As an organization begins to engage with a consultant regarding ITSM implementation, the conversation typically turns to the topic of “how can we be assured of success?”
What is the consultant’s standard answer to nearly any question?
I know I’ve used that answer myself – perhaps more than I care to admit.
Don’t you find hearing that answer a bit frustrating? I know that when I sat on the client side of the table, I often became frustrated hearing that answer. “Depends on… what?”
Well, now that I’m on the consultant’s side of the table, I’ve found that “it depends” is often the right answer to the question “how can we be assured of success with ITSM?”…. But it is not THE answer.
So What Does It Depend On?
Here are my (far from comprehensive) umpteen reasons – in no particular order – why ITSM success “depends.”
- Cultural climate – The impact of the organization’s cultural climate cannot be overstated. This is the most significant factor in the success or failure of an ITSM initiative. While culture can be influenced, it cannot and will not be changed quickly. Knowing whether the cultural climate is one of “command and control,” collaborative and always learning, or “anything goes” directly impacts all other aspects of the ITSM implementation.
- Maturity – Are the proper mechanisms for governing the activities of the organization in place? Governance starts with the organization’s Mission-Vision-Goals statement, which should be the basis of well-defined and communicated policies. Are there regular, frequent, and meaningful communications from senior management to the organization? Are processes non-existent or performed in an ad-hoc manner? Are services delivered by IT defined in terms of business value and outcomes, or are services a list of things that IT does? The answers to these questions are indicative of the maturity of the organization, which directly affects the ability of an organization to transform.
- Resources – Resource availability is always a concern for any initiative. Every initiative or project could use more time, money, and people, but is there enough of all three – at the same time – to accomplish what you’d like to do? Are the right people – having the right competencies and attitudes - being assigned to the initiative?
- Scope – Is the proposed scope reasonable or far too aggressive? Or perhaps even worse, is it far too passive? Can the goals of the initiative be achieved within the given timeframes for the identified targets? Does the initiative affect enough of the organization to deliver the expected impact and benefits?
- Positioning of IT – In my experience, where IT is positioned within an organization does make a difference. If IT reports to the CFO, that is an indication that IT is considered a “cost center.” It means that the organization doesn’t know how else to control what is viewed as the outrageous cost of IT, so they have IT report to the CFO. If, however, IT reports to the CEO, this is an indication that IT is viewed as a value-enabler and competitive advantage. Investments in IT are expected to increase market share, improve productivity, and differentiate the business from its competitors.
- The driving “need” – It is extremely difficult to drive an initiative or a good idea if there is no compelling reason or sense of urgency. Just because IT thinks something is a good idea doesn’t always make it so.
- Business case – Similar to identifying the driving need, a well-formed business case is critical for gaining needed executive support – outside of the IT organization. The fact is that the CIO shouldn’t be the only person supporting the investment –CIOs also needs the support of their peers at the executive level for the success of the initiative. The business case must clearly articulate the business benefit for the initiative. How will the business benefit? What will happen if the organization decides to do nothing? The proposed initiative is competing for resources within the organization, just like every other initiative within the organization.
- Competence – Having the right skill sets and knowledge in place is a crucial factor for an ITSM implementation. While competence can be built, understand that this will require an investment in training, along with some time to “try things out.”
- Capabilities – A capability represents an organization (or individual’s) ability to do something with confidence, and do it consistently with good results. What strengths are present in the organization? What does your company do really well? Are there any areas where your company struggles – and are those areas recognized as improvement opportunities? Understanding the capabilities and improvement opportunities within the organization provides a way to use an organization’s strengths to improve upon its weaknesses.
- Business acumen – How well does IT understand the value streams of the organization? Does IT know how it contributes to or can impact those value streams? Can IT interact with the business it serves in a way that makes sense to the business?
- The plan for using the consultant – What’s the plan for using consultants? It’s one thing to use consultants to actually ‘consult’ – that is, do things like analyze situations or issues, identify potential ways forward, and provide guidance and advice. It’s completely another thing to use consultants as a way to augment staff. Now I’m not saying that consultants should be above “rolling up their sleeves” and doing some of the heavy lifting. But if the expectation is that consultants consult, then do, you may not get the optimal results that you were hoping for. To make this stick, the organization must have its people involved from the beginning, working alongside the consultant.
- Getting the *right* consultant – This can be a slippery slope. Some consultants show up, check items off of a to-do list, and then leave – without ever having really understood why they were there. And while there are always learning opportunities with any engagement, some consultants show up to learn on your dime. Other consultants show up, continually seek out or invent reasons for staying… and stay. And stay. Finding the right consultant, and having the right balance between leveraging knowledge and experience with challenging the status quo and innovating, is important.
It Really Does Depend
Without a shared understanding of the above factors, neither the client nor the consultant will have success. Every organization is unique, every challenge is unique, and finding the right way forward is not as straight-forward as following a recipe from a cookbook. Purchasing and installing an ITSM tool will not address any of these issues. Designing processes without understanding business drivers and needs will just exasperate underlying issues, not improve them. Blindly investing in consulting without adequate planning will not result in the transformation needed within the organization.
Success with ITSM implementation really does “depend.” Knowing what those dependencies are and how they should be addressed are good first steps toward success. So, when you hear a consultant say “it depends,” don’t become frustrated. It really is an invitation to have the deeper conversation about what ITSM must deliver for your organization. That deeper conversation will result in clarity and improve your chances for success.
Share it forward - what other answers to “it depends” have you discovered?