Process, tools, technology and business systems…and people
When we are assessing the maturity of IT organizations we tend to concentrate on the processes being used, the tools that are being utilized to manage these processes and the technology and business systems that back these up. It is important that we do not forget one other, very important element of the support lifecycle – the people factor.
Many organizations go through periods of rapid and unmanaged growth, and the IT organization may struggle to keep up with this rate of change. Often technology does not grow in a planned way, it tends to grow organically, reacting to the requirements of new customers or the availability of new technology. This is a natural phenomenon, but sometimes we need to stop and ask “can we sustain this?” If the processes and systems that are needed have not been designed and put into place effectively, then the answer is probably “no”.
Take a helicopter view
There has been a lot of discussion about the true value of the standard type of maturity assessment. A good assessment will give you a baseline to measure future improvements, without that baseline it will be impossible to know if you have improved, where these improvements have come from and what effect they have had on the bottom line for the business.
We need to take the time and step back. Look at the way we do things, starting with the moment a customer calls the company to report a fault, through the investigation and resolution lifecycle. It is important not to view specific parts of this process in isolation, a helicopter view of the entire call lifecycle will highlight areas for improvement and opportunities to provide a better customer experience.
Talk to customers and talk to the IT team to discover where their individual pain points are. These may, or may not, be the same. There are very common points of pain that come up time and time again when processes are examined:
· Clarity of information
Don’t stop there!
Too often maturity assessments are completed, the results put into reports, and that is as far as the initiative goes. When this happens it can cause real damage to an organization. People who have shared their opinions will be frustrated that nothing has come of their concerns. Management will review the cost of the assessment and see it as lost money and lost opportunity.
It is critical that the information gained in this way is acted upon, and improvement measured wherever possible. The maturity assessment will give you a snapshot of your organizational capability at a set moment in time, it is up to you to change that picture.
Size does not matter
Regardless of the size of the organization, 100 employees or 100,000, the common points of pain will almost invariably be reported by some, if not all areas of the business.
There are some fairly easy fixes for much of this, adding structure to processes, particularly in the incident management, problem management and change management spaces can make a big difference. It is unlikely that any organization has NO process, they may have undocumented process, they may have inconsistent process, but there will be some process there that can be worked with and improved.
Finding the areas where improvements can be made is only a small part of the improvement planning. It is always better to start small, do not try to change everything, or everybody all at once. A good tactic is to start with a small pilot group, introduce the changes and use this group to feedback and help to design processes that will work.
Processes must never be designed in isolation; a collaborative approach is always going to have a far greater chance of success. When one person sits and designs a process without input from the people who will be expected to follow and use a new way of working, there is a very high probability that uptake and adherence to this new way of working is going to be poor.
Changing people is the biggest obstacle to success
The biggest stumbling block to process improvement, no matter how well designed these changes may be, is a lack of planning of the cultural and organizational changes that need to take place. Even when a good level of collaboration has taken place and there is acceptance of the need to change, there will still be a level of resistance.
It is in human nature to resist change; we are creatures of habit. Dictating a change is seldom successful, the people who are going to be following these new processes need to feel a sense of ownership, they have to understand “what’s in it for me” and, most of all, they need to want to change.