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Bad practices while introducing good practices in IT management

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The mentioned ‘bad practices’ are not the only bad practices I met in the projects, but in my humble opinion, these are the most popular and the most severe for the IT service improvement projects. What is more, one of the bad practice led very often to another one (it’s the same like with ITIL good practices) – we can tell here about synergy but in this case about the negative synergy for an organization.

The story is based on my and my friends experience with the introduction of good practices in IT service management. I took part in such projects in many different roles: firstly as a team member, then as the project manager, now mainly as the supervisor or the program manager. The projects I took part in were considering mainly ITIL library but were not limited to – in place of ITIL you can insert the name of any other good practice, framework, methodology, … .

Bad practice no. 1 – No (real) commitment from the higher management or inability to use one

One of the most critical factors that are responsible for the success (or which when lacking can lead to defeat) of many projects and not only these connected to the introduction of good practices in IT service management is the ability to get and keep a true commitment from the higher management. At this point, it is essential to understand what shall we understand by the words: ‘commitment’ and ‘higher management’.

By the ‘higher management’ we should understand, a minimum one level of management higher than the person accountable for the processes that are being introduced (the process owner of new or changed processes), so very often we will have a situation where by ‘higher management’ we will understand: IT Director, CIO or a member of the board.

And what with the ‘commitment’? The most desired form of commitment is a so-called form of sponsor’s commitment. By the sponsor (of the project) we will understand the person who orders the project, set goals and verifies the achievement of the goals, but also the person who can be reported on risks and issues in the project. Personally I call this ‘strategic sponsorship’ – because very often the execution of the IT service improvement projects will be in opposition to short-term goals of organization or individual business units. There also will be required to redefine the way of working in the organization remarkably often including cultural change in the whole organization.

So, we know what it is – but how we should acquire the required commitment from the higher management? I suggest you to start with a diagnose – what problems is higher management concerned with. Then you should try to demonstrate how the good practices can assist in resolving the problems (the best way is to produce a business case). Also, if the organization has established a strategy (and is committed to the execution of the defined strategy) you can also present how the good practices in IT service management can be involved in the strategy execution (most probably there will be something about new services, cost reduction, improving quality, new markets, ….).

The ‘higher management’ should also be educated in the field of IT service management, ideally it would be if our sponsor took part In some kind of ‘ITIL awareness ‘ training – there’s a lot of training available on the market, even dedicated for higher management. Even if the sponsor will not have time to participate in such training, you shall prepare the training. The training should last no more than one or two hours including the discussion with the sponsor.

I would also not resign with the second option even if the sponsor took part in the dedicated training – it is necessary to understand his/her point of view.

What I recommend avoiding when talking to sponsors:

  • Using facts from the Internet, press releases (especially these from ITSM tools vendors). It is especially about facts such as ‘ITIL reduced costs of the process XXX about XX in one year after ITIL was implemented in company XXXX’ – these facts are particularly often exaggerated, methodology of calculation questionable or naive, the results also are typically specific for the given organization (for example we do not know how bad it was before); however the article can help us in finding the ideas for business case tailored for your organization.
  • Using ‘cost reduction’ as the main argument – in short-term ‘ITIL projects’ are leading mainly to higher costs, the cost reduction can be achieved in the long-term, but it is very often difficult or nearly impossible to prove the cost reduction. It is better to talk about unit costs than about overall costs. Even if we talk about costs per unit there will be a lot of disturbing variables and the calculation will be questionable.

So, how to use the commitment from the higher management, besides what generally the project sponsors would provide. If the organization has introduced ‘management by objectives’, ‘balanced scorecard’ or another more formalized way of management; the goals aligned to the IT service improvement project can be distributed to lower-level managers who are responsible for business or organizational units (sometimes even teams) which will take part in the processes being changed or introduced. My advice here is rather to give a few common goals to managers who will take part in the process rather than divide the goals into several tailored for the individual business unit. The life shows that the process is something more than just sum of activities performed by the different functions (and the overall goal is the sum of smaller, distributed goals). Problems will be mainly between organizational units and the common goal will encourage managers to cooperate rather to play the ‘blame game’.

Bad practice no. 2 – coming soon…

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