Tag Archives: Business-IT Alignment

What IT Organizations Can Learn From the Indy 500

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If you live or work in Indianapolis, then you know that May is all about the Indy 500.

Known as “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” the Indy 500 features 33 of the top racecar drivers racing for 200 laps to complete 500 miles at the fastest time.

It’s a fun event for everyone to witness. But for CIOs and IT leaders, it can also be a learning lesson in speed, agility, and teamwork.

How do race cars racing in a loop at speeds over 200 mph relate to IT organizations? While on the surface, it seems as though IT organizations and the Indy 500 have nothing in common. But, there are actually quite a few similarities between winning the Indy 500 and leading a highly efficient IT organization.

For most drivers, winning the Indy 500 will come down to the pit crew. The pit crew is a team of mechanics who work on the racecars during the “pit stops” of a race. Pit crews perform the work of refueling, changing tires, or any mechanical adjustments needed during the race.

The pit crew is a lot like the IT organization of a business. They might not be the face of the race team, but they do the heavy lifting that helps the driver win the race. Much like the IT team who implements and manages the technology that keeps businesses growing, winning customers, and enabling value.

Let’s look at some of the hallmarks of a great pit crew and how that compares to a great IT team.

A Great Pit Crew Will:

1. Work together to accomplish their goals
Everyone has a defined role on a pit team, and there is no room for a single superstar. No matter how fast one person is at completing their job, the driver can’t leave the pit until everyone has done their job. As Derrell Edwards, a jackman for NASCAR’s No. 27 Richard Childress Racing crew once said, “Pit crewing is like a symphony. Everything has to be in sync for it to sound good.”

A great IT organization must also put the goals of the business above any individual needs or preferences. They must abandon any silo mentality they may have and focus on the success of the team – the business – ahead of the success of individuals.

2. Have defined roles and processes
Speed is essential in a great pit crew, however, it’s just as essential for everyone to stay out of everyone else’s way. Imagine the pit crew member who is in charge of changing the tire somehow cutting off the one in charge of refueling. It would be pure chaos. Fantastic pit crews are a little like a ballet. Every member has their own timing and their own movements and they must understand how that timing and movement work around one another to create a masterpiece. They’re expected to perform their roles perfectly without getting in the way of anyone else who is doing their role.

Great IT organizations also have well-defined roles and clear processes. Everyone understands who is doing what, when, and how it contributes to the overall goals of the company. Members of excellent IT organizations also have a clear understanding of how every role works together in a process. As a result, everyone is empowered to complete their part of the process to the best of their ability.

3. Identify bottlenecks and weaknesses
Racing at the Indy 500 level isn’t about driving as fast as you can. It’s about eliminating as many mistakes as possible to shave off as many seconds as possible. Minor mistakes or bottlenecks can ruin races and pit crews are trained to continually identify and eliminate any bottlenecks.

IT organizations also have to be continually identifying areas for improvement and creating solutions that won’t slow down business growth. When IT organizations prioritize identifying and eliminating bottlenecks, no matter how small, they are able to optimize their speed and success in the long run.

4. They play by the rules
In elite racing, every pit stop is recorded and 8 officials review this footage to determine that everything was performed correctly and within race regulations. If the pit crew’s timing is even one second too early, their driver could be penalized. Pit crews are trained to understand the specific regulations that are in place and learn how to excel within those parameters.

Likewise, excellent IT organizations understand they must work inside business policies. To a certain degree, they must play “office politics”, as well as adhere to procedures that exist outside of the IT organization. They must do this in order to garner support from the other parts of the organization as well as the C-suite. If IT doesn’t understand or follow the rules of the business, they could be penalized by being excluded from strategy discussions or business projects.

5. They use data to drive decisions and create processes so they can stay consistent
This last point is something that many casual racing fans don’t understand about pit crews. It’s also an area where many IT organizations struggle.

In the heat of the race, pit crews don’t have the luxury of being able to figure out what actions to take when something goes wrong. In a sport where there are millions of “worst-case” scenarios, they must plan ahead and create processes for everything. Race crews are constantly monitoring everything about their cars, their drivers and race conditions. They have data on everything and they prepare their pit crews accordingly for various scenarios so that if for whatever reason, an unexpected pit stop occurs, the pit crew doesn’t have to stop to think about what needs to be done. They simply follow the protocol that’s already been set.

Smart IT organizations also use data to drive decisions and leverage defined processes. By doing this, these IT organizations are able to address problems quickly and efficiently, with minimum impact to the business.

How can you apply lessons of a great pit crew?

It’s important to note that no matter how fast race cars become or what technological advancements occur in the sport, winning races will still heavily rely on the success of a pit crew.

The same can be said for IT and the business. Technology will advance and more tools and trends will be introduced to the business. But much of the success of an IT organization will remain on these core tenants as exemplified by pit crews: the ability to work as a team, having well-defined roles, continual improvement, and leveraging data-driven, consistent processes.

This is why good ITSM still matters – and will always matter – for your business.

1.Map value streams
Understand who and what drives value within your business. Map how IT contributes to that value. Remember, each member of the pit crew understands how they contribute to winning a race. Your IT team should also feel the same way!

2. Identify services and define the service portfolio
Mapping value streams will allow you to start to identify services that enable the business to meet its goals. Define your services and include the cost of ownership, needed resources, and the business value of what IT accomplishes. This will help you understand the business of the business and how IT contributes so you can play within the defined rules of the organization.

3. Review current processes
Look for waste in your processes, such as bottlenecks or delays. Eliminate or improve any parts of processes that contribute to these delays. Also, review where a lack of defined processes is holding you back. Identify issues where ownership or roles were unclear and address why that situation occurred.

There is no single “race day” for IT teams, but IT has to always be race-ready. Take the steps now to start getting race-ready. Follow the lead of great pit teams and soon, you’ll be seeing the results of that effort as your business zooms ahead of the competition!

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How to Defeat Silo Mentality

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There’s a beast lurking in many organizations. It can tear an organization to shreds from the inside out, quietly and quickly.

No, I’m not talking about some horror movie. I’m referring to silo mentality. It’s a growing problem for many organizations. A recent study of senior executives showed that “only 25% of respondents described their organizations as ‘effective’ at sharing knowledge across boundaries.”

While silo mentality may be common, it’s not healthy. It’s a problem that could drastically slow business growth in the digital age.

But there is a solution to silo mentality that is accessible to every organization and leaders across the globe. Before we get to the solution, let’s discuss the problem.

What is Silo Mentality?

Silo mentality is the mindset present when certain departments or sectors do not want to share information with others in the same organization.

Just like at a farm, silos in organizations hold resources that are separated by types. In the farming community, it’s important to protect resources from the outside elements but in business, silos end up causing delayed projects, low morale and increased costs.

Most leaders want to blame silo mentality on the employees themselves. But silo mentality is often to the result of poor leadership, communication and management.

Most silos form when employees develop a greater sense of loyalty to their individual team or department than loyalty to the organization. While team loyalty is not necessarily a bad thing, it can be disruptive when the needs of the company as a whole become secondary to the needs of the closest team members.

Managers and leaders must encourage a culture of collaboration, communication and ownership. If managers and leaders spend their time pointing fingers, hiding information or not taking ownership of their mistakes, then that mentality will trickle down into their teams, as well!

Silo mentality has many disruptive side effects. It can cause groupthink, stereotyping, redundancies and duplicative efforts between departments, and a misunderstanding of strategy. These effects can cause increased project costs, missed deadlines and low morale.

But the most damaging side effect is that the customer suffers when silo mentality exists in an organization. Most jobs within organizations have specific roles and responsibilities. When a task or issue occurs that “doesn’t fit the job description” in a siloed workforce, the task is usually tossed to the next person. This can occur several times over and the person who suffers the most is the person who had the issue in the first place: the customer.

Companies that suffer from silo mentality will lose customers and therefore profits due to the inefficiencies caused by it. Organizations have started trying to eliminate silo mentality by encouraging a service-oriented approach and cross-functional collaboration. And luckily, there is a more formal method to these tactics that leaders can take. It’s called Enterprise Service Management and it might sound a little bit familiar to you.

What is Enterprise Service Management?

Enterprise service management (ESM) describes the application of service management principles and technologies beyond just IT and across an organization. ESM applies service management principles to other areas of an organization to improve performance, measurability, effectiveness, responsiveness, and efficiency.

Does this sound familiar to you? Well, it should if you’ve been around this blog before! ESM mirrors what good ITSM practices accomplish, except on a larger scale.

Of course, you may be thinking that you can just take your existing ITSM processes and systems and simply apply them across the organization. It doesn’t exactly work like that.
ESM is much more than applying IT processes and principles outside of IT. It’s a holistic way of including and blending individual departmental approaches into common and shared processes, systems and technology across the organization.

It requires organizational change just as much as a technological change. It requires strong leadership, clearly articulated vision and business goals, and clear communication and collaboration between departments.

With ESM, the organization develops a holistic approach to integrate, connect and work together to leverage technology by creating processes, systems and workflows that benefit both the company and the customer.

How Can ESM Defeat Silo Mentality?

This is where silo mentality will begin to break down through ESM. By implementing ESM, the organization doesn’t need to just adapt to IT processes and systems. It’s not about IT (or any part of an organization for that matter) having its own set of processes and systems and expecting the rest of the organization to align to those processes. Rather, it’s about getting all parts of the organization having a shared understanding of business value and how the parts of the business interact to deliver value to the customer.

With ESM, every department must be represented in the development of more efficient workflows and processes that better enable the use of technology and eliminate any obstacles that exist between departments. Including each department in these activities develops buy-in to what will work best for the organization. This buy-in makes it easier for ESM implementation and it also correctly positions IT to understand how each department uses technology, how they view it, what they need from it, and align those needs to organizational goals.

For any of this to work, one of the first things the organization needs to do is to speak the same language. The problem many departments run into is that they don’t understand the specific terminology used within each department. For example, an “incident” for IT is very different than an “incident” for facilities.

Leaders need to work with their managers and teams to integrate their teams so they can begin to understand one another. One way is by incorporating job shadowing days where team members can spend time learning about another department. Another way may be to host knowledge sharing meetings where departments share their current projects and its impact on the business and effect on customers. Increasing communication and transparency between departments helps everyone begins to understand how each team contributes to the organization.

Once your team speaks the same language and you being to implement shared practices, processes, and technology across the organization, silo mentality will begin to fade. After all, the barriers that resulted from having separate practices, processes and technologies will be blended into a shared approach, which is how the organization should interact anyway.

How To Implement ESM into Your Organization?

One of the best ways is to start small with a single workflow that involves different departments.

For example, the workflow that supports onboarding a new employee involves the human resources, IT, corporate security, and facilities departments. Pull together representatives from each of these departments and agree on the critical success factors for onboarding a new employee. Map the work that is done by each department when a new employee is hired. Review what information is needed by each department as they do that work. This will begin to identify the dependencies and sequences of work between these departments. Map the flow of work among these departments that would result in the best result for both the new employee and the impacted departments. Identify and define measures that indicate that the workflow will meet the agreed critical success factors. Now map how and where technology supports this workflow. Small projects like these can create an environment that is open to organization wide enterprise service management roll outs.

Remember ESM won’t be rolled out overnight and it may not be met with open arms by everyone in the organization. Continue to identify supporters who are open to new projects, learn to speak the language of the business and keep your ears open for feedback and ideas from other departments. Remember, ending silo mentality starts from the top!

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The Number One Reason IT Is Unappreciated (and how to change it)

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There’s a quiet mumbling that occurs in every IT organization across the world. You can only hear if you listen very carefully. It’s the quiet sounds of IT organizations feeling underappreciated.

The C-Suite and many parts of the organization don’t fully understand what IT does so they pile on projects and hold off on praise. The IT team members get frustrated with their workloads and the thankless nature of the job. If you’re an IT leader, then you have seen this from both sides.

You know that most of the organization sees IT only as a support team and IT feels like they are an order taker. When other departments have unrealistic needs or timelines and IT pushes back, they are seen as resisters who are blocking productivity.

The truth is, many people in the organization don’t understand the complexities of IT and IT team members are so overwhelmed with work that they can’t take the time to explain to other departments how they are contributing to the business.

There is one person in every organization who can help IT feel more appreciated: the IT leader.

IT Is unappreciated because IT can’t clearly communicate its wins and how those wins contribute to the business. The responsibility of communicating these wins falls onto the IT leader.

Let’s take a look at what every IT leader can do to help their team feel more appreciated.

1. Claiming IT wins

Most organizations don’t pay any attention to the IT department until something is falling apart. But IT leaders can help spotlight their teams by sharing wins and updates from their department.

This can be easily done with a regular IT update, either monthly or weekly. Send this to the C-suite or to other leaders in the organization. You may stop me right there and say “Well Doug, I already do that and no one seems to care.” So I’m going to ask you how you framed these wins?

Because, unfortunately, it’s not enough to just share your team’s wins. Unlike the sales department, IT wins don’t always directly relate to revenue. The C-Suite may not understand how improving service desk response times connects to business goals.

As the IT leader, you must be willing to learn to connect each of your team’s wins to the organization’s business goals.

Most people don’t really care what you do unless it affects them. This isn’t just in business. This applies to everything in life. Think of it this way. If you live in Indiana, you may not care about a thunderstorm in Miami. But you will care if you have a flight booked to Miami and that thunderstorm is delaying your vacation.

As the leader, you need to show your organization how that thunderstorm in Miami is affecting someone in Indiana.

How does IT impact the rest of the organization’s ability to do their jobs and hit their goals? This is the question you must regularly ask yourself when you are reviewing projects and strategies.

When you view your team’s wins or accomplishments through the scope of the rest of the organization, you can better communicate them to others so that they care about those wins. This brings me to our next point.

2. Speak business language

In this digital day and age, it is required for IT projects to link to business outcomes and value. Most IT leaders use technology terms that business leaders don’t understand and really, don’t care about. IT often communicates backward. IT loves technology and features and think others do as well. But most others in the organization will only care about the benefits and outcomes of using the technology. The function of technology is not the value. The features are not the outcomes. It’s necessary to focus on the outcomes of every project.

Be willing to look at the data of projects from start to finish. Many organizations justify IT projects by citing anticipated revenue increases or advances in customer satisfaction but many are unable to track these successes after the project is completed. Work with other departments to understand how your IT work contributed to their win.

As an exercise, we recommend dividing a piece of paper into three columns. Label the columns features, benefits and outcomes. Then under each project, service or product, break down them down into each category. You’ll be able to develop value-driven messaging when you view your projects through this lens.

3. Get over the fear of self-promotion

Many leaders struggle with self-promotion but it runs rampant in IT. There is no easy way to release this fear other than to recognize that if you cannot clearly explain how your team is winning, no one else will be able to either.

As a leader, when you self-promote, you are doing so for the benefit of your team members. It’s not bragging or selfish. It’s improving your department and it can improve the entire organization.

When your organization works well. the entire organization runs better. Not only that but when you claim your wins, the organization feels more confident in their own wins and can own them as well. 

If promoting your department truly isn’t for you, there is another option. Many organizations have started hiring IT communications specialists to help market the IT department internally. If you don’t have the budget for it, you may want to enlist help from your marketing department to learn how to better market IT.

4. Be visible

A frequent mistake made by IT leaders is they feel they are too busy to participate in interdepartmental meetings.

While it is tempting to choose to do the work over promoting the work, no one will ever know what you and your team is doing if you are too busy to attend the meetings. No one will know what you’re doing if you’re too busy to attend meetings.

If you want a seat at the table, it’s important to act like you want a seat at the table. Of course, you may point out that you don’t get invited to the high-level meetings. Well, if they don’t give you a seat at the table, you can make one.

Connect with other department leads, form alliances when necessary and support other departments in their goals. These other leaders can help act as a champion for IT when you are unavailable.

If you absolutely cannot be visible and have no choice but to remain in your own department, I recommend being active on emails and quick to respond to voicemails.

5. Training your team to do the same

Finally, it’s important that every IT leader teaches their team to communicate their wins and share the business value of IT. Your team can act as IT department evangelists if you empower them to repeat these steps at their level.

When you talk about your services to your team, identify them in terms of business value and outcomes. Encourage your team to share their wins in your team meetings and ask them about the business value of their wins so that they have a better understanding of how to explain their projects.

How can good SM help IT become appreciated?

1. Defining IT services in terms of business value and outcomes. 

Define and describe the business value and results that your business colleagues get from doing their IT business with you. Remember that PCs and smartphones can be obtained anywhere so you need a case for why they need to go through the IT organization. Create a service portfolio that establishes an understanding of how the business is using technology solutions from IT and how that technology contributes to the business outcome

2. Implementing processes that facilitate, not control, getting work done.

Don’t allow your process to kill your productivity. Too many processes are designed and implemented with “control” in mind. Good process design should enable, not constrain, getting things done. Work with your team to evaluate your processes and measure if they are the most effective way to get the work done.

3. Formalize the business relationship management approach.

Business relationship management focuses on the relationship between the IT organization and the business it serves, as well as the level of satisfaction with IT. Proactively building positive, business-like relationship with key stakeholders helps change the perception of IT from “order taker” to “business differentiator”. 

As much as we don’t want to admit it, there’s politics at play in every organization. IT leaders can hide behind their computers and stay overwhelmed or they can learn to step out and own their team’s wins and communicate their teams’ value.

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Nine signs that it’s time to expand ITSM into the Enterprise

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I read a lot about how organizations have stood up a centralized service desk, a self-service portal, and called that “enterprise service management”.

While these two deliverables may be good things to do, I don’t think that these two deliverables in and of themselves represent “enterprise service management”.  Such an approach only perpetuates what many organizations have done with ITSM – just address the (relatively easy) operational aspects of service management, without doing any of the needed work to identify and underpin the end-to-end flow of value within IT.

What expanding ITSM could do for the enterprise

Having said that, I do think that expanding ITSM into the enterprise could have a significant and positive impact on the organization.

Expanding good ITSM into the organization would standardize how work gets done.  Standardized work improves both the productivity and the throughput of work through the organization.

ITSM would bring clarity and transparency into how value flows through the organization.  Good ITSM would result in the identification and definition of services and processes that underpin the organizational value streams of a business.

Good ITSM across the enterprise would bring repeatability, reliability, and measurability to all aspects of the organization.

All of the above are good things that expanding ITSM could do for the enterprise.

But how do you know its time to expand ITSM into the enterprise?

Nine signs that it may be time to expand ITSM beyond IT

Here are my top nine signs (in no particular order) that it may be time to expand ITSM beyond IT.

  1. Published IT performance reports depict business measures or results, not IT or technology metrics. Published reports reflect success measures that are outcome-based and relevant and meaningful to the business.
  2. Business colleagues outside of IT take an active, engaged role in service management activities. Business colleagues actively participate in CAB meetings; the ITSM steering committee has significant participation from business colleagues, and some (most) services have a service owner that does not work within IT.
  3. IT is a valued contributor and partner in business strategy development. The IT service portfolio is regularly reviewed by key business decision-makers and is a critical input to technology investment decisions, work prioritization, and managing demand.    IT personnel – at all levels of the organization – participate in business strategy and planning meetings.
  4. The IT-Business relationship is one of being “colleagues”, not “service provider and customer”.  With IT and business colleagues working as an integrated entity, efforts are focused on the true customer – the person or business that ultimately buys a company’s products and services.
  5. Business colleagues have a consistently good experience in their interactions with the IT organization. Performance is predictable and consistent. Communications are appropriate, relevant, and timely.  Issues are addressed and managed in a professional manner.  There are active, positive business – IT relationships.
  6. The IT organization is working as an integrated team. There are no “Dev vs. Ops vs. QA vs. Security” attitudes within IT, but rather a culture of collaboration. The IT organization has recognized that there is no “one size fits all approach” and has learned how to effectively incorporate and leverage the strengths of different methodologies to deliver business value.
  7. ITSM processes are lean, effective, and provide “just enough” control. Processes are as simple as possible, friction-free, and have little, if any, waste.  Roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, understood, and embraced.  Processes facilitate getting work done, rather than act as a barrier to getting work done.
  8. The IT organization acts and communicates in business terms. The service catalog articulates what IT does in terms of business value and outcomes. IT consistently demonstrates good business acumen. The business relationship management function is established and proactively ensures that the business realizes value from its investments in IT.
  9. IT promotes and communicates how ITSM is benefitting the organization. ITSM successes (and learnings) are regularly publicized – and the business is feeling the positive impact from ITSM implementation and use.

But even if all nine (or most) of these signs are present, it still may not make sense to expand ITSM into the enterprise.

The ultimate sign that it’s time to expand ITSM into the enterprise

What is the ultimate sign that it’s time to expand ITSM into the enterprise?

Your business colleagues ask for it.

Just because IT thinks this is a good idea isn’t sufficient justification for expanding ITSM across the enterprise.  Expanding ITSM into the enterprise must be a business initiative, not an IT initiative forced upon the business. Why?

Business colleagues may not know anything about ITSM.  They may not even be aware that the IT organization is doing service management.  But, business colleagues feel that they have consistent, good experiences in their interactions with IT.  They get real business value from services delivered from IT. They see how wider use of the concepts being used by IT can benefit the organization.  And, most importantly, they want to expand those concepts across the enterprise.

But to have success with expanding ITSM concepts into the enterprise, Enterprise Service Management (ESM) is not as simple as dropping the ‘IT’ and adding an ‘E’. The business must own ESM.   The business must dedicate and invest resources to ESM.  There must be commitment to ESM being successful.  There must be a willingness to do the required “care-and-feeding” across the organization, not just within a department or two.  The enterprise must adopt an attitude of continual improvement.

Getting ready to expand ITSM into the enterprise

While there is much that can be leveraged from a good ITSM implementation to jumpstart an ESM implementation, here are six steps that will ensure that ESM will be successful.

  • Build the compelling business caseBusiness value consists of five factors – increased revenue, decreased cost, improved productivity, competitive differentiation, and improved customer satisfaction. The business case for ESM must address at least one of these five factors; doing so will help you get the support and funding needed for ESM.
  • Form a cross-functional team – Again, ESM has to be a business initiative. This means that a cross-functional team consisting of both business colleagues and IT staff are required for ESM success.
  • Identify enterprise-level services – An IT service only depicts the “middle part” of an enterprise-level service. There are business activities that occur both before and after the IT service is consumed. What are those activities? Who is accountable for the quality and results of those activities?  Identifying and defining enterprise-level services is critical for ESM success.
  • Identify organizational value streamsHow does work get done across the enterprise? Just like an IT service often involves multiple parts of the IT organization, the same can be said for enterprise services.  Rarely (if ever) does an outcome or result delivered to the customer only involve a single department or work group within an organization. ESM must underpin an organization’s delivery of value.
  • Define good processes – IT’s expertise in defining good ITSM processes can be leveraged to help the enterprise identify and document its processes. But processes must facilitate, not control, getting work done. This may represent a mind shift change for those new to service management.
  • Take an iterative approach – As with ITSM implementation, ESM implementation must be an iterative activity. Start with a smaller enterprise value stream.  Define and apply service management concepts, learn what worked well, identify improvements, then repeat the cycle with the next enterprise value stream. There is no need to “boil the ocean” – make steady, incremental progress toward ESM goals.  Adoption and success will be much greater.

The digital consumer is demanding that businesses act as unified entities, rather than collections of parts.  This means that all parts of an organization must collaborate to deliver the value and results that the digital consumer wants.  Expanding good ITSM into the enterprise is a way to meet the demands of both the digital consumer and the digital economy.

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Four Steps for finding your misplaced Service Owner

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Has your IT organization defined services and named service owners?

Have you identified the right person as the service owner?

How do you know?

Let’s start from the beginning

What is a “service”?

According to ITIL®, a service is “a means of delivering value to a customer by facilitating the outcomes that a customer wants without the ownership of [specific] costs and risks”.[1]

A service is not a discrete unit of delivery, but an on-demand flow that is (should be) continually improved to deliver the outcomes required by the ever-changing needs of business.

A key service role is that of the service owner. The service owner “owns” the service – that is, the service owner is accountable for the quality of outcomes resulting from the consumption and use of the service.

Many organizations have identified IT people as its “service owners”.

But who decides if a service is delivering the desired outcomes? Who decides if the service quality is adequate and appropriate? The customer.

That confusing “customer thing”

Who is the customer?

That’s the thing that seems to cause all kinds of confusion within organizations – the term “customer”.

Who is the customer?

  • The ultimate buyer of solutions.
  • The ultimate judge of quality and outcomes.
  • Who the business is trying to entice and retain in the buying of the products and services.

This means that for many services, IT can’t be service owner.

If the service is an “IT service” – that is, the service is provided by IT and consumed within an organization, then yes, someone in IT is (better be!) the “service owner”. But many services that involve the use of technology result in outcomes that are delivered externally – to the true customer. This means that a lot of IT’s work is done in support of delivering value to a customer that is outside of the business.

But typically, IT is not directly involved in interactions with the customer.

Finding the (true) Service Owner

So, who is the service owner? How about the value stream owner?

In their book “Value Stream Mapping”, Martin and Osterling define a value stream as being “the sequence of activities required to design, product, and deliver a good or service to a customer, and it includes the dual flows of information and material”.[2] They also describe a “value stream champion” as “someone who’s accountable for the performance of the entire value stream. In a hierarchical organization, [this person] is a step or two closer to the work than the executive sponsor”.[3]

ValueStreamGlobal.com describes the role of a value stream owner (VSO) as “an experienced manager or executive servant leader who is accountable to senior management for improving the value to non-value ration of a product family within an enterprise”.[4] Among the responsibilities of the VSO are[5]:

  • Ensuring the Value Stream itself is correctly identified, defined, mapped, optimized, managed, and improved over time…. Including specific definition of the product/service family and related components
  • Coordinate with business functional areas that contribute to the creation of value in the flow.
  • Demonstrate to senior management that the outputs of the value stream are competitive in the marketplace and meet current customer* demand. The value stream must be able to quickly adapt to changing market conditions.
  • Maintain a holistic view of the organization and understand where in the large scheme of things their value stream fits… includes not sacrificing one area for the sake of optimizing another, but to optimize the whole.

“Value stream owner” …. sounds like a “service owner” to me.

Why IT isn’t (always) the Service Owner

If the service owner owns a service from end-to-end; that is, from point-of-origin to point-of-consumption, this means that (in most cases) the service owner cannot reside within IT. While IT may manage and perform activities as part of service delivery and support, IT cannot possibly own a service from point-of-origin to point-of-consumption. Why? Because IT does not have customers – the business does.

IT typically acts upon business needs. Rarely (if ever!) does IT lead business initiatives or interact directly with the (true) customer.

Therefore, the value stream owner must be the service owner. IT’s role may be that of service manager (responsible for particular aspects of the daily operation of a service), but in the situations where value and outcomes are realized by the true customer, IT cannot be the service owner. IT controls only a portion of any given value stream involving the true customer. If IT tries to take ownership of services for which it cannot adequately or appropriately be accountable, it is setting both itself and its business colleagues up to fail.

But on the other hand, since IT does own “IT services”, then IT cannot be passive and wait for something to happen or for someone else to provide IT with its “marching orders” regarding those services. IT must step up and take ownership – in the complete context. This means making the tough decisions like investing in security versus the risk of getting hacked. This means decommissioning infrastructure from the environment as services transition to a retired state.   As the owner for IT services, IT must drive value add, eliminate non-value-added activities, and also drive efforts that are necessary but non-value add – and live with the consequences of those decisions.

But the same applies for any service owner, not just IT service owners. A service owner must drive value added activities, eliminate non-value-added activities, and drive efforts that are necessary but non-value add. And live with those decisions.

That might be a different way of thinking for some. For some, it may be downright scary.

Because with ownership comes accountability and great responsibility.

What’s in the way?

The idea of a service owner being outside of the IT organization may be a bit scary to some. What’s in the way?

  • Attitude – Sometimes the thinking is that if it’s anything involving to technology, it is automatically an “IT issue”. Or conversely, if a colleague didn’t request a feature or ask the right question, then that’s a “business issue”. Organizations must look holistically at how value is created and delivered – there is no room for a “us and them” attitude.
  • Fear of losing control – Sometimes the IT organization feels that if it doesn’t own services, they will no longer have control. The fact is IT really never has been in control. Yes, IT is a part of nearly every value stream – but cannot own all value streams from end to end. It isn’t (should never have been) about control – it is about collaboration.
  • Lack of acumen – There’s often a ‘lack of acumen’ within the organization. IT often lacks business acumen – an understanding how the business works, what influences the business, or understanding the environment in which the business competes. Business colleagues often lack technical acumen – how technology works, how technology could be or is currently used within the organization, or are intimidated by technology.
  • Lack of clarity regarding the value stream – While many may have a deep understanding regarding their particular contributions to a value stream, often there are only a few that have an understanding of the end-to-end view of the value stream.
  • Services really weren’t defined – Rather describe services in terms of value and outcomes, “services” were defined as activities and things.

Four steps for finding misplaced Service Owners

Here’s my four-step approach for identifying and enabling the success of service owners.

  1. Identify and map value streams – Identify and document how value flows through an organization. Mapping the value streams provides a holistic view of the organization.
  2. Identify the value stream owner – While many contribute, who ultimately is accountable for the delivery and quality of the value stream?
  3. Understand the relationship between technology and the value stream – This provides the context for services and where IT “fits”.
  4. Define the service portfolio – Captures how technology underpins and enables value streams and enables fact-based decision-making.

Taking these steps will remove barriers within organizations by depicting how the members of the business work together to deliver value. It also moves the business to act as a complete business – not collections of parts – by enabling the mindset shift to “our value streams”.

In the digital era, all parts of the organization must work together seamlessly to deliver true customer value, and identifying the true  service owner is critical to value delivery.  Our Organizational Value Stream mapping workshop helps you visualize how value flows through your organization, so you can identify the true service owner, correct where there may be bottlenecks and missing handoffs,  and ensure smooth interactions with your customers in the digital age.

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Photo credit:  Pixabay

[1] “ITIL® Service Strategy”. TSO, 2011. London. P. 13

[2] Martin, Karen and Mike Osterling. “Value Steam Mapping”. McGraw Hill Education. 2014. New York.

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://valuestreamglobal.com retrieved 2/13/2018.

[5] Ibid

*There’s that word again!

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The Five Decisions your business makes every day about your IT Organization

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Your business is making decisions about IT. Everyday. From board meetings to daily interactions.

What are those decisions?

  • Invest – A great outcome for IT. The business is willing to spend more or invest new monies into IT. Perhaps the investment is to achieve competitive gain or advantage or enter into a new market space. Regardless, a decision of “invest” indicates that IT has proven itself to be a good partner and a good steward of corporate assets.
  • Use and Maintain – Also a great outcome for IT. Solutions provided by IT are working and IT has proven itself to be a reliable service provider, always ready to help.
  • Leverage and exploit – Another great result. The business envisions ways to use IT to break through business barriers through innovative uses of existing (and perhaps, new) technology. IT is seen as a strategic asset and differentiator.
  • Retire – A ‘retire’ decision could be good…or bad. ‘Retire’ is a good decision when the business recognizes that a solution provided by IT has reached the end of useful life. A ‘retire’ decision is even better when those solutions are being replaced by a new IT investment. But ‘retire’ could be a bad decision for IT, if investments in IT have not realized expected returns or continued use of an aspect of IT is deemed problematic.
  • Avoid – The worse decision for IT. A decision of ‘avoid’ says that IT is just not responsive, provides little or no value, or is just too hard to do business with.

What decision did your business make about IT today? What information did the business use to make that decision? What part did IT play in that decision? Did IT even have a seat at the decision table?

Is technology just a “business tool”?

From a business perspective, technology is a tool that can be used to drive value, increase productivity, or reduce costs. It’s gotten to the point where, just like buying a cup of coffee, a business can get technology in about any flavor it wants — anywhere. Just look at the number and variety of “-aaS” businesses that have emerged over the past few years. Moreover, many aspects of technology have become highly consumerized. This consumerization is evidenced by the ease of use and ubiquity of technology solutions such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, public Wi-Fi – even things like home networking, website construction and cloud storage. The question has become “why should the business get its technology from your IT organization?”.

Should technology be more than just a business tool? Does your IT organization want to be more than a tool? Shouldn’t IT be seen as an asset to the organization?

Making the IT organization a “strategic asset”

If something is to be considered an asset, it must have tangible value. But “value” is tricky, because it is a subjective thing. Value is a perception – the perception that what is received is worth more than the investment and costs it required to receive it. Value is not just about the dollars and cents. Who decides the value of IT? The business that IT serves–not IT. So, how can IT be proactive in influencing that decision?

Defining services, in terms of business value and outcomes, is a critical first step for proactively influencing business decisions about IT. When IT doesn’t define its services in terms of business value and outcomes, it doesn’t help itself. In fact, without such service definitions, IT hurts itself because it commoditizes and obscures what it does. Because a clear mapping of how IT services enable or support business value chains doesn’t exist, the impression of business partners is often that the technology needed by the business can simply be obtained anywhere.

Defining services is crucial for influencing business decisions. But it can’t be the only step.

What decisions do you want your business to make about IT?

What else can IT do to positively influence the everyday decisions that business is making about the IT organization?

  • Look at and manage IT as a portfolio – Many IT shops are managed from a list of projects, an annual budget, and an organization chart. As a result, there is little consideration for the strategic use of technology – it’s more about getting projects done within allocated resources. Without portfolio management, those projects often compete for the same resources and in some cases, those projects actually deliver opposing outcomes. Portfolio management takes a different approach through the application of systemic management of the investment, projects, and activities of IT organizations. It formalizes the strategy for the use of technology, and as a result, helps business realize the right returns for the right investments in IT.
  • Establish or enhance your business relationship management (BRM) capability. A BRM capability enables IT to proactively promote its value across the business. The four pillars of BRM –Demand Shaping, Exploring, Servicing, and Value Harvesting[i] – helps businesses realize value by surfacing demand, identifying value, effectively servicing to meet demand, and ensuring insights into and continual improvement of value within the IT portfolio of services, capabilities, and products.
  • You tell the story – don’t just leave it for someone else to do. Be an ambassador for your IT organization. How? By understanding your company’s mission, vision, and goals (MVG), and then identifying for yourself how IT contributes to the achievement of the MVG. But don’t stop there – identify how you and your contributions contribute to MVG. When your story becomes personal, it becomes much more compelling and powerful for those that hear it.

If IT does not tell its story – someone else will. And that story may not reflect the value that IT is delivering. By defining services in terms of business value and outcomes, managing IT as a portfolio, leveraging BRM, and each IT team member being a brand ambassador helps IT tell its story and positively influence the everyday decisions business partners make about IT.

Can your IT organization tell its story – in terms of business value?  Do you know how IT delivers business value?  It’s not about  taking calls at the Service Desk or producing reports – it is about services defined in terms of business value and outcomes.  If your services aren’t defined in this manner, Tedder Consulting can help.  Want to know more? Contact Tedder Consulting today!

 For more pragmatic advice and service management insight, click here to subscribe to my newsletter! If you found this article thought-provoking, please comment below!

[i] Business Relationship Management Institute, “The BRMP® Guide to the BRM Body of Knowledge”, Van Haren Publishing, Zaltbommel, Netherlands. 2015.

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Let it go

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I remember when I first realized it.

I was participating in an itSMF USA local interest group leadership workshop in St. Louis in 2008. It was the last day of the workshop, and the itSMF USA had arranged to have a speaker make a presentation about leadership and the topic of setting and achieving goals. There were about 50 or 60 of us in the room, seated at round tables. As I recall, at one point during the presentation, the speaker had us stand and each hold something in our hand; I chose to hold a glass of water. The speaker then asked us to find something located in the middle of the table, reach out, and hold it in that same hand.  I saw that there was a coffee cup about midway on the table. I put the glass down and reached out to get the coffee cup.

That’s when I realized it.

If I was to achieve a goal – any goal – I first had to “let go” of what I had.

Isn’t the ultimate goal of an ITSM implementation exactly the same situation? If an organization is to realize the benefits of its ITSM implementation, doesn’t it first have to “let go “of what it is doing today? To get the coffee cup, I first had to let go of the glass of water. To truly achieve business-IT alignment, both the business and IT need to “let go” of how they each are interacting with each other today. Neither the business nor the IT organization will achieve the vision and goals of an ITSM implementation by continuing to hang on to the “old ways”.

Let go of old ways

What are some of the “old ways” that must be “let go”?   Attitudes and behaviors where we are too concerned about being right, instead of doing what is right. Too worried about “saving face” versus owning and learning from setbacks and poor decisions. Recognizing that we achieve more by working together than by working in silos.

What does this mean?

From the IT perspective, it simply means this:

  • It is all about the business.
  • It is not about doing IT for IT’s sake.
  • IT exists to enable and deliver value and outcomes needed by the business.
  • IT must have regular, frequent, and ongoing discussions with the business it serves – at all levels.

From the business perspective, it simply means this:

  • The business must decide how it wants to exploit its use of IT.
  • IT must be included in (and in some cases lead) these strategy discussions.
  • IT must be properly funded and enabled if it is to achieve the vision of the business.
  • Business must have regular, frequent, and ongoing discussions with its IT organization – at all levels.

To achieve this, IT must take on the roles of integrator, partner, innovator, leader, and service broker (to read more about these roles, have a look at my blog, “IT doesn’t have Customers”).

Let’s go one step further. The secret to ITSM success is that IT recognizes the business is in “the driver’s seat”. The more that the business drives ITSM, the more successful it will be. ITSM must be a business initiative, enabled by IT.

There will be those that will not like this and will resist. Some in IT will look at this as a loss of control or power. Frankly, in the business-IT relationship, IT never had “power” or “control” – and it never should have been about this anyway. Some in the business will have to change their approach and include IT as part of their planning discussions. They won’t have IT to blame anymore when they didn’t include IT as part of their planning- it should have always been this way anyway. On both sides, it will take commitment and effort. It will feel very uncomfortable. There will be a lot of fear of the unknown. There will be mistakes made. There will be lessons learned. It will be okay. Focus on and keep working toward the goal.

And “let it go”.

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