Recently, I attended the kick-off
meeting of a local interest group (LIG) of the ITSMFUSA. The acronym
stands for IT Service Management Forum USA and it is a group
dedicated to fostering the delivery of IT services via ITIL. ITIL,
which I covered in an earlier post, stands for IT Information
Library, and it is a methodology developed by the British Government
for best practices in the delivery of IT services. It is popular
internationally and is just catching on in the USA. It is another
management methodology such as CobiT, ISO, Six Sigma, etc., except it
tells you what to do in the ways of best practices, not how to dothem.
In any case, I was talking to a
colleague of mine before the meeting about why companies need (and
will pay for) what are essentially common-sense guidelines for
managing. We were discussing this as I was flipping through a book on
IT alignment with business strategy when I came across a paragraph
(and I wish I could remember it to quote it) but it read something
like: Regarding database backups, they should occur on a regularly
recurring schedule, which is made known to the customer and anydeviation from said schedule should be made known right away.
No kidding! What a brilliant bit of
insight! Another concept in the same vein (but not part of ITIL) is
Root Cause Analysis. Root Cause Analysis refers to finding the
real cause of the problem and dealing with it rather than simply
continuing to deal with the symptoms. Okay, when was the lasttime you set out to just remedy the symptoms of your problems?
See my point? Most of this stuff,
especially to those who have been in the field for a long time, is
pure common sense. Yet, I am going to argue that, in fact, thesemethodologies are very important.
I concluded that the reason we pay for
common sense is because of size. When organizations are small, they
tend to communicate well. There are less people involved in all
processes; each person is usually responsible for multiple processes
and the atmosphere is usually very collegial. Thus, there is little
need for lots of communication and the communication that does occuris direct and usually unhindered by multiple layers of management.
When organizations get larger they
start to lose the ability to communicate effectively (for a variety
of reasons). Additionally, as the organization grows, the work
typically gets more complex because you have more to do, even if it
is the same stuff you've been doing for years. Its like growing
from a two-person IT shop that supports 50 users to a 50 person shop
that supports 5000 users.
So you put these things together and
suddenly, all the things that we used to do that made sense get lost
in the magnitude of the work and the breakdown in communication. As
the organization grows larger, there is a tendency to over
communicate, which increases the chances that the important messagesget lost in the deluge of e-mail, memos, forms, phone calls, etc.
Thus, we turn to methodologies to help
us return to the times when we did a better job of managing by
formalizing the structure. This helps us ensure that the basics gettaken care of as they should.
ITIL, and the other methods mentioned
above are excellent examples of how best practices and their skillful
implementation can lead to outstanding results for your organization.
I do suggest you check them out particularly ITIL as it is beingtouted as the coming wave of IT service delivery management.
You might be thinking, "Oh, so
ITIL and other frameworks are just for the big guys". And my
answer to that my Padawan (Jedi learner) is no, it is for the little
guys too. In fact, it can be just as important for the small- and
medium-size organizations as the big ones. Whoa! How can this be?
Simply because good habits and processes learned early and practiced
regularly will stay with the organization as it gets bigger, if it is
part of the culture. Even as personnel turn over, if the processes
are firmly in place, they have a tendency to stick around. So
starting out early with one of these frameworks can pay huge benefitsdown the road when your organization is MEGA-GOV.
So my suggestion is to get familiar
with one or more of these methodologies and decide which you might
want to try on for size depending on the culture of your
organization. Keep in mind though, that the implementation of any
kind of framework is a BIG DEAL and requires work, work, and then
more work. Also, it needs to start from the top. If managementdoesnt buy in, it will be doubly hard to implement and succeed.
Start slow, research, and join groups
such as ITSMFUSA
in order to have a support system around you as you begin to plan
your journey into an IT management framework. And remember, this
stuff doesnt happen over night. But by joining a group, you will
have folks to lean on and be able to pick their brains and learn from
their mistakes and besides, the cookies were really good at the
meeting Best of luck in your