IT Simplification (Or Don't Overlook Process)
This month I want to talk about a topic that I have no doubt will elicit a big sigh from many of you. It's about IT process. Yawn, right? But not so fast; hear me out. Within IT, it's the technology that gets all the notice. But it's how that technology is used is where the magic comes in. And that, my friends, is all about the processes around that technology that are used to ensure success. How so, you ask? Allow me to step up on my monthly soap box and explain.
My title this month might be a bit of a misnomer, but I believe it gets your attention. Even though I mention simplification in the title, as we all know, what we do in IT is anything but. As we continue to add more and more technology, applications, IT services (including cloud), which we may or may not be on-premise, the complexity has become unprecedented compared to what is was just a few years ago. Throw in security concerns (we all have them every day) and regulatory compliance and it makes it even more complex. The way to keep this in control (to the extent that we can) is around good processes.
Notice above I mention good processes, not perfect processes. It we are looking for perfect processes, or anything perfect with IT; well good luck with that. If we sit around talking about and searching for perfect processes, then we'll never get anything done. BTW, we have seen organizations like that. Good processes are what you need to ensure that technology serves business needs (not the other way around), that roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, that everything is documented and up to date, governance (controls) is very clear, and that everyone understands this across the organization. This is not just something that is good to have, but a necessity today. And it's not something easily accomplished.
Everyone hates to think about process. Many think it bogs things down and prevents people from getting things done, and it sure can. That may be the case in some firms, it is actually just the opposite with good processes. Why? Because they don't have bad processes.
Good processes (again, not perfect processes) allow for a smoothness of operations that are just not possible without them. It doesn't matter what your processes are (they are, after all, your processes) as long as you define them and follow them, they work for you. Every single organization out there has processes in how they use IT. It might very simple (call John and he'll get it done) or very complex (involving multiple people and a 100-page SOP doc). But it must allow you to be better than without them. My point here is that every single organization has processes that they use within IT. Some have almost non-existing processes, some bad process, some good processes, but they all have them. And to reinforce my point earlier: No one has perfect processes.
That opens another discussion point. We work with many, many organizations that do not have good processes. Whose fault is that? It's the organizations fault. If they are investing in technology to make them a better firm (which is why we all do it), then processes must be part of the deal. They aren't optional and they must be effective processes that work for everyone. And here's the reality: Not everyone has to like the processes (we go to firms where we see big signs that have a big red X through the word process posted on walls), but they all have to respect and use them. It will help them do their jobs. AND do their jobs more effectively than without them. So again, it's doesn't matter if they like it, It matters that good processes makes them more effective in what they do.
Also, processes are not stagnant. The need and must evolve. What you did 3 years ago might not work today. Don't get me wrong, it might, but how do you make sure if you don't revisit and evaluate them? That's part of the process (pun intended) as well. Revisit your processes and evolve and change them as needed. And it doesn't matter what framework you use (ITIL, Cobit, your own, etc.) just use what works.
No company is too small to have good processes in place. Every company needs them no matter the size. We are a 150-person organization and we've have lots of processes. We even have a person that is dedicated full-time to helping us create, revamp, evolve, and document our process to make us more efficient. We all give him much credit (and a bit of grief, I'm sure) as it's not an easy because processes touch just about everyone and all departments within an organization. It's a job I wouldn't want. My point here is that even an organization as small as us has a full-time resource working on our processes to make us better.
So, relish in your processes as they are so important to what you do. Constantly evaluate, reevaluate, document them and make sure everyone in your firm knows them and uses them, and remember: they don't have to like them. If people don't like them and think there are better processes to use, encourage them to bring new or updated processes forward so they can be updated. People doing that is not something you should cringe over, it's a very good thing, so encourage and thank them when they do bring ideas to the table.
As you evaluate your process don't be afraid to engage one of your trusted partners to help. You engage your partners to help you figure out what you need when it comes to technology and IT services; why wouldn't you do the same with your processes? Your good partners will have a lot of experience here. An example with us: we offer what we call a Maturity Assessment (I blog on it here), where we help firms evaluate their use of technology and the processes associated with it. We dive deeply into their existing processes or help define and document new processes if they need. And we guide them along the way. So don't underestimate how outside firms can help you accomplish this and give you an outside perspective that might be very valuable.
So even though processes get a bum rap (and you know they do), they are important. Begrudgingly embrace them and love them for what they are and what they bring. Without them, it would be much worse. You won't be disappointed. And neither will your people.