every IT organization can start making these changes and begin to play a larger role in helping the business make data-driven decisions.

  1. Shift the perception about the value of IT 

This first step is easier said than done, but this needs to be a consistent effort for IT leaders. IT does much more than troubleshooting computer problems and keep everyone connected to WiFi.

But to shift this perception, you must be measuring outcomes not just outputs. Outputs are the actions or activities that an IT organization completes. Outcomes are the results that the business wants or needs to achieve. Outputs contribute to outcomes. They are the activities that IT has accomplished, such as the number of calls to the service desk or number of influencer records. 

The context of driving business value and influencing business decisions, it’s outcomes that matter more than anything. IT has to start thinking and talking in terms of business not in terms of IT. For example, if you were to say “98% availability” this doesn’t mean anything to your business colleagues. But instead, if you shifted your message to say “Provided system available to produce 10,000 products,” they can understand how IT’s work contributes to the bottom line. Look in terms of outcomes then document every outcome that IT helps achieve. Report on those outcomes and share these wins regularly with IT and the rest of the organization.

2. Follow the Value Streams

Following the value streams means understanding how value flows through an organization and identifying where there may be improvements.  IT has to map the value streams.  A value stream map, as defined by the Lean Enterprise Institute, is a simple diagram of every step involved in the material and information flows needed to bring a product from order to delivery.

A value stream map is a holistic view of a process so it requires everyone’s input – from IT and other departments. What is should do is identify show where there are steps in the process that don’t add value to the end goal. The objective of a value stream map is a smoother, more efficient process that the entire organization agrees on.

Mapping value streams, not just within IT, but also including other departments will help IT (and the rest of the organization) gain a clear picture of where value is created and how it reaches the end customer — and perhaps just as importantly, where it’s not reaching the customer.

3. Identify services 

With value stream maps in place and a clear understanding of the business outcomes you’re working to achieve, you can then identify IT services and how those services influence and drive those business outcomes.

A service is a means of delivering value for a customer by facilitating outcomes or results that the business wants to achieve. For example, providing someone a tablet without software or network connectivity doesn’t contribute to an outcome. It’s just giving a piece of technology. But, if the tablet is part of the value chain and can help someone perform their job remotely so value continues flowing the organization, you now have completed service.

IT services should align with organizational value stream maps so that the IT contribution to co-creating value is clear. Look at the map and identify where technology enables the value stream. You need to define services that support and enable the technology or process that drives business value.

4. Experiment from ‘knowing’, not ‘guessing’

Once you start doing these first three things, you’ll begin to gather meaningful, business-relevant data. But be prepared! The data might be good. You might see where all that value is being created and clearly how value reaches the end customer. You might see that technology is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do. 

Or the data might be bad. You could see that value is leaking within the organization or that IT services aren’t effectively driving desired outcomes. More likely, you’ll see a combination of the two.

It’s important to be open to whatever data you find. The data will point you in the right direction. If the data is telling you that IT services aren’t driving the desired outcomes, it’s not a bad thing. It just presents a bigger opportunity.

This is the place of knowledge from which you can start experimenting with services, technology, and workflows. In these uncertain times as businesses continue to pivot, experimentation is going to become more mainstream, but experimentation will work best if you start from a place of knowledge. 

Be willing to make changes to the defined services, the workflows in a value stream, or even the technology you use to enable these services and workflows. Continue to measure the data as you go so that you can see what actually creates a more efficient, cost-effective value stream.

You and the rest of the organization need that place of knowledge from which to start innovating. With this data, plus the understanding of how IT works with the organization, everyone can make better decisions around the use of technology, where to make investments, and how to grow the business. 

When you are ready to tap into your data, I recommend downloading the CIO’s Guide to Navigating Shifting Priorities. It includes 3 of my most recent webinars (both the video and audio versions) designed to help CIOs lean into innovation, leverage what is working, and pivot along with the rest of the business. Download the guide here. 

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Did You Pivot Or Are You Just Spinning in Circles?

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COVID-19 caught the business world by surprise. And it didn’t just change where organizations work (from an office to at home) — it has changed everything: economies, regulations, timelines, employee and customer expectations, the list goes on.

So what did the majority of organizations do in response to this swift and sudden change?

They pivoted.

I know that many seasoned leaders and CIOs have rolled their eyes at the word “pivot” in the past but, it’s 2020 and well, it just might be the word of the year.

No matter the industry, businesses have had to pivot. A few examples of this include restaurants acted as grocery stores selling fresh produce, meats and beer, among other things, gyms transitioned into online workout subscriptions, and distilleries began manufacturing and selling hand sanitizer. Even Chuck E. Cheese pivoted into a delivery pizza chain under the name Pasqually’s.

In big or small ways, every business has had to pivot. When done correctly, a pivot can create new revenue streams, keep businesses afloat, and deliver even more value to their customers.

However, organizations run into problems when they think they’re pivoting but really, they’re just checking off tasks, working for the sake of being busy or failing to innovate. In short, they’re not pivoting — they’re spinning in circles.

What’s the difference between pivoting and spinning?

Business pivots are meant to help a business recover from a difficult period that made their original business model less sustainable. It is sometimes seen as a short term move, but it can have positive long-term impacts on the businesses, depending on the business. Whether it’s meant to be short-term or long-term, a pivot is a deliberate and purposeful shift to create value for the end-user.

Deliberate and purposeful are the two keywords in that definition. It’s what makes a pivot different from a knee jerk spin. A knee jerk spin will not create value for your end-user or your business, but it will likely cost you time and money.

Here’s how to know if you made a pivot versus a knee-jerk spin. You pivoted if:

  • You relied on data to make decisions about where to shift 
  • You already had a clear understanding of how value flowed through your organization 
  • You understood what aspects of the business worked and leveraged those things to create new value streams

The difference between organizations that pivoted and those that are spinning is that the pivoting organizations already had a holistic view of their organization and how it delivers value. They understood their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats before the pandemic hit.

Organizations that made knee jerk reactions were in the day-to-day, siloed operational mindset. They didn’t know where they were to begin so they could change direction to move into a better place when COVID-19 hit. 

What Can CIOs Do to Stop Spinning?

If you are concerned that instead of pivoting, you’re just spinning, it’s ok. It’s not too late to slow down and make the pivot you need. Here’s how:

Identify the value you deliver to the end-user

What is the value that the organization delivers to the end-user? How does IT contribute to that business value? Are you able to connect IT services to the happiness and success of a customer? If no, then that’s where you start. Understanding where IT creates value in the organization is the first step to being able to find innovative ways to keep delivering it. 

Communicate with all key stakeholders

Are all of your key stakeholders in agreement with the value you deliver? Does the sales department see the same level of value that the marketing department does? Do your customers see the value your salespeople see? Every stakeholder needs to be on the same page here or else you’ll end up trying to deliver too much.

Map everything out

You can use a whiteboard or create a digital version, but you should have a clear map of your value streams and your customer journeys. It is imperative that everyone on your team can visualize where value is created, where it may be getting lost, and where there are more opportunities to create value.

Creating a customer journey and value stream maps are two exercises that will provide that holistic view of the organization you need to survive this pandemic and whatever comes next. They are collaborative exercises but once completed you’ll be in a better position to take actions that will help the business pivot to where it needs to go. 

Fill in the gaps

You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you are. The truth is, even as we continue to move through this pandemic, we have no idea what will change in the future or what the next upending disaster will be. There is no such thing as “smooth sailing” forever. Another emergency will hit organizations and they’ll need to pivot. Taking the steps now to address where you are, lay your groundwork and create that solid foundation will strengthen you to not only pivot and survive in this emergency, but in future ones as well. 

 

If you want to ensure you’re making a pivot and not turning in circles, let’s chat! Book a free consultation to learn how you can leverage your wins and successfully pivot your organization.

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When In Doubt, Follow the Value Stream

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Every day, IT leaders address questions to help keep their team moving forward, which in turn keeps the organization moving forward.

Questions like:

  • Where should the IT team spend their time?
  • How should IT allocate resources?
  • How can IT justify larger budgets and more investments?

In the past, IT leaders have taken a straightforward approach to answering these questions. They have broken down each question and explained in technical detail everything their team has accomplished and completed, no matter how small or mundane.
In other words, IT delivered outputs.

But in today’s world, outputs aren’t enough. The old approach to making decisions based on outputs is over. Because today, IT must deliver outcomes.

If an IT leader was to list only outputs without connecting them to any business outcomes to the C-suite in the hopes of securing more resources or larger budgets, the C-suite will look at them and ask: “How did this drive business value?”

Closing tickets, upgrading technology, and troubleshooting technical issues are an important part of the success of an IT organization. But IT leaders must do more than just list outputs. IT leaders must show how these outputs connect to the organization’s bottom-line goals, and IT’s role in delivering needed business outcomes.

Before an IT leader can decide on how their team should allocate its time and resources or how IT can obtain larger investments and partake in bigger initiatives, they must answer these questions:

  • How did IT’s outputs reach the end customer?
  • How did IT’s outputs help the customer achieve their goals?
  • How did IT’s outputs increase revenue or decrease expenses?
  • How did IT’s outputs help the business achieve its goals?

To find the answers to these questions, you have to follow the value stream.

What’s a Value Stream?

Steve Bell and Mike Orzen, authors of Lean IT define a value stream as a “sequence of activities required to design, produce and deliver a good or service to a customer and it includes the dual flows of information and material.” According to Bell and Orzen, a value stream consists of “all processes, tasks and activities used to bring a product or service from concept to customer and includes all information, work and material flows.”

In short, value stream is the steps taken by an organization to meet customer demands and bring value through a product or service to that customer. The value stream is the big picture look at how value flows through the organization.

How To Follow the Value Stream

Following the value stream means exactly that – following how value flows through an organization and identifying where there may be improvements that can be made. It is about gaining clarity around how value is delivered to the end user, and how to use value streams to help you make decisions in your IT organization.

For every initiative or project, IT leaders must be able to step back and ask, “where and how does this fit in a value stream?” If you’ve followed the value stream and there is no fit for the initiative, then why is it a priority?

Often when you’re following the value stream to determine the importance of an initiative, you will end up involving other departments and stakeholders. As noted above, the value stream is how value flows through the entire organization, not just within one department. Value streams will cross departmental boundaries and a collaborative approach is mandatory. Working in a vacuum will simply waste time and resources — time and resources that could have been better spent contributing to the value stream.

Now, in this digital world, this means understanding how technology contributes to the value stream. IT manages technology and technology will always play a role in the value stream. Understanding this relationship will give you a context for certain services or initiatives.

Map your Value Streams

How do you know if a technology, a specific investment, or an initiative is contributing to a value stream?

The answer is simple: map that value streams. A value stream map is a visual representation of how value flows through the organization. This visualization enables you “follow the value stream.”

Mapping value streams will:

  • Identify cross-functional nature of work, which can avoid “siloed thinking”
  • Identify waste such as bottlenecks or delays (very important for IT!)
  • Allow teams to visualize the work and help the entire organization recognize how individuals and teams contribute to value.

How to Follow the Value and Map the Value Stream

No matter where you struggle with defining value or identifying the value IT drives, a value stream map is a place to start.

Mapping a value stream requires a cross-departmental team that includes IT. Silo thinking must not get in your way when you’re following the value stream, so include all stakeholders and make this an exercise in discovery.

To map a value stream, you have to define the focus of the map. A Value Stream Map doesn’t necessarily map all the paths that a process can take. It tracks one service or part of a process. So when mapping your value streams, start with services that have a role in the products or services that have the most impact on the organization. Ask yourselves what is the most valuable thing to the customer, what brings in the most revenue, or conversely, what costs the most for the organization? Start with focusing on the value streams where you get “biggest bang for your buck,” so to speak.

Map all the information including all the tasks being performed, who is performing them, and the technology involved with all of these tasks. It helps if you work backward. Work with the end outcome of a value stream and map out the process from there. Start with the end customer and the process will probably become much clearer.

In addition to mapping out each step in a process, be sure to map how information flows through each step in the process. Remember, you want all the key stakeholders in the room while you do this so that everyone knows how information flows and what is expected of them during each step of the process.

It’s also important to include timelines involved in each step of the process. Include lead time and actual time spent on production or in the product lifecycle to get an accurate view of how much time is needed for value to flow to the customer.

Finally, remember that value stream mapping is never a “one and done” activity. As new technology is introduced or customers’ needs change, your value stream maps will be revisited.

The next time you’re faced with a decision about an investment or project, take a look at the value stream. Using a value stream as your compass Following the value stream will always lead you to a path where you can contribute value to the organization.

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