Tag Archives: Business-IT Alignment

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 the 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. Map all the information including all the tasks being performed, who is performing them, and the technology involved with all of these tasks.

It’s also important to 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 contributing value to the organization.

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Your Continuity Plan Still Isn’t Good Enough

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Continuity plans have been in the spotlight for businesses across the globe over the last few months. If your continuity plan wasn’t done or hadn’t been reviewed in months, then you probably felt that pain over the last few weeks. Even those with up-to-date continuity plans are refreshing theirs with their lessons learned from COVID-19.

“Continuity planning” has been topping lists of must-do’s for CIOs and IT leaders. But someone has to ask the question: even with a 2020 update, is your continuity plan good enough?

From what I’ve been reading and seeing, probably not. The good news is that you can still shore up your continuity plan so that it actually helps your business in the event of another disaster.

The Problem With Continuity Plans

For CIOs, continuity plans mean including the obvious things:

  • How many laptops does our team need to work remotely?
  • What needs to be moved into the cloud or onto a collaboration platform?
  • What cybersecurity systems need to be set into place?

These are important items to address. They will help your business continue in the event of an emergency. But they’re not the solutions to the real concerns. They are band-aids. These things only address the symptom but not what causes the symptoms.

A continuity plan needs to address what your business needs to do to stay running most effectively and how vital business functions can continue operating during a disaster.

On their own, none of the above components reflect how they connect to vital business functions or business needs. They’re just a list of outputs. They don’t tie it back to the business need or driver or requirement. They’re not outcomes. Our continuity plans should focus on the outcomes we must deliver to support vital business functions. Then we’ll know what outputs we need to produce in order to provide the outcomes that are needed.

I’ll use one of my favorite metaphors to explain the difference between outputs and outcomes. This one might feel familiar to you if you’ve been ordering takeout food recently. You probably have a favorite pizza delivery place that you choose over any other. What is it that makes that pizza delivery your favorite? Because the output from every delivery service is the same. The output is the pizza that you receive. But the outcome of pizza delivery is that the pizza was delivered warm, the driver was friendly, it was delicious and you enjoyed every second of eating it. The output is simply what you expect because it’s what you paid for. The outcome is the entire experience and value that was delivered.

To have a good continuity plan, you need to identify the outcomes that are necessary, not just the outputs that simply keep the lights on.

We need to start with the business impact analysis which quantifies the impact of the loss of service. A business impact analysis collects relevant data and analyzes the operational and financial impact of a disruption of business functions and processes. These can be as detailed as we need it to be. The more detail, the better because we’ll be able to make better business decisions.

The business impact analysis starts us down the path of identifying those outcomes because it assumes that every part of the business is dependent on the continued operations of the other parts of the business (which it is).

Is this starting to sound familiar? When we think of business impact, in particular the holistic approach to end-to-end value, we’re really identifying the value streams.

If you read my previous article this month, you know that I’m a proponent of Value Stream Management, which is the holistic approach that applies lean thinking – optimizing the flow of products and services through entire value streams across technologies, assets, and departments – across an organization’s value streams. Instead of just looking at functions and features, value stream management looks at and manages value streams from end-to-end.

In terms of continuity plans, if we reflect on the value streams, our plan has to become more than the technology that supports the value stream. It will encompass the entire end-to-end lifecycle of business value and the outcomes of each value stream.

This where you’ll begin to focus on things like the roles of the people involved and how they interact with one another and the end customers to deliver value. Your continuity plan becomes comprehensive and more impactful.

How To Make Your Continuity Plan Valuable

Now that you understand what really needs to be in a continuity plan, there’s a second piece that needs to be addressed.

You can’t just drop this plan into a drawer and cross your fingers that you won’t need it again anytime soon. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that unthinkable scenarios can occur. We may not see another pandemic in our lifetimes but we will see another disaster of some type.

Your continuity plan cannot be a one and done scenario. It needs to be reviewed, updated, and addressed on a regular basis. Each time you map your value streams or add new value streams, go back to your continuity plan, and evaluate that it’s still up to date.

We can’t know what the next disaster is awaiting businesses but we can be better prepared for any disaster. The best time to prepare for the next disaster is right now.

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Outcomes vs Outputs: The Real Proof of IT’s Value

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The typical workday looks much different today than it did just a few months ago. Instead of driving to work and walking into the building, employees are going online and signing in to their messaging or collaboration tools.

Instead of physically taking a document to a client for a signature, they’re being sent digitally for electronic signatures.

Instead of popping into an office, managers are checking in with employees via texts, instant messages, and video calls.

As many businesses continue to work remotely amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become increasingly clear that technology is keeping the business together. Because of this, IT has to move into a more strategic role. For years, experts have been advising IT leaders to take their seat at the strategy table and be involved in the larger business decisions. Many IT leaders have jumped at this opportunity while others have struggled to figure out how to demonstrate IT’s ability to be more than a support function.

This shift of IT from a support function into a strategic partner can start with a simple shift. The shift from focusing on outputs to outcomes can make a world of difference for IT organizations.

Outcomes vs. Outputs

Let’s begin by addressing the difference between outputs and outcomes.

Outputs are the actions or activities that an IT organization completes. They are quantitative and easily measured.

Outputs could include:

  • Moving files and documents into the cloud
  • Closing tickets in record times
  • Installing new technology

Many IT organizations measure outputs as a way to illustrate their productivity and value. The thinking is that the more outputs they complete, the more the rest of the business will see IT as being valuable.

While outputs are important, outputs only tell part of the story. The real measure of value is the outcomes that are enabled by those outputs. Outcomes are the results that the business wants or needs to achieve.

Outcomes are business objectives such as:

  • Increased market share
  • Higher customer satisfaction scores
  • Increased profits

For example, the outcome of moving computing capability to the cloud is a more mobile and flexible work environment. The output enables the outcome. For every output IT is completing, the CIO must know and communicate what the business is now able to do as a result, or outcome, of that output.

That means before listing an output on a project list, IT managers must ask: “What outcome is this going to enable?

By doing this, you can cut down on the amount of busywork or projects that are not contributing to the bottom line. It will also show what outputs are ineffective. In some cases, IT delivers an output that doesn’t enable or deliver any real business outcomes. If this is the case, you’ll need to review the output and determine if it is truly needed.

This shift may also show that some of your metrics and KPIs are ineffective ways of measuring IT’s performance. For example, if your team has a high first-contact resolution rate but employees are still reporting poor service, then the first-contact resolution rate isn’t a good indicator of your performance.

How to Make This Shift

What do IT leaders need to do this to make this shift in their organizations?

Build Business Relationships
IT leaders need to understand the outcomes the business wants to achieve. They should seek out key stakeholders and have regular conversations about their technology needs and their goals and objectives. This will allow IT leaders to begin to see the end-to-end value of their outputs and initiatives.

Define and Map Services
Once you know the desired outcomes, you can map IT services to them. Map how the outcomes of your services connect to business objectives.

Measure Outcomes
It’s not enough to simply list off the number of outputs your team completes each month. Engage your stakeholders to identify outcomes and how an output contributes to an outcome.

The Future of IT

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that IT has no choice but to evolve now. The way we work will be changed forever. Even when businesses return to the office, there will be different expectations around flexibility and how technology enables flexible mobile workforces. The business will want to be prepared for the future, should anything like this happen again and they’ll be looking at IT to help plan and prepare for those possibilities.

CIOs and IT leaders must approach their goals and initiatives differently if they want to rightfully play a leadership role in their organizations. Connecting IT outputs to business outcomes enables IT leaders to help shape the future of their organizations.

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ITSM is More Than Just Numbers on a Spreadsheet

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This article was inspired by Mel Kerner, whose insightful comments on a recent LinkedIn post of mine started my wheels turning about the heart of service delivery.

Measuring and demonstrating the business value of IT is one of the biggest struggles for CIOs and IT leaders. There are thousands of articles, webinars, and commentary on how to demonstrate the business value of IT (I’ve even written quite a few of those articles!).

There are endless equations of metrics, KPIs, budgets, and technology that one can put together to demonstrate the value of ITSM. CIOs are hyper-focused on that bottom line. What does the IT line on the spreadsheet say about you and your organization?

That’s always the question, isn’t it? I’m not here to argue that CIOs don’t have to prove the financial sense behind their decisions on investments and projects, but I am going to pose another question:

What is at the heart of your service delivery?

I can see some of you rolling your eyes at this vague question that can’t be answered with metrics or financial projections. But I think we need to ask it because there is a goal of ITSM that can’t be measured with specific metrics or financial projections.

People, processes, technology… every IT leader has strategized over these 3 words. They are the 3 parts of every ITSM initiative.

We can measure how much technology is costing or saving the business. We can create baselines from which to measure the improvement of the effectiveness of our processes.

We can’t effectively measure the importance of people. We can capture metrics like call volumes and incident response times, but that doesn’t measure the service being provided. It doesn’t accurately demonstrate the importance of that service to the end-user – or to the organization.

This is important because sometimes everything adds up on paper, but IT is still struggling. Sometimes all of the financial plans make sense and the team is hitting its goals for all of its metrics, but users are still unhappy and service is still poor.

This is a very real disconnect occurring in organizations today. According to PWC, 90% of C-suite executives say their technology choices deliver what employees need. But 50% of employees disagree.

Is IT really delivering services if half of the organization don’t believe they have the technology for what they need? Even when the numbers on the spreadsheet are adding up, if the people in the organization are not satisfied and able to do their jobs, IT is not doing its job.

Impeccable service delivery starts with understanding how much that service delivery means to the most important part of service management: the people.

Do service desk agents understand the true value of solving a user’s technology problem? Do they fully grasp the frustration that arises when a piece of technology is getting in the way of someone doing their job?

Studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between employee experience and company performance. It’s no wonder why employee experience has become one of the hottest topics in business today. For IT leaders, this is an opportunity. They can use this focus on employee experience to remind their teams what is at the heart of service delivery.

Consider author Simon Sinek’s famous quote: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Does your IT team understand the “why” behind their metrics?

For example, why is response time important?

Is it important because it’s a box to check off? Or is it important because a service desk agent providing a timely response is able to return a user to their job faster so that they can complete their own work faster. And completing their work faster may mean they are responding to a client faster, closing a sales deal faster, or they’re able to start another project. A timely response time helps a user be better, faster, and more efficient at their job.

Or why is recurring incidents an important metric?

Is it important because it’s annoying for the service desk agent to have to solve recurring incidents? Or is it important because recurring incidents damage the reputation of the IT organization and are a frustration for the user? It can cause their mood and productivity to plummet which can then impact their interactions with customers and colleagues. It can even impact their interactions outside of the office. If you’ve had a frustrating day at work, you may end up bringing that home. The service desk can impact that!

IT leaders must talk with end-users about their experiences with IT. They should investigate the pain points users experience when their service calls are poor and the satisfaction they feel when their work is uninterrupted and technology actually makes their jobs easier.

There needs to be a bigger “why” for IT beyond just collecting metrics and impacting bottom lines. There needs to be a heart to your service delivery and it may be as simple as this: Better service delivery improves the day to day lives of your end-users.

Why does all this even matter if you can’t measure it?

The work IT does is often misunderstood and unappreciated. Most service desk agents won’t be thanked by end-users. Feeling unappreciated and inefficient will lead to burned-out agents who deliver subpar service and that can create a ripple effect. Service management is directly related to employee experience, which is directly related to company performance.

The IT leader must constantly remind the IT team why good service delivery matters. IT leaders need to take the steps to dig into the true “can’t-be-measured” heart of service delivery and communicate that to their teams. Ask the hard questions, dig into how users use services and technology to enable business outcomes, and start capturing and pointing out those immeasurable wins, just as often as you count the measurable wins.

At the end of the day, the numbers at the bottom of the spreadsheet will still matter. But the real story of IT goes far beyond the numbers on the spreadsheet. The real story is the one that’s told and heard throughout the floors away from the C-suite. It’s the story that really matters- the story of the employee’s experience.

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What Should Your Customer Experience Look Like & How Do You Get There?

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Recently, I’ve been sharing about customer expectations and while understanding those expectations is important, you also have to have a plan for how to meet those expectations.

I am referring to the customer experience, of course. The customer experience includes every touchpoint a customer has as they interact with a brand. Customer experience has always been important. But as the world grows increasingly digital, brands are tasked with understanding and mapping the multi-channel experience that customers go through with brands.

And there’s a reason companies spend time, money and effort on mapping and optimizing these experiences. In short: they matter. Forrester found that from 2011 to 2015, revenues for companies that scored near the top of the Forrester CX Index™ outgrew the group of companies that scored poorly by more than 5 to 1.

As brands become focused on the customer experience, they are turning to a new ally, who previously has not been involved in customer experience: the CIO.

The CIO & The Customer Experience

Historically, the CIO has had little to do with the customer experience. The business leaders like sales, marketing and business development would meet to map out the experience and then, they’d ask IT to build what they needed to create that experience. But times have changed.

In a recent KPMG Survey, more than half of the CIOs surveyed reported that enhancing the customer experience is the most important business issue that boards want IT to work on.

The fact is, the CIO needs to be involved with the customer experience these days. CIOs understand the technical limitations of new technologies as well as understand current in-house capabilities. Instead of the business guessing what is possible, IT needs to work with them to create solutions that are achievable.

What A Quality Customer Experience Looks Like?

The question is, of course, what does a quality customer experience look like? If we refer back to the emerging customer expectations that I discussed in this article, a few things become clear.

The first is that customers want a “contextual, intuitive and experiential engagement.” Another way to phrase this is to design a low-effort experience.

What’s a low effort experience? To answer that, let’s first look at a high effort experience.

A customer calls a customer service line. They have the option to wait on hold for an undetermined amount of time or to have the company call them back when it’s their turn. The customer chooses to wait on hold. They wait on hold for 17 minutes when a representative finally gets on the line, asking for the person’s information. The customer then waits another minute while the representative pulls up their information and asks what the problem is. The customer explains their issue. The representative provides a textbook response that doesn’t meet the customer’s needs. The customer asks for another resolution. The representative tells them they have to transfer them to a manager. The customer then waits another few minutes on hold. Once transferred, the manager again asks for the customer’s information and the customer again waits while the manager pulls up their file. The manager tries to provide the same answer the representative does but the customer asks for another resolution. After a few minutes of back and forth, the manager tells them they will try to find another solution and that they’ll email them with a solution within a few days after they have spoken to the appropriate department.

This may sound convoluted but it happens all of the time! I’m sure many of us have encountered similar experiences when dealing with customer service problems. Consider what the customer has to endure during this exchange: multiple wait times, hearing the same information repeated, resolution to be delivered in a different format than the initial exchange. In other words, it’s a high-effort experience for the customers. According to Gartner, 96% of customers who encounter this type of interaction will become disloyal to a company.

The trick to creating low-effort experiences is to lead with the benefits or solutions to customers’ problems over the technology.

For example, if your customers want faster issue resolution, then your organization should turn to real-time text or voice chatbot that is readily accessible for customers at scale.

If customers need more information prior to purchase, consider enhancing your mobile experience or incorporating augmented reality tools so customers can visualize products in their offices or homes.

If your customers want a more personalized experience, focusing on consumer data collection and organization will be your best priority.

There is no one size fits all to delivering exceptional customer experience. It’s about listening to your consumers, paying attention to their needs and then, creating services, incorporating technology and designing processes to fit those needs.

How To Get There?

To point you in the right direction of how to create exceptional customer experiences, I am going to end this article with a question:

How do you think employee experience shapes the customer experience?

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Are You Prepared to Meet Customer Expectations in 2020?

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In November 2018, I examined a few ways customer expectations have changed due to technology and what organizations, especially IT, need to know to stay competitive. Today, we reflect on how those expectations have changed in a short amount of time.

Customers, technology, new expectations. Let’s start off talking about a company that failed to pay attention to any of those things.

Long before we could access almost any TV show and movie from the simple click of a remote, Blockbuster reigned supreme. Anyone born before the mid-1990s probably has memories of heading down to the video store in hopes of finding a new release or a beloved classic. Of course, you never knew what would be checked out so you had to hope for the best. After you picked out and paid for your movies, you’d head home and watch it almost immediately. Because you had to return the thing a few days later to avoid those late fees!

But then in 1997, Netflix came along. And remember, before you could instantly stream thousands of movies to your TV, you could request certain DVDs online and Netflix would send them to you. And then you could send them back whenever you wanted. No late fees! This was revolutionary and it upended the video rental industry.

But Blockbuster failed to catch on. They failed to innovate. They failed to use the technology that was becoming available to them and they failed to meet the expectations their customers now had for their products.

Today, Netflix is booming and Blockbuster is long gone.

It’s easy to look back in retrospect and point out where Blockbuster failed. It’s easy to wonder how they failed to pay attention to the writing on the wall. But, of course, we enjoy the benefit of knowing how the future unfolded. Blockbuster didn’t recognize the impact of technology and, when I think about it, I can actually understand how they failed. At its peak in the mid-90s, Blockbuster had 65 million registered customers and was valued as a $3 billion company. They probably thought that they had happy customers, millions of them, in fact. They might have assumed that if they could just keep most of those millions of customers happy the same way they had been for over a decade, then they could endure some flashy competition.

The problem was not the competition, though. It was their customer’s expectations and their failure was marked because they refused to pay attention to the changing expectations of the marketplace.

While every industry is different, there are several overarching customer expectations that every organization should know.

Instant Response & Seamless Communication

Consumers don’t contact brands like they used to. They won’t call a hotline or sit on hold for hours. Now, they interact with brands just as they would interact with friends or family, through texting, social media, email or messenger. And no matter how they communicate, customers want an instant response. 40% of consumers expect a customer service response within an hour. (And yes, this means on the weekend too!)

Organizations must have the technology for instant response and seamless communication with their customers. Whether it’s incorporating chatbots, creating auto-response tools or using AI, you can’t afford to keep your customers waiting.

Easy Access to All Their Data

A decade ago, consumers understood if they had to be put on hold while you transferred them to another department or waited while you found their file in the filing cabinet.

But things have changed. Fitness trackers provide consumers with a wealth of data about their bodies just by glancing at their watch. Customers can open up Google, type in a word or two and have answers in seconds. Consumers have almost instant access to data these days. They expect your organization to do the same. They simply don’t have the patience for you to transfer them to the right department, dig for their info or wait for access from a superior to their data. Furthermore, you can’t afford to be relying on manual methods of data entry or note-taking inside a customer’s file. Every interaction needs to be automatically tracked. Your organization must have the ability to easily, securely and quickly access every customer data.

Delivery Times

Amazon changed expectations regarding delivery times. In 2015, 63% of consumers surveyed felt that 3-4 day shipping was fast. In 2018, that number dropped to 25%. And while many small businesses would love to gripe that it’s hard to compete with the biggest retailer in the world, griping will do very little to change the situation. Customers don’t care if they are ordering from a billion-dollar company or from a small shop made up of 10 employees. They expect faster delivery time.

This means organizations have to improve efficiency for every piece of the process that leads up to the actual delivery. From processing the order to packaging, organizations need to improve their process, optimize their technology and push themselves to be as fast and efficient as possible to meet demand.

Device-hopping

Consumers go from browsing on their phones to their tablets to their computers and back again. The experience with your brand needs to be consistent no matter what device someone is on. This means a mobile-friendly website, ordering system and contact forms. Everything you publish and promote needs to be accessible and easy to understand from any screen size.

These expectations are not easy to meet. The pressure is intense for every organization but I encourage organizations to look at more than the expectation but the need behind the trend to stay ahead.

Netflix didn’t succeed because they used technology to mail out DVDs. They succeeded because they understood their customers wanted convenience. Customer expectations are born because organizations pay attention to what customers want and need. Whether its speed, convenience, comfort, customer service or quality, there is a need or a want behind every new customer expectations.

Organizations, especially the IT department, should be listening to their consumers and identifying their underlying needs. If they can do this, then they can identify the best services, create better processes and find the right technology to deliver those services, meeting not only these customer expectations but any expectations that might arise in the future.

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The New Role of The ITSM Professional

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What makes ITSM successful? There are many answers for this question but I am staunchly in the camp that ITSM success has less to do with strategy, processes, or even technology. It comes down to people.

There might be some argument about this belief within the industry, especially as we become more automated. There is a very real fear among many ITSM professionals that embracing AI means that they will soon be replaced by machines. My unpopular opinion on this is that while some ITSM professionals will be automated out of a job, it doesn’t mean that their ITSM careers are done. I believe that there will be new roles that will emerge for those professionals.

ITSM is evolving. We have new technologies and new methodologies – so it’s time that we look at a new way of defining the ITSM professional. As we enter this new decade in 2020, I’d argue that we must redefine the role of the ITSM professional. I see the role coming down to two crucial parts.

The Business of the Business

The first part of this new ITSM professional role is the importance of understanding “the business of the business.”

In other words, how does the business co-create value? What do end-users and customers want and expect from the business? Many ITSM professionals understand how processes and technology work, but often fail to see the bigger picture of how those processes and technology support the value streams across the business and, ultimately, the bottom line.

ITSM professionals have a unique opportunity. While many within the organization may understand the business of the business, few understand the relationships between value streams and technologies, and how technology supports the business of the business.

By working with their teams to understand the business and its bottom line – and the role of technology and service management – CIOs can enable their team members to become so valuable that they can’t be automated out of a job.

AI and machine learning are only as good as the data they are given. If the ITSM professional understands the value streams that flow through the business – that is, the business of the business – then they can ensure that good service management underpins the flow of that data used to make those business decisions that impact the bottom line.

The Soft Skills of the ITSM Professional

The second piece of the new ITSM professional is soft skills. Don’t be fooled by the phrase. Soft skills are crucial for success and there is nothing “soft” about them. In the new ITSM role, the professional must effectively communicate with others, work with the rest of the organization, and have an understanding of what each department contributes to the bottom line.

Silo mentality can no longer be tolerated. A “culture of no” won’t last in this new paradigm. Communication and collaboration are “must-haves”. If your team is feeling resistant about the necessity of working with the rest of the organization, encourage them to recognize that in order to be seen as an integral part of the organization and not a back-office support team then they must step out from behind their computers and collaborate with the rest of the organization.

With the right mindset, a focus on communication and collaboration, and an understanding of the business, this new ITSM professional will thrive in any organization. Yes, even in a world with automation, bots, and machine learning.

Focus on Service

If this shift feels overwhelming or uncomfortable, I encourage IT, leaders, to emphasize the meaning of the word “service” with their teams. We define and create what are called “services”, but too many ITSM professionals think of services in terms of processes, methodologies, and technologies.

The word service can be defined as “the action of a person (or organization) helping or doing work for someone else.” Services are more about people, about working together and helping others than they are about technology and methodologies.

These shifts, whether you view them as large or small, are unavoidable. IT can’t afford to duck their heads behind their computers and hope their knowledge of technology and methodologies will be enough to keep them relevant. They must see the larger picture and work with the rest of the organization to achieve that larger picture.

It’s time to raise the bar.

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Is “Busy” Becoming The New Death of IT?

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The word “busy” has become ubiquitous in the business world. It is equal parts an explanation, an apology, and a defense. For IT, it has long been a go-to phrase.

I am worried about the overuse of the word “busy”. “Busy” seems to have become the standard response for any inquiry about IT. I don’t doubt that IT organizations aren’t busy, but if IT is always busy, I worry about what it means for the future of IT.  Unless something changes, IT will be so busy that it will find itself with nothing to do.  The organization will not wait for IT to become less busy – the organization will move ahead without IT.

Anyone who has worked with an IT department will recognize the look of a frazzled, stressed out CIO. She is constantly running in and out of meetings, putting out fires and desperately trying to “catch up.” Some busy CIOs often find that they spend most of their time in “reaction mode”.

The problem with being in a constant state of reaction is that the CIO never seems to have the time to strategize or innovate or think big. Being in a constant state of reaction means that CIOs are always solving yesterday’s problems. You can’t be a leader if you can’t get ahead and you can’t get ahead if your focus is on yesterday.

You may be thinking that IT professionals will be able to leverage technology to avoid busyness and, to a certain degree, I agree. But with newer technology, higher customer expectations, and an ever-increasing reliance on data, IT is trying to balance more work than ever. And technology by itself is not the answer for having balance.

But there is a difference between having a heavy workload and being so busy that you can’t get ahead. “Busy” becomes a death knell for IT when it becomes an excuse. And this excuse is not always intentional. The workload for IT can become all-encompassing and it’s easy to be unable to see through it. 

This is where a great IT leader can emerge. Great leaders can see the future, despite the demands of day to day work. Great leaders choose to focus on solving future problems and does the things today that lead to solving those future problems. The difference between an IT leader who struggles and an IT leader who thrives is the ability to see past the day to day fires and into the greater needs of the organization.

So how can IT leaders create the space they need to be proactive, innovative, and future-focused?

First, a leader must be willing to create this space. It is very easy to fall into the trap of “busy” and assume that you’ll have the opportunity to plan, strategize, and innovate next month or next quarter or next year. Things will not change without making the conscious decision that something must change.

It’s not as simple as just adding additional resources, bringing in partners, or outsourcing parts of the IT organization. These actions will only serve to put a band-aid on the issue. Taking these actions will only create the illusion that IT suddenly has the additional capacity or that the issues that caused IT to be “too busy” have been addressed. 

So, what is the answer?  Rather than manage the IT “supply”, manage the IT demand.  The organization must understand the demand it is placing on IT. It may even mean reducing the demand on IT to enable IT to improve on time-to-value targets that it simply cannot meet due to excessive demand.

Running IT must change from a supply and demand approach to a demand and supply approach.  Rather than continue to try to match the supply of IT to demand, the approach must change to match demand for IT to supply.  In other words, rather than trying to force demand for IT into a limited supply, the demand for IT drives supply.  This may look like a subtle difference, but it represents a significant shift in the way many organizations interact with their IT departments. Demand for IT must drive capacity – not expose the capacity limitations of IT. And if the organization does not want to increase capacity, then it must limit demand.

Yes, DevOps and Scrum are demand-driven approaches. But unless the entire organization adopts an agile approach, it is only a local optimization – IT is optimizing only what IT does – and local optimizations are not sustainable.  I would even argue that such an approach will likely increase the demand on already-constrained resources.  DevOps and Scrum only help IT react to demand – it does little to influence or control that demand.

What will it take to shift to a demand-driven approach to IT?

First, IT must be elevated from being viewed as a technical support function to a strategic business partner.  This will require a mind shift – both from the executive perspective as well as the IT perspectives –. With technology now such an integral part of every part of every business, IT has to be involved and directly present in the strategic planning of the organization.

If IT isn’t already doing so, IT must develop and maintain its service portfolio.  Just like the enterprise is maintaining a product and services portfolio to facilitate good decision-making, the IT portfolio depicts how investments in IT relate to business outcomes and value co-creation.  Additionally, the IT portfolio also illustrates on-going operational costs, or the cost of the “care and feeding” of existing solutions that are often overlooked when organizations take on new initiatives The IT portfolio is a crucial tool in helping the organization understand current demand as well as the impact of new or potential demand.

Lastly, organizations must commit to the effective governance of IT to ensure that the organization achieves its desired outcomes. In 2013, Cognizant stated that more than 50% of IT investments are wasted or failed to deliver expected returns to the organization. Effective IT governance results in improved organizational risk management and alignment of IT investments with organizational objectives. When it comes to demand, effective IT governance balances resources, ensuring adequate IT support is available for current and future IT demand.

This shift will require commitment from the C-suite, especially from the CEO and the CFO. Executives may not understand why managing IT demand will help them move faster into the future. In order to explain this, CIOs need to understand the business priorities, outcomes and how technology impacts them. This means meeting demand with the appropriate capacity and capability, IT wants to help the organization succeed, but in order to do that and not miss out on market opportunities, the demand for IT must be met with the appropriate capacity and capability. Simply scaling up demand cannot be the way forward.

This idea of managing demand may sound unrealistic, but it actually is the best path toward the future. The other option, of course, is for IT organizations to continue being “too busy”. Taking this route means that IT will end up staying busy until the C-suite gets fed up that IT can’t take on more work. While “busy is good”, if IT is too busy, IT will end up busying itself out of relevance in the organization.

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What CIOs Can Learn From CMOs

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The CIO-CMO relationship has had a rocky history. The two are often at odds with what they need to accomplish and historically, they’ve never spoken the same language.

But there has been a shift in recent years. As marketing became more digitized, more marketing departments became focused on technology and data while IT departments face increasing pressure to deliver tangible business outcomes.

As digital transformation becomes more widespread across organizations, CIOs and CMOs must play on the same team. CIOs and CMOs are perfectly positioned to become a couple of all-star players within organizations – if they learn to work together.

How can CIOs and CMOs successfully work together to lead their organizations into the digital future? It starts with mutual respect, appreciation, and understanding of what each can learn from the other.

What can CIOs learn from CMOs? Here are four important lessons.

 

Customer Experience

Marketers must know their customers. They are deep in customer data, on top of consumer feedback and they keep a pulse on what the consumer expects from the industry. In short, CMOs are experts in the customers and IT can learn from that.

Customers are looking for more personalized support and solutions and self-service options. Technology can give customers all of those things but only if that technology has the right data. Marketing has the data that IT needs to create technology that will improve the overall experience.

Analytics and Testing

There are no silver bullets in marketing – just like there are no silver bullets in IT. So CMOs and their teams must hypothesize, measure, test, iterate and measure some more. CMOs know they have to have fluidity in their testing and launch phases. They also must adjust their analytics depending on a specific marketing campaign and its goals.

IT teams often get stuck in strict processes that leave no room for experimentation or testing. This usually leads to reduced productivity and IT teams end up feeling stuck performing processes that are inefficient. CIOs can take note as to how CMOs choose their KPIs, identify analytics, and use data to quickly adjust marketing campaigns – and apply these learnings c to IT initiatives.

Agility

IT has had a reputation for being slow to respond or quickly deliver new solutions. Marketing can’t afford to be slow or unresponsive to changes in the marketspace, especially in the digital age where things can (and do) change at lightning speeds. IT needs to take note because, in this age, both IT and marketing are expected to be able to react quickly to meet changing business expectations. Success is always a moving target and both teams must be agile and forward-thinking to keep pace with changing demands.

CIOs can learn how their CMO counterparts adapt to quickly changing markets and expectations. Understanding how CMOs prioritize projects, allocate budgets and resources, and lead their teams to hit their goals, even when the strategy or tactics change, can provide CIOs with great learnings in what it means to be agile.

The Language of the Business

This might be one of the most important lessons a CMO can teach a CIO. CMOs have always been measured by ROI. So CMOs have always had to learn to show how all of their initiatives can increase ROI.

IT, on the other hand, rarely had to demonstrate ROI in the past. They were back-office support teams. But that’s changed now and IT must shift from cost center to revenue generator. To do this, they must learn to speak the language of the business and prove ROI.

CIOs should pay attention to how their CMO colleagues pitch their initiatives, explain their results, and the metrics they use to measure success.

The Future of CIOs and CMOs

The CIO-CMO relationship can be mutually beneficial. When CIOs and CMOs work together, they can champion each other’s initiatives, encourage their teams to collaborate with one another, and create inter-departmental workflows and processes so they work more efficiently and with better results.

If you want to develop the CIO-CMO relationship, these tactics can help.

Find a common language
It’s essential that CMOs and CIOs understand how to communicate with one another. That means having open and on-going conversations about objectives and business needs. Both the CIO and CMO need to discuss jargon or what certain phrases mean within each department. If you are able to communicate openly and understand where each other is coming from, you’ll be prepared to take the next steps.

Align CIO and CMO outcomes
After you learn to speak the same language, ensure you stay in-sync on achieving shared goals. Hold joint meetings on a regular basis to ensure strategies are aligned, and share data and findings regarding the critical interfaces between technology and customer experiences.

Facilitate team collaboration
CIOs and CMOs may make the big decisions but it’s their respective team members that do the work. Therefore, the IT and marketing teams must learn to work together as well. As leaders, CIOs and CMOs must create opportunities for collaboration between the two departments such as holding regular co-department meetings, creating joint projects or inter-department workflows, or hosting joint brainstorming sessions.

The digital revolution is changing the way the business does business and it’s impacting every department – not just IT. But in many companies, it’s the marketing departments that are pioneering the use of emerging technologies to lead a company’s digital efforts. For CIOs and CMOs to be the all-star players the company needs, they need to work together and learn from one another.

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The Curious Case of the Wasted IT Investment

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There’s no doubt that if you want to be an efficient IT organization, you need efficient tools. Some might say that you need the best tools.

But when happens when those tool investments fail? And perhaps, more importantly, how do you prevent poor investments from ever happening again?

Here’s a story that might sound familiar to you of a (fictional) company who made an investment in a tool and then failed to see any return for it – and what they did to improve.

The Curious Case of the Wasted IT Investment

Dwight is a CIO for a mid-sized organization. He recently convinced his boss, the CEO, Lynn, that they needed to make a significant investment in a service management tool.

Lynn, recognizing that technology was more important than ever and there were increasingly more demands on the IT organization, agreed that IT needed the best tool on the market. They agreed that they needed a tool that would grow as that demand grew. They needed a tool that would help IT drive consistency and repeatability in process execution, but at the same time, facilitate innovation as new business drivers emerged. And while they had only developed and implemented a few service management practices, they anticipated that they would need the capability to support additional service management capabilities as the organization continued to digitize its operations. It wouldn’t be too long before the organization would need to leverage capabilities like automation, process orchestration, and chatbots. And frankly, their current service management tool had seen its better days – it was time to get a modern service management tool. Perhaps even a tool that could be used within other parts of the organization!

They decided to invest in the most expensive, fully featured service management tool on the market. It truly could do anything that they wanted to do…and more!

Dwight, Lynn and the entire team were delighted with their choice! The tool can do everything. It will undoubtedly solve all of their service management issues.

But a few weeks go by, then a few months… and both Dwight and Lynn are noticing that things aren’t improving. Even with the fancy new tool, Dwight can’t get all of the information he needs to present his updates to Lynn, who wants to see that improvement and consistent performance from the use of this tool. The IT organization still isn’t doing things in a repeatable way and many team members are still performing tasks manually. Processes are still disjointed and information does not flow well from process to process – and automation is nowhere close to becoming a reality for the IT organization. Dwight consistently ends up scrambling to gather data for the management reporting needed by Lynn.

Lynn is beginning to wonder why they decided to invest in modernizing the IT organization with this tool. Meanwhile, Dwight is worried that they failed in their modernization. He is seeing other departments prove their ROI and he is fearful that he blew their budget and won’t be able to convince Lynn ever again to invest in tools.

If you purchase the most capable tool, then how do things go wrong? The problem was never in the tool. The problem was before the tool and therefore, the tool can’t fix the problem. It’s like trying to build a house on quicksand. No matter what materials you use to build the house, it’s not going to stop it from sinking until you deal with the quicksand problem.

Let’s start with where Lynn and Dwight made their mistakes.
The first mistake is thinking a tool investment was the key to modernizing IT. A tool should never be your first investment. Are tools important? Absolutely! But a tool-first mentality ignores the most important part of your organization: the people using that tool.

Let’s start with the members of IT and how they need to be a part of modernization.

Lynn and Dwight should have asked themselves:

  • Do the members of IT understand why we’re investing in this tool?
  • Do they understand what role the tool will play in their everyday work?
  • Do they know how the tool will improve their work?
  • Have they been properly trained to use every part of the tool?

The mindset and buy-in from the team is important above all because these are the individuals who will be using the tool and ensuring it’s providing maximum return. When they feel they are part of the decision-making process, they will be more invested in learning and working with the tool. If everyone in the organization is invested in working with the tool, they’ll take the time to learn it and master it so that they are actually seeing all of the benefits of its many features.

The next thing Dwight should have addressed is the organization’s processes. Dwight should have ensured his processes were clearly defined, documented and adaptable. Then he should have identified how the tool will enable those processes, and communicate the processes and the tool’s role across departments and within the IT organization.

Defining (or redefining) processes will remove any ambiguity in service delivery. It ensures that there is transparency within IT. And Dwight and Lynn will have a clear idea of how the tool is working – and how well IT is able to contribute to business outcomes.
These steps seem simple, don’t they? But Dwight and Lynn skipped them because they were so certain that investing in the premium tool would instantly (and easily) fix all of their problems. Instead, they ended up in the exact same place they were before they purchased the tool – only now they’re spending a boatload of cash, and not getting the return they had hoped. A curious case of a wasted IT investment.

The lesson for every CIO, CFO, and CEO?

Don’t invest in a tool thinking it will solve the problem. If your car wasn’t working properly, you wouldn’t just purchase a new engine and think it will do the trick. You’d pop open the hood and find out exactly what’s not working then find the part that will fix it. If there’s somewhere in your organization that isn’t operating efficiently, try popping open the hood and doing the work to find the problem before you invest in a high-price, fully-featured tool.

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