Posted by Nick Robak on

Don’t let the process get you down

Don’t let the process get you down

What do you feel when you hear the word “process”?  So often, clients tell me things such as cumbersome, slow, overhead or necessary evil.  When probed, their explanation is often well justified by specific experiential examples in their organizations.

Service Management best practices (such as ITIL®, MOF, USMBOKTM) are filled with recommendations for using processes to ensure efficient, effective service delivery quality for a business.    However, reconciling how processes help achieve that is often a big hurdle for technologists whose experiences tell them otherwise.   Do organizations set out to develop slow, cumbersome processes that will seize an organization’s progress?  I hope not!

So, what differentiates those organizations that find utility in processes and collectively endorse them to achieve more desirable business results from those that are felt overrun with process and deem it overhead, and merely a necessary evil?   Here are a few key success factors:

Clear purpose:  Answer the questions, why use this process?  What do we specifically gain from using it? Is service delivery getting better, faster, and/or cheaper as a result?

Metrics-driven:  Focus on a handful of key measurements that demonstrate the achievement of the clear purpose.  Set goals, report them and discuss progress or adjustment on a regular basis.

Lean Process Design:  Limit overhead activities that show little value; “less is more” in process design.

Automation: Organizations BIG or small benefit from the automation of a lean process.  It will significantly improve the adoption and success of the process.

Training:  Train and re-enforce not just merely as you roll out but integrate into employees on boarding process  and yearly refreshers.

Adoption:  Champion and make part of everyday operations so it becomes part of the normal conversation.

Continuous improvement:  Build in feedback mechanisms and review checkpoints that provide an ongoing opportunity to ensure the process continues to meet its purpose through market and organizational changes.

Process leadership:  Probably the single most important factor is leadership that understands, supports and participates in the sometimes difficult decisions and conversations needed to ensure organizational commitment.

Test each of these factors to gauge your organization’s processes and modify your approach accordingly to get process value back for your operations.

Posted by Nick Robak on

Careful with your next cut, it may be to the bone

Careful with your next cut, it may be to the bone

Each year as companies go through their budget planning, there is a stir of disappointment and pressure with the IT folks as more of the operating budget is consumed by IT.  In most organizations executives are still asking…  “What is the value they bring?” “Does it really need to cost that much?” “How do we go to the Cloud?”

There are several reasons for this but primarily enterprise-level systems have become a complex mix of unrelated but “working” systems.  This complexity was built over the last few generations of tech cycles leading to a large amount of single threaded SMEs for all of the “one-off” systems, and drives a 24/7 working environment of scrambling from one reactive emergency to another… simply to keep the lights on.

So, taking on the yearly budget discussion creates high-anxiety among IT management and a dysfunctional conversation with finance and the rest of the business.  Too often the conclusion is a budget cut in the form of a “flat tax” directive that is applied across the board.  Without the proper understanding of each component of IT and its burden on the operations this exercise is futile and further hurts the organization.  The cycle continues creating higher stress, low morale, and poor systems performance thus deepening the Business/IT divide.  Stop!  Stop the cycle before these budget cuts take IT to the bone.

IT leadership needs to demonstrate the transparent business view of their systems:  1) what they cost, 2) the value they bring, and 3) how they rate among their peers.  This can be accomplished in short form through the right firm that can appropriately assess via a business / IT methodology that maps directly to similar firms and their correlating IT costs.

However, this is particularly important for the run-the-business functions in IT Infrastructure.  IT Infrastructure has a set of distinctly different functions that are most often put into the same bucket. IT Infrastructure = Server, Storage, Network, Security, Telephony, Support, Disaster Recovery with 5 of the 10 IT dollars represented here. Therefore, knowing the cost of each function is critically important to making the right business decision to optimize IT and comply with the financial constraints.  For example, knowing that one wayward function is causing the entire IT ship to sink is important to addressing the issue.  A budget cut across all functions at the same level is not well-informed and is dangerous for the company as a whole.