Business & IT Alignment Masterclass: Key Issues
At the 7th edition of the BITA (Business & IT) Masterclass in the Netherlands delegates gained insight into a pragmatic approach for helping realize Business and IT alignment. GamingWorks was invited to conduct, for the 7th time, an ABC workshop. The Masterclass timing was very opportune as the latest ‘Trends in Business & IT’ book from BITTI has just been published.
This book revealed that the top 5 world-wide issues for Senior IT leaders were:
· Business & IT productivity
· IT and Business alignment
· Business Agility and speed to market
· Business process management and reengineering
· IT reliability and efficiency
Four of the top issues demand that Business & IT alignment is realized. The fifth places an increasing business importance on the management of IT, confirming the ITILV2011 statement that ‘ITSM is becoming a strategic Asset’. However we seem to have difficulty in making this a reality.
At the start of the Master class series the delegates were asked what were the barriers they were facing that is preventing ‘Alignment’. These were:
· Business empathy
· Unclear benefits of Business and IT alignment
· Unclear Vision or Direction
· Conflicting objectives
· Working together
The delegates all recognized one of the top ABC of ICT cards chosen in Business and IT alignment surveys around the world.
The students wanted the Masterclass to provide them with ‘Inspiration’ and ‘Practical, pragmatic instruments to help them improve the dialogue with the business and realize alignment’. Which is exactly what the ABC cards and exercise were designed to enable.
In the ABC workshop we wanted to explore what are the underlying ABC worst practices (Attitude, Behavior and Culture) that cause us to struggle with Business and IT alignment, and what is the negative impact to the business. After all, alignment has been a top issue for more than 10 years and each year an increasing number of Business managers declare the importance of IT for Business success. Yet we still struggle. A common answer seems to be ‘Throw another framework at the problem’.
What were the current ABC Worst practices impacting the Customers?. These were the top cards chosen:
· IT thinks it doesn’t need to Understand the Business to make a Business case
· No understanding of Business impact and Priority
· Neither partner makes an effort to understand the other
· Everything has the highest priority according to the business
· Throwing ITIL(CobIT, BisL….) over the wall and HOPING people will follow them
· No management commitment
· Failure to empower people
· Too Internally focused
· Plan, Do, Stop….No real Continual improvement culture
These were the cards the delegates said their customers would choose. When I asked ‘Do you KNOW this or is this what you THINK. The answer was this is what we THINK because we have never asked them. Action 1. Go and ask! How can you possibly be implementing an ITSM framework aimed at customer service if you don’t even know what the Customer wants improving!!!!
What was the impact of all these worst practices according to the delegates? The delegates were asked what is the definition of a Service? After all they are ALL adopting ITSM frameworks to improve IT reliability and effectiveness and to align IT services to business needs. Once again, whenever we ask this question no hands were raised. Nobody knew!’.
‘A Service is a means of Delivering Value to Customers by facilitating Outcomes they want to achieve without the ownership of specific Costs and Risks’.
Everybody in IT should know and communicate using these 4 words Value, Outcomes, Costs and Risks in relation to the Customer. That is after all why we in IT get paid! This was the perceived impact.
· Damaged Business reputation
· Lost business opportunities
· Higher operating costs
· Lost revenue
· Solutions that don’t meet business needs
· Dissatisfied Customers
· Unreliable Service quality
· Threats to continuity
The next question was, ‘Is the identified ABC worst practice an acceptable business risk’? The unanimous answer was ‘No’.
What now needs to be done? The teams were then asked to present a possible solution. Linking it to the impact or to the potential value to be gained in business terms. One of the teams presented their findings: Their top chosen card was ‘IT has too little understanding of business impact and priority’ The impact was as shown above. ‘Which area of the Luftman* Business & IT alignment critical success factors was this’? - ‘Communication’. ‘Which area of an existing framework in use within your organization would help address this’? - ‘ITIL Service & Portfolio management’ was suggested. This would help develop business empathy, help the Business explain priorities and impact, create a formal mechanism to bring Business and IT together to communicate.
‘Are you currently adopting this as part of your ITIL program’? …..’No!’, which confirms that many people adopt ITIL as an objective in itself rather than using it to solve a specific ‘Business related (out-side in) problem’. As the saying goes ‘A fool with a Tool is still a fool’, all of these frameworks are simply tools.
The workshop showed the delegates they didn’t have to adopt another new framework. A pragmatic approach is to use their existing reference models and frameworks, such as the Luftman 6 aspects for effective alignment (A reference model learnt during the Masterclass series) coupled with the ‘best practices’ from a range of frameworks their organization currently has adopted, and deploy specific best practices aimed at solving a problem. A problem that has the most negative impact on Value, Outcomes, Costs or Risks, or one that is vital to enable the business to gain additional value and outcomes from their IT investments. No more ‘Implementing a Framework’. Start demonstrating alignment and improve your ‘partner’ capability towards the business.
I challenged the delegates to now go back and confront IT and business people in their organization. Agree these ABC worst practices and what needs to be done to remove them. See an example: 'Why don't we ask the Users!'
Business and IT alignments starts by YOU taking ownership to do something about it. This way I won’t have to come back in 10 years time again with exactly the same story.
*Jerry Luftman, who wrote the publication ‘Competing in the Information age’ and also jointly presented to global alignment survey findings the BITTI ‘trends in Business and IT book’ uses an approach in his survey and in his maturity model which describes 6 Key aspects for alignment. ‘Communication’, ‘Governance’, ‘Partnership’, ‘Competency & value measurement’. ‘Scope of Architecure’, ‘Skills’. This survey has been conducted globally by many of the fortune 500 companies.
Paul Wilkinson is the co-owner of GamingWorks. He is an ITIL Service manager with more than 25 years of experience at all levels within the IT branch, from Computer operations, to IT services manager to IT services development manager. Author of ITIL V2 publication. Designer of GamingWorks products. Co-Author and Cartoonist of the 'ITSM from hell book'.
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