Business & IT Alignment – BRM & the Dominos Effect

  Aligning IT with the Business seminar

On 19th October 2017 Sysop hosted an “Aligning IT with the Business” seminar.  The event was attended by 14 people representing 8 organisations across a mixture of the public and private sector.

Business and IT Alignment has been the number one priority for CIOs for 4 years running.  It is clear going off the initial input from the delegates on the seminar that progress is being made but there is some way to go here.  The group were asked how they would describe the alignment of IT Services with Business Strategy in their organisation.

Here is a summary of the responses:

  • Inconsistent overall, some departments work well with ICT but this results in “siloed” alignment & unevenness across the board.
  • This is an ongoing initiative across the last 2-3 years.
  • Appointed Account Managers and Business Development teams to support this.
  • Some areas are more mature than others – key business units are aligned with IT. Formal stakeholder engagement policy launched this year.
  • We are moving towards a converged strategy.
  • Challenging – the business has a number of meetings to cover the subject but we do not share sufficient information (in both directions) for this to be properly aligned.
  • As a managed service provider, the BRM is more relevant.
  • We are introducing business capability modelling.
  • It can be problematic due to being a local authority with changing priorities.
  • Needs improving from both sides. IT needs to make better use of the opportunities to discuss and share strategies with the wider business.

This feedback comes as no surprise given the delegates interest in the main topic of the day.

Further probing into how effective the IT Organisation is at meeting the needs of the business identified some interesting points:

How would you describe your IT Organisations effectiveness at meeting the needs of your business? (Tick all that apply)                                                                                                                                   
There is IT representation on the “top table” of the Business. 57%
We have initiatives in place to improve the relationship between the Business and IT. 50%
Our IT Strategy is aligned with that of the Business. 43%
It is a challenge to get Business buy-in to IT improvement initiatives to better meet their needs. 43%
As an IT Organisation we do what we believe the Business expects 36%
Digital Transformation is formerly cited as helping shape the future of the Business. 36%
Our organisation see IT as a strategic business partner – an enabler for business. 21%
We have effective communication between IT and the Business with the ability to identify customer needs and/or demonstrate value of IT services. 21%
We have clearly defined BRM roles to maintain an interface between the Business and IT. 21%
We can quantify the value provided by the IT Organisation to the Business. 0%

Only half of the candidates believed that their organisation was taking steps to improve the relationship between Business and IT and less than that considered that the IT Strategy was aligned to that of the Business.  If there isn’t alignment between the strategies and no real initiative to improve the relationship then where is the appetite for innovation and digital transformation?

Further responses also indicate a disconnect with regards to the potential IT has in driving the businesses forward – lack of buy-in for improvement initiatives, IT not seen as a strategic business partner and an inability to identify customer needs.

The Business Relationship Manager role is growing in importance to address many of these issues but yet only 21% of the respondent’s organisations have clearly defined BRM roles.

Perhaps much of this mis-alignment is understandable when you realise that none of the delegates felt that the value provided by IT can be quantified or demonstrated.  If IT isn’t able to clearly articulate the value it provides and the potential value it can bring then the business will never see them as a strategic partner.

Challenges

The group were then asked what challenges are facing IT in Aligning to the needs of the business.  A summary of their responses was as follows:

  • Funding
  • Regulation
  • Innovation
  • Keeping pace with change:
    • Business
    • Technology
    • Customer Behaviour
  • Process Alignment
  • Standardisation
  • Being Agile in a Controlled way
  • Prioritisation
  • Competing Forces
  • Business As Usual versus New projects
  • IT should “Just do it”
  • New ideas
  • Lack of understanding of business problems
  • Throttling the demand pipeline.
  • Risk Management
  • BRM versus Stakeholder Management

Grab@Pizza

The group were then introduced to the Business Simulation – “Grab@Pizza” provided and delivered by Paul Wilkinson from GamingWorks.  Paul introduced the session by stating “70% of the IT departments are unable to demonstrate value to their business.” – this is in perfect alignment with the delegates responses of the day with regards to quantifying value to the business.

The group were randomly allocated roles in supporting a successful pizza franchise “Grab@Pizza”.  Sales figures for the previous 6 months had been below expectations and the group were tasked with implementing a recovery plan.  This plan was dependant on understanding business demands, translating them to IT strategy and organisation of IT Support, IT Operations and Change Management.

An initial round of planning and then implementation of the strategy began with the group uncoached on how best to align the IT services to the Business demands.  Without this guidance then a lot went wrong (feedback captured from the delegates):

  • Manic – pulled from all angles
  • Lack of role clarity and authority
  • Business
    • Worried
    • No Interface
    • No Governance
  • IT – no understanding of business impact and priority
  • IT & Business – Alignment needed
  • IT role clarity needed. What is difference between BRM and Service Manager

Paul led a facilitated session to improve business and IT alignment and resolve these issues as they prepared for the next round.

Improvement focus was given to Value Leakage & the role of Business Relationship Management.

Specifically, this broke down to a number of areas:

  • VOCR
    • By refreshing the ITIL definition of a service, the key characteristics of Value, Outcome, Costs & Risks could be considered at the centre of all activity.
  • Push back
    • It is generally accepted that the business does place unreasonable demand on IT at times but by speaking in the terms of VOCR will empower IT to have sensible conversations with the business when prioritising workload.
    • This dialogue will help the business also understand the need for effective strategic prioritization and decision making when there is strong demand and resource constraints (IT Governance).
  • BRM
    • The BRM can help translate business needs into VOCR and together with Service Manager translate this into ITSM capabilities, at the same time the BRM can translate IT and ITSM concerns and needs for the business.
    • Effective BRMs can help provide input to help Resource Planning and identify skills needs.
  • ITSM
    • IT processes were operating in SILO’s and were not aligned or integrated which is what many delegates recognized. The team explored the interfaces needed between ITSM processes.
    • We explore the needs of Incident management. What information do you NEED for effective resource planning, to identify skills needs and to prioritize work?
      • Trends on calls (growth per type)
      • Projected calls (based upon new business features and usage)
      • Business planning (what new business features are in the pipeline, have users been effectively trained)
      • Priority & impact of outages (per business unit & critical time periods)
      • Changes carried out and level of testing
      • Changes NOT carried out. E.g capacity issues, problems (these will maintain or increase these types of incidents).
      • Infrastructure upgrades

It was clear that processes can only be effective and deliver real Value when ‘upstream’ and ‘downstream’ information needs are aligned. Many of the business related information needs can be provided by BRM.

By applying this thinking into the planning phase for the next round then the group were much more successful with meeting the needs of the business and delivering a better overall performance. Financial growth targets were achieved, share price increased, there were no damaging articles in the papers affecting image and losing customers and new franchises. The team was thinking in terms of ‘business impact’ rather than servers, systems, upgrades and incidents.

The takeaways captured by the individuals at the end of the round demonstrate how the learning performance and indeed addressed many of the challenges identified at the start of the day.

Take-Aways

  • It is important to know the strategy and the portfolio of business changes (SPM)
  • There needs to be effective priority & decision-making mechanisms at all levels
    • Strategic (Portfolio of business features, risk and compliance)
    • Tactical (Prioritisation of builds, releases, changes)
    • Operational (prioritization of incidents and problems)
  • We need to ask upstream and downstream to other processes and teams ‘what do you NEED from me to get your job done….This is what I NEED from you’.
  • Authority (It must be clear where decision making authority lies)
  • Business impact (All in IT must understand the impact of their work in terms of value creation and Value leakage. This helps answer the ‘Why’? question.
  • There doesn’t need to be a CAB meeting, there needs to be the right people engaged and involved to determine impact and to agree and authorize changes,
  • When the business has a high demand for new IT (across all business functions) we need to scale up the BRM capability.
  • Open honest communication between business & IT
    • Share Plans
    • Ask Why?
    • Give honest feedback
  • Role clarity with clear lines of communication (in Both Business & IT).
  • Asking questions, seek clarity, confirm understanding. Avoid assumptions!
  • Translate Capacity growth/issues into Business Terms
  • ‘value’, ‘Outcomes’, ‘Costs’, ‘Risks’. All must understand and use these terms to help balance decision making and allocating resources.
  • Use Business Language not IT terminology when discussing with the business
  • Reserve time (even in regular meetings) to reflect and agree improvements.
  • Break down silos – ensure end to end service

 

Thinking from the “Outside-In”

Ian MacDonald was able to bring his great experience to the seminar and explore Service Strategy from different perspectives Inside-Out and Outside-In.  In summary, it is common for IT Organisations to be inwardly looking out to the business with a focus on the internal view of services. Measurements and metrics are technology focussed – e.g. percentage availability of servers.  By developing an Outside-In perspective with a focus on customer needs helps to ensure services better meet the needs of the business with key metrics being more relevant to the business.

The Foundation for Convergence

Next, Simon Kent from Sollertis explored IT & Business Alignment “convergence”, Digital Transformation, and the BRM Institute qualifications.  Business Relationship Management plays a key part in delivering digital transformation and as a profession is increasing in demand.  Professional certification through the BRM Professional qualification provides an individual with a baseline of knowledge of the responsibilities required to be an effective interface between the Business and IT.

 

Seminar Feedback

The seminar was a great success, best demonstrated by some of the comments from the delegates:

 “Grab@Pizza was a good interactive session that showed rather than told.”

 “A day well spent!”

“A useful and thought-provoking seminar providing a useful vision of the needs and requirements to overcome common business operation.”

“So many courses omit the practical application of theories and/or best practice.  This course was the opposite and Grab@Pizza was a fantastic experience.”

“Thought provoking!”

Summary

The day’s outputs really demonstrated the importance of value in building a trust relationship between IT and the Business.  This is unlikely to be achieved overnight but will be eventually achieved with incremental steps in the right direction could lead to a “Domino” effect (no apologies for the Pizza pun)!

Value

Developing a greater understanding of value from the business perspective is key to working towards meeting their needs.  If this value cannot be demonstrated by IT then it is no wonder that IT is not seen as a Strategic Business Partner.  Digital Transformation alludes to technology being the driving force behind business growth but this potential can only be realised once true value is understood.

Unexpected business requirements come along that impact IT and change the order of priorities.  The bad news is that this problem is unlikely to change, changing requirements come from the business and IT does need to adapt.  However, by having a true grasp of value then a trust relationship can develop that would enable the business and IT to have a sensible discussion about resource planning.  Talking in a language the business understands would encourage them to decide what can be dropped and/or what timescales can be relaxed elsewhere to cope with changing business needs.

Pizza

The Grab@Pizza simulation used on the day clearly demonstrates the key components needed to bridge the Business and IT gap.  With this alignment being such a priority for today’s CIO then the simulation is a great way for IT to open up dialogue with the business and demonstrate the appetite to understand value.  IT Services can then be structured in an optimised way to best meet these needs leading to better support from the business and an improved overall relationship.

Business Relationship Management

The role of BRM is key to helping with Business & IT Alignment and is unfortunately one of the most over-looked processes in the ITIL framework.  The BRM Institute have formed to address this situation.  Their Mission is as follows:

“To inspire, promote, and develop excellence in Business Relationship Management across the globe, leading to outstanding business value for organizations and professional fulfilment of every individual member of the BRM community.”

The Business Relationship Management Professional (BRMP®) qualification provides a comprehensive foundation for Business Relationship Managers at each level of experience.  As a Registered Education Partner of the BRM Institute Sysop offer this training from our public locations or as an onsite course.

Sysop are grateful for all the participants for their contribution throughout the day. A special thanks to Paul Wilkinson from GamingWorks for delivering the Grab@Pizza simulation and Ian MacDonald (SYSOP) and Simon Kent (Sollertis) for their contributions on a very valuable day.

 

ITIL® is a registered trademark of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved.

BRMP® is a Registered Trade Mark of Business Relationship Management Institute, Inc.

 

Flawed IT Disaster Recovery Plans

Many IT Disaster Recovery plans are fundamentally flawed.

Many I.T. managers tell us that their board / senior management expects IT services to be restored within 48 hours or so of a disaster, Sysop research indicates that it may actually take six months before all services are returned to normal.

Incorrect assumptions
The mismatch between expectation and practical delivery is caused by a number of incorrect assumptions, including:

  • that non-critical systems can be recovered in similar timescales to the “mission critical” systems for which formal ITSCM plans have been developed.
  • that all applications can be recovered to readily available “commodity hardware”.
  • that suitably-qualified IT personnel will be available to support the recovery in the numbers required.

But crucially, the most significant factor is the high support effort required to sustain the newly-recovered applications. This support commitment will drastically reduce the resource available to recover the remainder of applications. Most IT departments have around 20% of their applications defined as “mission critical” in a total population in excess of 50.

Some 80% of applications will take more than two weeks to recover; 50% will take more than a month; 25% will take more than three months.

IT Services Need to be Available in a Crisis

Experience of major contingencies (i.e. those that affect more than just IT infrastructure) reveals that emergency co-ordination teams need effective IT immediately. As the precise nature and impact of the contingency cannot be predicted, IT specialist resource is needed to provide emergency co-ordination teams with their requirements in an efficient and flexible manner. This activity will always take priority over the recovery of routine IT. As organisations become increasingly IT dependent it becomes even more necessary for routine IT (and the data / information upon which management depend) to be available to manage the crisis.

I.T. departments do not have the luxury of staff employed to do little, indeed most I.T. staff already have a very full support workload. As the recovery process succeeds the recovered applications will begin to demand at least the amount of support resource they required before the disaster. It is more than likely they will require significantly extra resource to cope with the difficult circumstances of a recovered operation.

As the I.T. department responds to the support load of the recovered systems, less resource will be available to perform recovery activities. The recovery process will slow and may actually grind to a halt.

Taking this factor into account I estimate that some 80% of applications will take more than two weeks to recover; 50% will take more than a month; 25% will take more than three months. Indeed it could be almost 6 months before the final applications are recovered.

My contention is that no organisation can wait this length of time for even non-critical systems to be recovered

The ITIL® framework provides sound guidance on IT Service Continuity Management but isn’t able adequately to deal with some of the practical considerations – particularly as these related to organisations with limited resources and budget.

That is why Sysop consultants have developed a practical workshop to help clients explore better ways of protecting the organisations for whom they work. More information: http://www.sysop.co.uk/training-courses/61/practical-workshops

Stuart Sawle
www.sysop.co.uk

Green IT – Not just “nice to do”.

News this week from the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) – “the impacts of global warming are likely to be “severe, pervasive and irreversible”. After a winter in the UK that has seen major storms and rainfall we can expect more incidents of severe weather as we go forward.

Worldwide, the carbon footprint of IT is actually larger than that of the airline industry – and it’s growing. As more and more of the developing world adopt information technology, the carbon emissions generated will increase with it.

There was political news too. Centrica warned that government policy would likely lead to energy shortages in the UK and electrical black-outs. Strangely, this isn’t new. In 2012 the government forecasted a 20% shortfall in electricity forecast for the years 2015-2017. This, they said, was due to a number of factors that would create “a perfect storm”.

  • Dirty, coal powered power stations that fail to meet agreed emission targets must close by 2015.
  • Existing Magnox nuclear power stations are reaching the end of their life.
  • Wind, renewables and AGR nuclear plants will not cover the shortfall.
  • Reduced demand due to the recession has delayed the build of new capacity. Even if the building programme is restarted, it is unlikely that any new plants will be online before 2017.

Whatever way you look at it, we must all do whatever we can to reduce our energy usage.

Data Centres continue to grow exponentially and even though the latest servers are more energy efficient, the number deployed is ever-rising as too is the number of desk-top and mobile devices.

In these circumstances is it not incredible that few IT Managers are held accountable for the energy cost of the IT deployed to support the business. Sure, they have initiated hardware rationalisation projects but the outcomes of these projects are measured in cost savings not energy savings.

We must push ‘Green IT’ higher up the strategic agenda. The government has done much to “Green” governmental ICT. The Greening Government ICT strategy is intended to minimise the impact of the UK Government on the environment and reduce both green-house gas emissions and waste in support of the Government’s commitment to achieve a 25% reduction in green-house emissions by 2015.

It’s time IT Manager’s followed this lead and set their own targets for energy reduction and carbon emissions. Highly principled, reputable companies like Unilever do this. Let us all follow suit.

Stuart Sawle

Sysop

http://www.sysop.co.uk/green-it

Scary Thoughts on Energy

I put my Green IT hat on and went to a meeting in London this week to learn more about the Carbon Management Association. Our host was Lord Redesdale a Lib-Dem Peer and former spokesman on Energy.

Lord Redesdale opened the meeting with a startling government projection. The government estimates that UK will need around 30-35GW of new electricity generation capacity over the next two decades as many of the UK’s current coal and nuclear power stations, built in the 1960s and 1970s, reach the end of their lives and are set to close.
He went onto highlight a number of specific concerns for anyone engaged in IT Management.

The first is that there will be insufficient energy available to satisfy peak demand from 2015 onwards. The second related is that the price of energy is set to rise even more sharply than it has so far as the combined effects of the Climate Change Levy and the underlying increase in cost of energy continues. His third point is that IT infrastructure continues to expand massively and is set to consume around 10% of the UK electricity supply if it doesn’t do so already!

A study from IT services supplier Computacenter and Fujitsu Siemens Computers, for example, shows that the UK’s top 200 listed companies waste more than £61m in electricity a year by not maximising the energy efficiency of their desktop computers. With the IT industry accounting for more carbon emissions than the airline industry our appetite for energy seems almost insatiable.

In these circumstances is it not incredible that IT Managers are rarely held accountable for the energy cost of the IT deployed to support the business. Sure, many have implemented power-management software on desk-top PC’s, but this is rarely ever part of a coherent energy management strategy.

There is a real need to extend the education of IT professionals to include energy management as part of their responsibilities. The ISEB Foundation Course in Green IT is a significant first step but more, much more needs to be done, urgently.

Stuart Sawle                           www.sysop.co.uk

Formulating a Strategy, Setting Objectives

Lately, I’ve been involved with a committee that’s been developing a three year strategy. They’re not ITIL people. Many are not managers at all. Their stated objective was to develop a strategy that was “aspirational”. They argued that without aspirational objectives the strategy would not be challenging enough in today’s tough climate.

This set me thinking.

I agreed entirely with their sentiments but I was concerned they would fail because the objectives / goals they were setting were not SMART. By that I mean they needed to be:

• Specific
• Measurable
• Achievable (Attainable)
• Relevant
• Time Bound

Setting a challenging goal can sound quite specific (e.g. reduce expenditure by 75%, increase profits by 50%) but without any hint / outline of how this is to be achieved it fails the “Achievable” criterion. When the goal stretches beyond what is possible it fails the “attainable” criterion.

What we need to do is to take each of the goals we set ourselves and break them down into lower-level SMART objectives that, much more specifically, state what is to be done, by whom and by when and how this is to be achieved – the road map if you like.

A specific goal will usually answer the five “W” questions:

  • What: What do I want to accomplish?
  • Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
  • Who: Who is involved?
  • Where: Identify a location?
  • Which: Identify requirements and constraints.

The Achievability term stresses the importance of setting goals that are realistic and attainable. While an attainable goal may stretch a team in order to achieve it, the goal should not be extreme. That is, the goals are neither out of reach nor below standard performance, as these may be considered meaningless.

When you identify the goals that are the most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. Attainable goals encourage goal-setters to identify previously overlooked opportunities that will bring them closer to the achievement of their objectives.

Stuart Sawle               www.sysop.co.uk

Selling Change to the Team

Isn’t it amazing how we can use a simple phrase that would actually lead to our undoing – making it difficult, if not impossible, to actually achieve what we intend.

If your approach is to “sell” the idea of change to the team they will see right through you. The change becomes more about what you want; change is being imposed; those whose co-operation you seek will react with the smile that says “yes boss, no chance”. And that’s the best you can hope for – the more recalcitrant ones will actively work against you.
Change needs to be managed, people need to be understood and involved.

I well remember a reorganisation at Woolworth’s when a manager, I regarded as a fool, was appointed as my boss. He took the trouble to have a face to face chat with me. He allowed me to express my fears and concerns. He listened to me and sought to find ways in which we could work together. It worked. Not only did we develop a fruitful, purposeful relationship – we became firm friends and still are – some 30 years later. He even acted on some of my advice to downplay some of his traits that led people like me to dismiss him as fool!

If you think a change is needed quickly, take time out to assess whether the drivers are really that urgent. We can be so go-minded that we can overlook this simple check. Consider would a more relaxed time-frame still achieve your objectives? Would taking a little more time to consult and truly involve those affected make your decision more acceptable? Would the ideas and discussions allow you to improve the quality of the change?

As a senior manager you probably relish change and thrive on it. Be aware that the chief insecurity of most staff is change itself. Their first reaction will be to feel threatened.

Remember, like grief, there is a series of stages that people go through before they become accepting of change. From suspicion, through curiosity, to visualisation, acceptance and finally commitment, your team members need to be allowed the time, and your time, to explore, understand and respond.

Stuart Sawle              http://www.sysop.co.uk

Apollo 13, A Study in Service Management

Almost everyone knows the story of Apollo 13. Indeed it was made into a highly successful film starring Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell the mission commander. It illustrates how human ingenuity and carefully thought-out processes can be used in even the most challenging of circumstances to deliver success.

The parallels with IT service management best practice are striking.

There is a service desk (CapCom) handling all the communications between the astronauts and mission control. There are professionals dedicated to incident and problem management.

There are carefully thought out processes and a robust change management team responsible for making absolutely certain that the safety of the astronauts is never compromised by a poorly tested change. There is a carefully crafted strategy with clear mission objectives that had to be re-evaluated in the light of the catastrophic explosion.

Yet in all of this, the astronauts were returned to Earth safely.

Whenever Sysop consultants run our Apollo 13 simulation as an ITSM learning workshop, they observe the ITSM professional participants disregarding all that they have learned about ITIL® best practice. Processes, designed by the team to see them through the simulation, are forgotten and abandoned; communication breaks down; leadership seems to be lost in space.

The lesson from this, of course, is that this is exactly what happens in the workplace when best practice processes are stress tested by a major crisis. Just when reliable resilient processes are needed to support problem-solving and crisis management, best practice goes out of the window.

We often say that adopting service management best practice is as much bringing about culture change as it is about rolling-out the framework set out in the core volumes. If an organisation fails to win the hearts and minds of everyone involved in the provision of IT services, then an implementation of best practice, no matter how well intentioned, is doomed to failure.