Tag Archives: value stream map

When Your Remote Work Solution is No Longer a Solution

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CIOs led the overnight transformation from in-office to remote work environments for many organizations in 2020. All over the world, CIOs enabled their organizations to continue work and stay in business amid a global pandemic. The accomplishment was astounding and for many CIOs, it earned them a rightful place as a strategic leader in the company.

However, there’s a difference between the COVID-19 stopgaps many organizations put into place and true work-from-home solutions.

What is the difference?

The work from home solutions put in place enabled the organization to work in the way it was already working. Most of these remote work solutions didn’t introduce anything new to the organization. They really just moved the metaphorical water cooler from the office into employee homes.

However, what these solutions did do is open up a vision to what else could be possible in terms of remote work and having a flexible workforce.

It’s becoming increasingly important that organizations take their remote work solutions one step further and expand into new ways of working and supporting new business models through remote work.

The pandemic has changed work-life for good. According to a study from US-based Enterprise Technology Research, IT leaders “expect permanent remote work to double to 34.4% of their companies’ workforces in 2021, compared with 16.4% before the coronavirus outbreak.”

Not only are more employees working from home, but many businesses have also pivoted during the pandemic. Some organizations have developed new revenue streams. Others have adapted to different business models. In short, the business has changed.

IT needs to determine if the remote work solutions they put into place this past spring are actual remote work solutions – or if they are just bandaids. Why? Because this is just the beginning of change. The way we do business has been forever altered because of COVID-19. Traditional ways of working are a thing of the past. We’re going to see more hybrid office models and higher expectations from both customers and employees on what the business needs to deliver.

This is where the rubber meets the road for IT. Every organization has to adapt and they can’t do that without IT. Smart CIOs know they can’t point to this past spring and say “we’ve already innovated!” IT must be able to lead the business into a future that is completely reliant on technology-based solutions.

So where does that start? How can you ensure your organization is ready for the future?

We must start with the foundation – and that foundation includes service management. Now, before you roll your eyes and say “been there, done that”, let’s talk about why you should revisit your service management foundation right now.

The changes in your business may require a change in your foundation.

You may have had the smoothest, most cohesive workflows, value streams, and service management practices before COVID-19. But things have evolved and your service management practices need to also evolve to better support those changes.

Your foundations may have already had cracks in it.

Over time, foundations tend to shift. This is true for houses – and for service management. Perhaps pre-COVID-19, your service management practices were working well enough. Maybe there were one or two gaps in communication or service delivery but nothing significant enough to warrant restructuring or strengthening your service management practices. Well if something was only working well enough during the relatively stable period before COVID, then it’s not going to keep working well enough during the uncertainty of business during a pandemic.

Service management hasn’t been extended into the enterprise.

Enterprise service management is not a new idea. But many organizations have resisted it or many organizations thought they were implementing Enterprise Service Management when really they were just extending a few IT workflows. Silos, especially IT silos cannot be the norm anymore. With new ways of working, shifting business models, tightened budgets, and an uncertain business climate, it’s more important than ever for IT and other parts of the organization to collaborate to co-create value and drive the business forward.

Band-aid solutions will only make everything worse in the long run.

Finally, we all need to recognize that some of the solutions IT implemented in response to the pandemic were never meant to be long term solutions. I think IT departments and CIOs across the country produced some of their best work this year with the rapid transition to remote work. What was accomplished is extraordinary but it was only one piece of the puzzle. We didn’t know in the spring how much COVID would change businesses. We didn’t realize we had to create sustainable solutions for remote work, new business models, and new revenue streams. Most leaders made the best choices they had at the time. But now that we know this is a long term situation, we have to revisit the choices made and the solutions put into place to ensure if they are still the best options available. Because if they aren’t, they could slow down workflows, stress out employees, create silos, and hold back business growth.

All things considered, this is a unique opportunity for every IT organization. There’s never been a moment like this one that is so prime for strengthening service management, breaking down silos, and leveraging technology. The end of 2020 isn’t going to magically end the uncertainty in the world right now. The problems of today will continue presenting themselves until we make the necessary changes. Take advantage of this time of uncertainty to strengthen your service management foundation because that will help you in 2021 and beyond.

If you haven’t taken stock of the strength of your service management practices yet, here’s what you can do:

Align your service management goals with the organization’s strategic goals

With a new year right around the corner, IT needs to align themselves with the rest of the organization and create strategic goals that will support the entire organization. Revisit your plans for 2021 and make adjustments if necessary so you can prioritize service management initiatives that align with business goals.

Define and map your value streams

The way value flows through your organization to the end customer has probably changed. Your value streams and their supporting workflows will have changed as well. Value streams are cross-departmental so while you’re aligning strategic goals, collaborate with other parts of the organization to map your new value streams and ensure IT is supporting the entire journey — all the way to the end customer.

With clear strategic goals and redefined value streams, you’ll find yourself in a stronger position to help the business innovate and survive this chapter – and the ones to come.

 

Is your remote work solution no longer working? Book a free 30-minute consultation with me to discuss how to find longer

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How to Fix Your Broken Workflows — For Good

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Every business leader wants the same three things: to reduce risk, increase revenue, and decrease expenses. Often, there is a general assumption that technology is the only way to accomplish these goals using IT. I’ve seen it time and time again. An organization will invest in a technology, thinking it is the silver bullet for success.

Instead of first paying a huge sum of money for technology, I suggest looking at one thing if you want to be an IT organization that reduces risk and contributes to the bottom line: your workflows.
Fixing ineffective or inefficient workflows is the way to work smarter, not harder — and without an added expense. So many organizations overlook the impact of their workflows on the overall business. But with tightened budgets and a remote workforce, your workflows are more important than ever.

Workflows Deliver Value

Value is the most important thing a CIO and the IT organization need to understand if they want to reduce risk, decrease expenses, and contribute to the bottom line of the business. You cannot accomplish anything without robust, effective, and efficient workflows. And when I mention value, I mean how the business delivers value to a customer — the business value that is realized by the end user.

This is something that a tool cannot do for you. Technology, no matter how new or fancy, cannot understand business value and structure itself to deliver that value as effectively and efficiently as possible. However, if the people using the technology understand how value flows through the organization and is delivered to the customer, they can ensure that the technology is used effectively.
That’s why the power lies in your workflows. When you improve your workflows, you get more out of your tools and technology, increasing the ROI on those investments.

Why Bad Workflows Happen to Good Organizations

Unfortunately, bad workflows are extremely common. They happen within many organizations and often for a variety of reasons. Currently, bad workflows are happening because with most organizations, value streams have evolved and changed, but the workflows supporting those value streams did not.

Right now we’re seeing this because of the pandemic. Most organizations are working remotely and some are working with a smaller, leaner team due to layoffs. But, the workflows that were in place before COVID-19 were likely designed for a different situation.

While the pandemic is a huge example of how much workflows can shift, there are other smaller, more common changes that happen in organizations that can turn a good workflow into a bad one. Small changes in how a product is delivered, the way a piece of software is used, or even changes in how organizations communicate throughout the value stream can negatively impact workflows. If these small changes aren’t reflected in associated workflows, value leakage occurs.

TaUB Solutions says value leakage is the greatest threat to value realization. Value leakage can occur throughout the value stream, as solutions move from conception to customer implementation. One small change can become a big one overtime and when that happens, value leakage can cause major problems.

You have to regularly audit your workflows to ensure they deliver value and if those workflows are the most efficient and effective way to support a value stream.

Fixing Your Broken Workflows

To fix your broken workflows, you first have to start with understanding the most important thing: value. If you haven’t mapped your value streams or your value stream map is from pre-pandemic, now is the time to give it an update.

Mapping value streams must be a collaborative, cross-departmental project. Because this is a detailed, step-by-step process that breaks down every step of the value stream and the workflows that contribute to them, you’ll have the opportunity to see how your workflows are contributing value, where any gaps exist, and what can be fixed or changed.

This process of mapping value streams may not sound like the most exciting initiative for people to spend their time on. But when it’s done correctly, it will save you needless expenses and improve efficiency which can contribute to a better bottom line and a happier customer.

But the job isn’t finished! It is very important that revisiting value stream maps becomes a regular practice. There’s a balance to scheduling your reviews. You don’t need to review it every week. On the other hand, if you only review once a year, you might not be doing it frequently enough. I recommend you start reviewing your value streams monthly and if you find after a few months that no changes are being made, you can move to reviewing them quarterly. Whatever the timing is, book it on your calendar and make it recurring so you never have an excuse to not review these.

In this time of higher user expectations, tightened budgets, and distributed teams, you have to leverage every advantage you can. Instead of looking outside of your organization for the next best thing or the next best hire, examine and optimize what you’re doing now. Taking these steps will strengthen your organization for the future, ensuring that when you do invest in something new, it’ll have the impact you’re looking for.

 

If you need support cleaning up your workflows, book a  free consultation call. This is one of my specialties!

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The Opportunity of Failed IT Plans

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What went wrong in 2020?

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

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

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

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

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

Revisit Your Organization’s Existing Strategic Plan

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

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

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

Look for Opportunities in your Value Streams

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

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

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

Fix any Value Leaks

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

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

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

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

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

The Key is the Big Picture

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

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

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

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Can good ESM lead to better EX?

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What is employee experience (EX)?

A recent Forbes magazine article described EX as “the sum of all interactions that an employee has with her employer during the duration of her employment relationship. It includes any way the employee “touches” or interacts with the company and vice versa in the course of doing her job. And, importantly, it includes her feelings, emotions and perceptions of those interactions.”

What companies are learning is that EX is a really big deal and is becoming a critical factor in the success of the modern organization.

Why all the fuss?

There are a number of reasons why EX is getting so much attention across businesses today.  First, happy employees make for happy customers.  This Harvard Business Review article discussed the strong statistical link between employee well-being and customer satisfaction.  A study conducted by Glassdoor showed that a happier workforce is clearly associated with an organization’s ability to deliver better customer satisfaction.

It is easier and less expensive to recruit, retain, and grow employees when there is consistently positive EX.  When companies create outstanding experiences for their employees, people want to work for and stay with these companies.[1]

Another Forbes article discussed the correlation between good EX and profitability and value.  For example, the stock prices of companies appearing on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies rose 14% per year from 1998-2005; stock prices only rose 6% for companies not on this list.  A Globoforce-IBM study found that organizations that scored in the 25% on EX saw 3x return on assets and 2x return on sales.

Indicators of good EX

But here’s the thing.  EX cannot be directly measured.  Think about it – how can you measure how someone feels?  Sure, you can conduct surveys or interviews and get a general impression of how employees feel about their employers and work environment, but this approach has some level of subjectivity.

Secondly, many organizations are under a mistaken perception that EX is just something to check off a list.  But EX is not just about employee appreciation lunches or passing out gift cards, nor is it something that is just the responsibility of an HR organization.  Rather, it’s the entire organization that influences and promotes EX.

Good EX is largely the result of an organizational culture that values employee contribution, collaboration, well-being, purpose, and other factors within the workplace.  It truly does come down to how employees feel about their organization, their management, and their job.

Good EX might be indicated by high net promoter scores, high employee retention rates, or smaller time-to-hire measures.  As mentioned above, good EX may even show up on the bottom line in the form of increased profits or market value.  But none of these indicators are scientific measures good EX.

One thing for sure however – just as with a positive organizational culture, people know good EX when they experience it.    Can good enterprise service management help enable that positive employee experience?

What is enterprise service management?

During his recent Cherwell Software CLEAR 2020 keynote address, Sam Gilliland, CEO of Cherwell, discussed how taking an enterprise service management (ESM) approach has helped many organizations weather the service support and delivery challenges caused by the pandemic.  By having an organization’s service providers, such as IT, Facilities, HR, and others utilizing a common platform, those organizations were not only to respond to the operational challenges presented by the pandemic, but they are also able to thrive despite those challenges.

But what is ‘ESM’?  Is it just dropping the “IT” from ITSM and replacing it with an “E”?

ESM is about taking an enterprise, not departmental, approach to managing, enabling, supporting, and delivering an organization’s products and services in a way that co-creates value and delivers measurable business outcomes.

In a nutshell, I believe that good service management can enable a better EX.  Good service management brings transparency and measurability into organizational operations.  Employee can see for themselves how the organization is performing, and how their contributions result in organizational success.

ESM encourages collaboration and teamwork by enabling and supporting holistic workflows.  Each part of any organization must work well for all other parts of the organization in order to achieve success.   Conversely, organizations whose departments work in isolation from others cannot react to or respond as quickly to changes in marketspaces and business as organizations that think and work holistically.

By having these holistic workflows in place, employees can be confident that they are doing the right things right.  Holistic workflows also help employees avoid having to make multiple individual requests with individual departments within the organization just to achieve needed outcomes.

3 things to do to help service management enable better EX

Is your organization’s approach to enterprise service management enabling a better EX?  If not, here are three things you can do:

  • Automate the obvious – not just within IT, but across the organization. Those simple, but repetitive and tedious tasks currently requiring human intervention can be better served by automation.  Automation in turn enables employees to work at their own pace on their own schedule, which is a satisfier when it comes to EX.
  • Identify and map enterprise value streams. Most value streams within an organization cross departmental boundaries.  For example, take onboarding a new employee.  Not only is HR involved, but also IT and Facilities. Where are the handoffs?  What work can be done in parallel?   Mapping and understanding how work and value flows through the organization is critical for enabling positive EX. Are there any gaps or delays in how work and value flows through the organization?  How does technology and process enable those value streams – and are there opportunities to optimize those value streams?
  • Develop employee journey maps. Employee Journey Maps (EJM) are similar to customer journey maps but are focused on the employee’s journey with an organization. Where does an employee encounter friction? Can the use of technology or automating processes eliminate that friction?

While good EX is largely the result of nurturing the desired culture within an organization, ESM can augment that experience through proactive management of work streams, well defined and streamlined processes, and delivering valuable products and services. Yes, good ESM can make for better EX!

[1] https://www.socialchorus.com/blog/future-of-work/the-employee-experience-in-2019/

 

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Did You Pivot Or Are You Just Spinning in Circles?

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

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

They pivoted.

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

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

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

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

What’s the difference between pivoting and spinning?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Can CIOs Do to Stop Spinning?

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

Identify the value you deliver to the end-user

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

Communicate with all key stakeholders

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

Map everything out

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

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

Fill in the gaps

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

 

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

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Did You Leave Some Value Along the Road?

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Let’s start off with a scenario. Let’s say you are preparing for a cross-country road trip. Before you head out, you are responsible and change the oil in your car. You prepare your playlist, grab your road trip snacks, and hit the road. You drive for a day or two and you make it through a few states before that pesky “check oil” light pops on. You’re annoyed because you just changed the oil and you’ve only driven a few hundred miles. But you don’t want to risk losing your engine, so you get off the highway, find the closest gas station and change the oil and hit the road again.

Now let’s say that happens every few hundred miles for your entire trip. My guess is that after the first or second time that “Check Oil” light went on, you would ask a mechanic to look at it to examine why you’re leaking oil, even if it meant extending your trip a few hours or a day to get it fixed.

Now, what if I told you that much like a car leaking oil slows down a road trip, IT services that leak value can slow down business growth. The difference is that CIOs don’t have a handy light that goes off to let them know an IT service is low on value. They have to look for the signs themselves.

If you’re wondering why your IT services aren’t delivering the way you planned, it’s time to check if you’re leaving value along the side of the road.

Understanding The Value Of IT

Before you check to see if you’re leaking value, you have to understand how you are creating that value to begin with.
The difficulty with value is that it is a perception. There is no one single definition of it. Value needs to be defined by every stakeholder in the organization — customers, partners, suppliers and internal stakeholders. Business leaders should be working with these stakeholders to define value and ensure that value is understood across the organization.

Once you have a definition of value inside the organization, you can begin to understand how IT co-creates that value with other stakeholders.

For IT leaders, this means understanding how the outputs IT delivers connect to the larger outcomes the organization is achieving. This will require you to work with other stakeholders in the organization to understand their projects, initiatives and goals, and how IT supports them. If you are able to connect how IT helped marketing hit its revenue goals, then you’re understanding where IT co-creates value and you can optimize your work, investments and priorities to increase that co-created value. If you are able to do this for every project you work on, then you’ll be running a value-driven IT organization.

Are You Consistently Delivering Value?

Now, many organizations may already do this. They already define value and IT has already worked with other departments to ensure they co-create value through their services.

But your job isn’t done.

Business doesn’t operate on a consistent basis every single day. No matter how tight our processes, how smooth the services are; there will be evolutions in services, products, and how the organization operates.

And sometimes, those evolutions are forced upon a business due to forces outside of their control. For example, a global pandemic can hit and everyday business life is turned on its head.

Other times, it’s not a major pandemic, but a slight shift in how a product is delivered, how an organization communicates, or the way technology is used.

Whether the reason is big or small, when undetected shifts within the value stream occur, IT services begin to leak value and IT becomes less effective. In other words, you have “value leakage”.

My friends at TaUBSolutions explain it this way; value leakage occurs when “solutions move from conception to customer implementation.”

Value leakage can occur when there is not adequate training, when there is poor management of organizational change, when we don’t retire services or products when we should, when there is poor employee and customer experience.

How to Avoid Value Leakage

Value leakage will always be a threat to IT’s effectiveness. It is up to the IT leader to be vigilant about delivering value and to look for the signs. Remember, unlike in your car, there is no “Value Leakage” indicator light.

Instead, IT leaders should regularly do two things:

  1. Talk with stakeholders about service delivery.
    Are they still seeing value from your services? When was the last time you checked with your stakeholders to confirm this? (Hint: if you haven’t done this since COVID-19 hit, now is the time!)
  2.  Review customer journey maps and value stream maps.
    These two tools were designed to help stakeholders understand how value passes through the organization and is realized by the customer. They will help you identify where value should be delivered or where it can be delivered.

Don’t leave value on the side of the road. Protect yourself from value leakage and check in with your stakeholders. I created a Value Leakage Indicator Tool to help IT leaders measure where they are and are not delivering value. You can download it for free here.

Additionally, if you need help identifying value, connecting IT outputs to business value or mapping value streams, please book a free 30-minute call for us to discuss how you can drive more value in your business.

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When In Doubt, Follow the Value Stream

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

Questions like:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s a Value Stream?

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

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

How To Follow the Value Stream

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

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

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

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

Map your Value Streams

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

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

Mapping value streams will:

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

How to Follow the Value and Map the Value Stream

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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No, Value Stream Management is Not the “New ITSM”

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Every few years it seems like there’s some new trend that seems eerily similar to ITSM. There are so many buzzwords and trendy practices in IT. It’s hard to determine what practices are worth evaluating and implementing.

This year, the newest contender in the digital space is Value Stream Management. Is Value Stream Management the new ITSM? Is it just another trend that will fade into obscurity in a few years or is it worth investigating?

What is Value Stream Management?

According to the lean.org website, lean thinking “changes the focus of management from optimizing separate technologies, assets and vertical departments to optimizing the flow of products and services through entire value streams that flow horizontally across technologies, assets and departments to customers”.

Value Stream Management helps organizations optimize and manage its value streams by applying lean thinking in a consistent way across the organization.

Value stream management identifies and examines value streams as opposed to specific “features and functions.” A value stream consists of the steps an organization takes to continuously deliver value to customers. Many IT organizations need to start identifying and understanding their value streams instead of their features and functions so they can demonstrate how they drive business value. Value stream management will help them to do that.

With value stream management, we can see where value is created and where it is lost so it allows an organization to optimize the delivery of products and services by reducing waste and improving efficiency. It’s truly a holistic end-to-end approach that many organizations need.

Since it is an end-to-end approach, value stream management also links technology efforts with the business outcomes to support better collaboration. For value stream management to be effective, an organization must understand how its products and services are related to business goals. For IT, value stream management identifies where it must collaborate with the rest of the organization on these products and services.

How does Value Stream Management relate to ITSM?

Value stream management is the superstructure and IT service management (ITSM) fits within that superstructure. Value stream management monitors and manages entire value streams. ITSM is one component of those value streams.

Value stream management can make your ITSM practice much better. Because it monitors entire value streams, value stream management will identify the opportunities and weaknesses in your ITSM approach.

But ITSM doesn’t just need value stream management to be effective. Value stream management needs IT service management, as well. While value stream management shows how workflows through organization including where there are delays and opportunities for improvement, it doesn’t provide specific details regarding how technology outputs contribute to valuable outcomes. That’s the role of ITSM.

Once value stream management has identified opportunities for improvement for each value stream, ITSM can then create the proper processes and services to improve those value streams, which in the end will deliver more value to the customer.

In short, value stream management illustrates the bigger picture that shows how ITSM contributes to the business, where ITSM can be improved, and why those improvements matter.

How Can You Incorporate Value Stream Management and ITSM into Your Organization?

Many ITSM implementations have gotten too far down in the weeds with how IT manages its products and services. Value stream management can help resolve that issue.

Value stream management will help leaders and the C-suite see the full picture of how and where technology is driving business value. They’ll be able to better understand why investments in ITSM should be made because value stream management shows where ITSM plays a vital role in delivering value to the customer.

To start incorporating value stream management in your organization, start by identifying the value streams within your organization and create a simple value stream map for each. A value stream map will help “connect the dots” how the different areas of the organization work together to deliver value.

Also, become an expert on the business of the business. This includes learning the language of the business; what the business does to deliver value to the customer; and understanding how the parts of the business interact to deliver that value to the customer. This will also help you gain the support and credibility you’ll need from your business colleagues.

Value stream management is not the new ITSM – but it will improve your ITSM and bring more value to your organization as a whole.

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IT Reset: How to Re-Prioritize IT Initiatives During COVID-19

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CIOs have had their work cut out for them over the last few months. The sudden shift to remote work has put pressure on IT to create solutions for remote workers using technology that perhaps was older or less capable, support overworked and stressed out IT technicians, and, in general, keep the business moving through the use of technology.

The priority at this time must be ensuring that technology supports essential business processes. But that doesn’t mean IT leaders should freeze any other initiatives until after COVID-19 has passed.

In fact, the worst thing any leader can do right now is “freeze” and wait until life “returns to normal.” There will be no return to the normal as businesses knew it before the pandemic. Even after the immediate threat has passed and businesses can resume working in offices, the way we work will be forever changed because of this situation.

There will be an expectation for the business to provide flexible work environments, more self-service options, tighter security, and better contingency plans for addressing future disruptions like this one.

All of these shifts provide IT with a rare opportunity to hit pause, take a step back, and reassess priorities. Adobe’s CIO Cynthia Stoddard advises, “CIOs now have to rethink priorities, or at least reorder them, and we must reinvent ourselves now as virtual leaders.”

Here are a few ways you can reset your priorities and identify what initiatives you should take on right now.

Cybersecurity

One of the first priorities should be your level of protection against cyber threats. Security is imperative for continuing essential business operations but this unique situation has increased the risk of cyber threats. “Zoom bombing” became a trend over the last few weeks as uninvited guests crashed virtual meetings and get-togethers, often disrupting the session with violent rhetoric. While Zoom quickly adapted to protect its users, this may be just the beginning of more frequent cyber-attacks and threats. As more of the world moves online, hackers will most likely increase the intensity and sophistication of their attacks. CIOs should review their cybersecurity protocols and ensure the proper procedures are being followed.

Productive Remote Work Environments

In addition to cybersecurity, CIOs need to make sure that every person in the organization is equipped to do their job remotely. This might mean you need to more heavily invest or leverage self-service technology or AI. Large investments or initiatives around new technology may have been on the back burner but now is an ideal time to reassess whether you need to make those investments now.

It’s also not just about providing technology. You may need to equip your team to handle and manage it. Are your knowledge bases relevant and up to date? Knowledge bases may not be seen as high priority, but techs will no longer be able to just walk down to an office to troubleshoot a problem. More of the organization could be turning to knowledge bases to navigate technology while they work from home.

Service Delivery

Another area to review is your service delivery processes. There are many facets of connectivity that are out of your team’s hands right now, including different hardware and software being used by team members with different levels of connectivity. Like I mentioned earlier, a service technician can’t simply walk down to an office to troubleshoot an issue. If there were any gaps in your service delivery processes before COVID-19, they are likely more apparent and problematic now. Take this time now to address those important issues.

Refocusing priorities will allow you to emerge from this situation more efficient and capable than you were. This will enable you to refocus on those more urgent tasks.

I mentioned in a previous blog post that CIOs and IT leaders need to focus on enabling outcomes instead of simply delivering outputs. Even though the way we work is rapidly shifting, this is a perfect time to reassess how IT can drive outcomes. We’ll never go back to work as before. So, instead of looking at this situation as a blow to current initiatives, look at it as the perfect time to re-prioritize and prepare for the new future.

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