Getting to a Service Orientation in IT

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    A session at Gartner’s San Francisco conference on “Excelling in IT Operations through IT Service Management” provided an alarming prediction: “Through 2010, 75% of failed IT [service management] transformation projects will attribute the failure to people, culture and leadership issues.”

    Yet IT organizations need to change. According to Gartner estimates, most companies reside at the chaotic or reactive state in their IT management process maturity levels. It is only when they reach the proactive state (CMM level 3) that businesses begin to have confidence in the IT services they use. And that is a worthy goal. Without it, service providers will continue having an easy time convincing business executives to hand over their IT headaches.

    So, if you’re an IT manager in an organization that wants to move from delivering a bunch of technology functions that nobody appreciates or understands to delivering answers to defined and valued business problems, analysts Debra Curtis and Donna Scott have some advice for you: Get some vision and rethink how you encourage your tech team members monetarily.

    You need to develop vision into how you will lead your IT organization through the transformation. Then you need to figure out how you’re going to communicate that vision with its goals and benefits to the entire team. Yes, plan on repeating yourself — again and again. (As one emcee at a session explained yesterday, you’ve communicated and communicated, and just when you think you’re done communicating, people are only just beginning to get it.)

    Here’s how Ms. Curtis and Ms. Scott characterize the “technology”-focused or “before” organization:

    • It has a technology-centric silo focus (network management, application development…).
    • It measures components and optimization within a given tower or silo.
    • It rates staff members based on component availability.
    • Managers devote themselves to a specific tower.

    Here’s what the service-oriented organization looks like:

    • There’s a customer and service-centric focus. It cuts across the technology silos and is organized around configuration, change, performance, service level management, availability and so on.
    • It measures service quality and continuous process improvement.
    • It gauges employee rewards based on end-to-end IT quality and process maturation.
    • Managers devote themselves to the process and to relationships (i.e. with service providers) and work in a matrix structure, not a linear management structure.

    But IT people tend to be proud of their technical expertise, their ability to solve problems and troubleshoot. Those skills have a role, for sure. But coding an algorithm or tuning a server is only part of the job they should be doing.

    How do you get from here to there? It’s a long and drawn out process — as change tends to be. But one area where you can start is changing the behaviors of the participants. As part of developing your vision and goals for achieving it, you need to figure out how to get across the idea that a service orientation can become a marketable professional skill for the IT professionals involved.

    Set up process design teams that include some of the technically-proud people. Daily, you will wear down their resistance and begin to gain their buy-in. They’ll communicate that out to the rest of the team. Also, make sure your incentive programs reward that service mentality — change the “carrots.” The analysts reported on one client who set up a system whereby 25% of the cost savings derived by a process change were rewarded back as a bonus to the IT person who figured it out.

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