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.

 

Are your IT Services becoming stale?

I am sure that your organisation strives to offer your customers (internal and external) a consistently reliable standard of IT service – and why not?

The accepted usage of the word (Wikipedia) is as follows:

Consistent behaviour or treatment.

“the consistency of measurement techniques”

Synonyms: evenness, steadiness, stability, constancy, regularity, uniformity, equilibrium, unity, orderliness, dependability, reliability, lack of change, lack of deviation.

We certainly want to give our customers the feeling that they are dealing with a business that is dependable, orderly, reliable but not to the extent of being boring and perhaps too predictable.

But let’s look at that Wikipedia definition again – it includes the phrases “lack of change, lack of deviation”. Is that what we really intend? Static, not improving, not moving with the times?

The emerging methodologies of DevOps and Agile demonstrate an increasing requirement for us to deliver business benefit quickly. However, we do want to be consistent in the way that we deal with our customers.  They need to feel that there will be no negative surprises in the product, quality of service that we offer so that they will have above all that very desirable outcome for any customer or client – peace of mind.

This means that all those great qualities of which we are justly proud like service, product and above all quality should be taken as givens. This is why the well-established disciplines of ITIL® service management are so valuable. But we need to ensure that these disciplines are not set in concrete. The dynamics of today’s business drivers require swift, responsive adjustments to the way we work.

Modern, effective IT organisations do need to invest in the DevOps & Agile way of working. In doing so they will quickly appreciate that neither replaces the ITIL® disciplines – more they depend on them for underlying quality and direction.

The guidance given in the recent AXELOS practitioner publication goes a long way to squaring this particular circle. For our part, at Sysop, we have taken care to make sure that our Practitioner training course helps our students to better understand the need for a flexible approach whilst maintaining, indeed improving, service quality.

Positive change is a necessity of the modern IT organisation. Make sure your consistent approach encompasses a consistent desire to improve, change and innovate.

stuart.sawle@sysop.co.uk

http://www.sysop.co.uk

I am indebted, once more, to my good friend Ivan Goldberg for the inspiration for this blog (www.ivanjgoldberg.com).

Towards a Better Service Desk

As a member of an IT service desk team you have a responsibility to your customers. You’re there to help your customers find solutions to their IT issues. Your over-riding concern is to help resolve their issues quickly and effectively so that they can fulfill the vital business function that you are there to support.

Sadly, so many IT service desks make common mistakes that detract from the service offered but, happily, they are easy to address.

In this blog I’m going to look at 5 tips to ensure that your customer is happy with the service that you’re providing. It isn’t rocket science; it isn’t something that you’ll have to practice for months to master. It’s something that you can implement today.

Let’s get started shall we…?

Listen

First and foremost let’s get one of the biggest responsibilities of the service desk out of the way – to listen.

To resolve your customer’s issue you first have to understand what they’re telling you. Don’t prick up your ears at certain points, don’t jump to conclusions, and don’t let your mind wander – as they say “be in the room”.

Listen carefully to their issue and resolve it. That’s the job.

Treat them with respect

Just because a customer is asking a question that you think has a very simple answer doesn’t make him or her stupid. Not everyone is well versed in IT and so, at times, they may need a little help. When you pick up the phone, reply to an e-mail or head out to conduct repairs – play nice, be professional, don’t patronise.

React and respond

When a customer turns to the IT Service Desk for assistance, they expect assistance. Once you have listened to their query you should strive to find a resolution. Even if you aren’t able to provide a direct resolution straight-away you should look to offer a way of working around their issue. Remember that customers need your assistance to run the business that returns the profits that justify your salary.

Keep them informed

If you’re conducting work for a customer that requires taking something ‘offline’; or you anticipate some length of time to elapse before the work will be completed; then let them know. Remember, they have to make decisions about how best to run the business despite their issue, give them time estimates as best you can.

Get feedback

Nothing helps you develop a service desk like feedback. Ask your customers what’s working and what isn’t. Ask what you could do better. The customer isn’t always right as they say, but the customer is always the customer. They are running the business, not you, so never ignore them. Get them on-side and you’ll find their criticisms helpful and constructive.

An IT service desk thrives on communication, efficiency and the ability to heed and act upon criticism. If you apply all of the above to your IT service desk then I guarantee that you’ll see a marked improvement in customer satisfaction.

Motivation – the key to success.

We have all experienced those days where we wake up feeling alive and alert. We head out to work and tackle everything at breakneck speed, not stopping for a drink of water. Once we’ve done that we move onto the next thing. Finishing work, we’re struck by the desire to continue. We get in and clean the house, put food on, head to the gym and so on.

We’re motivated.

Sadly, these days are a rarity for the majority of us. Sometimes getting out of bed is the most we do in a day.

Imagine a whole team working with that full tank of gas, powering through work like there’s no tomorrow, motivation in abundance. Think how much work you’d get through!

Creating and maintaining that motivation is the trick – the truly tough part.

Here I’m going to show you how to maintain that motivation in your team and increase their productivity.

Praise

Nothing helps motivate someone like praise. If your team have been working on a project for a long time and finally completed it, let them know how well they’ve done. Regardless of the size of the job completed you should always offer praise.

They’ll work harder next time to receive that praise again.

Reward

To keep the team happy you should always complement your praise with a reward. Again, it doesn’t have to be a huge reward. It can be anything from bringing in a cake for them or taking them up the pub. But make certain that it’s you that’s thanking them – not a faceless expenses claim.

Think about it, if your team start associating their hard work with a reward from you personally then they’ll be much more inclined to stay on point.

Keep them involved

If your company’s management team hold weekly meetings or something similar, why not invite one of your team members along with you? This will mean that they get to come and see how the company is working and give their input. Nothing helps motivate someone like feeling that they’re acknowledged at work.

The work environment

Although discipline and targets are important try and keep things as relaxed as possible. In my experience working in a relaxed environment encourages people to work. People tend to rebel against strict regimes so keep things loose. Your team will enjoy work a whole lot more.

Be happy

If you come in to work in a bad mood, that will reflect onto your team. You need to come in to work with the attitude that you want your team to come into work with. A happy team are much more likely to work hard. Keep them happy by giving them my first two points: praise and rewards.

There isn’t any really secret trick to keeping a team motivated. You simply have to consider their needs and wants. Tell them when they’ve done a god job, let them know that their opinion is counted and stay positive.

Stuart Sawle

http://www.sysop.co.uk

Demonstrating Service Desk Value

My good friend Michelle Major-Goldsmith and I have had many discussions about how to make IT service management more relevant to the business. We know there are many IT professionals out there that are working their cotton socks off delivering real value to their organisations and yet they are only too aware that their efforts and the value delivered are not fully appreciated.

This was brought home to me at the recent Service Desk Show in London. As you might expect there was a particular emphasis on the Service Desk and this was highlighted by discussions initiated by the Service Desk Institute (SDI) around demonstrating Service Desk value and the meaningful metrics that have to be gathered to achieve this.

So what aspects of Service Desk performance matter to the business?

Well, as you might guess, the business isn’t particularly concerned about how many functional or hierarchical escalation rates or call abandonment rates. They are concerned about the percentage of incidents resolved within agreed service levels and the level of overall customer satisfaction with the service.

They are concerned too with one element that we’re not that good at measuring: Cost!

How much does it cost to provide support services? How much does it cost, on average, to resolve a call? How can the costs be reduced whilst maintaining (or even improving) the levels of service offered?

Daniel Wood, Head of Research at SDI, has produced a really valuable paper “Demonstrating Service Desk Value Through More Meaningful Metrics” that is essential reading for anyone engaged in the management of IT services.

Daniel’s paper re-affirms the conclusions that Michelle and I came to. If you want to engage with the business you have to talk to senior management in the language that they understand. Tell them how they can reduce cost and increase revenue. How much user/customer time is lost waiting for calls to be resolved? That is a key measurement that directly impacts the productivity of the business. What is the cost of down-time in business critical applications – particularly those that are customer facing?

It’s time to grow-up and ask the questions that will lead us to a more mature dialogue.

Stuart Sawle

www.sysop.co.uk

What’s Next?

So, you’ve been on an ITIL® course. You returned to work bustling with enthusiasm. It was all very interesting and thought provoking but now there’s a reality check. How do you actually start putting what you’ve learnt into practice?

Well the first thing you should remember (as emphasised by your Sysop Trainer) is that you don’t ‘implement ITIL®’ – – whatever your boss says! Your task is actually to think about implementing best practice Service Management.

So, where do you start?

We will have talked you through over 20 processes and a variety of functions. How are you supposed to implement all that?

Well again, remember what you were taught. Implementing the processes is about adopting the ideas and adapting them to fit the needs, culture and requirements of your organisation. It’s not about applying the guidelines in the books word for word!

Most people take time to apply new knowledge. And often work priorities mean that trying to make improvements takes second place. If we are fortunate enough to have the time to implement new ideas, things seem not as clear as they did when we attended the training. Also, the situation in our own organisation is different from that illustrated during the training.

If you also attended our free short day Overview, you’ll know we talk all about focusing on those quick wins and maintaining momentum for the initiatives. The first to remember here is that you need to demonstrate success and gain stakeholder buy in. Think of how this can be achieved in your organisation. It’s usually by going for the easy things first.

Look at the areas that you already do pretty well but could do better. This will afford you a good starting point. Sysop offer a base-lining and benchmarking service that thoroughly examines how closely an IT organisation aligns itself with ITIL® best practice. Not just a point-in-time snapshot of the state-of-play but also an identification of where the quick-wins are to focus the initial effort.

Regardless of whether this service is used or not, a starting point does have to be identified and a baseline established – whether this be of ITIL® overall or just one specific area. This ensures that evidence is available to demonstrate service improvements at a later date.

Typically we find our customers will get those ‘quick wins’ and from the areas where they have already been successful in reaching a certain level of maturity. These tend to be; although not exclusively, things like improving the Service Desk; establishing formalised Incident Management; handling Change more effectively and adopting Service Level Management to define customer requirements; set agreements; manage expectations and measure performance.

Here are six simple steps that can kick-start your review.

Step 1 – Look at your Service Desk – Are abandoned calls an issue, do people tell you they can’t get through as promptly as they feel they should?

Step 2 – Do you just keep putting out the fire without finding out why it occurred and preventing further outbreaks?

Step 3 – Is Change being appropriately authorised?

Step 4 – Compare your customer’s values with your SLA targets and measurements.

Step 5 – Evaluate your Change Management process – does it enable or hinder?

I wish you well. If you need any help, remember Sysop offer much more than training courses. Thanks also to my good friend Michele Major-Goldsmith who’s article on the Sysop website was the inspiration for this blog. http://www.sysop.co.uk

The Value of IT Services

You may recall from basic ITIL training that the definition of a service is a means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks.

Everyone understands what we mean by value, or do we?

This week I attended a Vistage presentation given by Mike Wilkinson of Axiavalue, an organisation dedicated to helping sales professionals, in particular, add value to their propositions. Mike says “We help businesses defend and grow their revenues and margins by understanding the things their customers truly value”.

Does that sound familiar? It should. It’s a key objective of Service Strategy.

Whether we are providing services internally or externally, we IT service providers must never lose sight of the fact that our customers always have a choice. We can only be sure of their continuing commitment to us by demonstrating the value of the services we deliver. So what do we mean by value?

The first thing we need to take on board is that our definition of value is irrelevant. It’s our customer’s definition that matters. They probably won’t be able to articulate it as a simple definition – and that’s why we need to bring our professional skills to bear, to identify and understand those things that our customers really value and then shaping our service offerings to offer those things. It’s called differentiation.

Value is all about the customer’s perception – which is why it’s important to communicate the value of our services to our customers. We need to continually remind our customers that our services are worth the money they pay for them.

We need to be aware that value, and the perception of value, changes over time.

IT services in the eighties and nineties tended to focus on delivering business functionality more efficiently. There was a fairly simple equation: does the business save more from these services than it has to pay for them (return on investment)? Nowadays, it’s more about competitive advantage. Can the business deliver value to its customers that its competitors can’t? It’s the job of IT services to support the business in achieving this objective. That’s value!

All we have to do now is deliver it!

Stuart Sawle   http://www.sysop.co.uk