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IT Operational Excellence: Standard Processes and Process Control

This is part of a continuing series with Bob Anderson, IT Operational Excellence, presented by Anne Grybowski. You can read the entire series here.

Imagine a cookbook for operational excellence. That is essentially what you have with Standard Processes. These are directions guiding you toward a desired outcome. Not to be confused with best practices, standard processes are broader and more basic. Once your processes are in place, controlling them is the next step to operational IT excellence. Fundamentally, cookbooks and checklists will help to hold the rest of your puzzle together:

You have to have standard processes before you can control them. Processes, if we go by the definition, is a kind of a step-by-step cookbook for doing certain types of work. It doesn’t matter if it’s in IT or if it’s in accounts payable. If you have a certain type of work that is repeatable, we don’t have people wondering off or wasting time…Talk to the people doing the work. Whenever you are developing processes and you are implementing standards, make sure that the people who are actually doing the work own it. They will make it work.

Critical Success Factors: Repeatable Steps and Deliverable Elements

The IT Operational Excellence Puzzle discussed in this series by Bob Anderson.
The IT Operational Excellence Puzzle discussed in this series by Bob Anderson.

The IT Operational Excellence Puzzle discussed in this series by Bob Anderson.

What we need to asks ourselves is “how do we all do it the same way?” When work is repeatable, there is less time wasted and improved communications. In other words, when employees know precisely what is expected of them, it is more difficult to deviate from the accepted standard.

It is important, as Bob Anderson notes, not to confuse standard processes with best practices. Best practices tend to be more academic. Also, best practices tend to be more specific to a particular part an organization versus the organization as a whole. Anderson suggests matching the best practices to what you deliver. Do not forget to apply a “liberal dose of common sense” when determining your processes.

Increased use of processes should lead to increased involvement and input. As we have seen throughout this entire series, communication is incredibly vital for any organization wishing to achieve excellence. Increased communication and increased involvement input leads to less blame being thrown around later on. As Anderson says, “if something is not working, 80% of the problem is low involvement.” Once communication and involvement are at desired levels, focus on a defined deliverable product. Then, when processes are in place, you can begin the next puzzle piece; process control.

Process control does not mean sticking to processes as if they were set in stone. Sometimes processes should change to adapt to appropriate environments. Furthermore, there must be a system of deadlines so that people can gauge how well things are working. If you miss a deadline, you know something is not quite right. Again, visibility is very important. Anderson notes that deliverable elements can be made visible through automated techniques, checklists, and other methods. Ask yourself; how do we know all critical steps are being done?

According to Anderson, most of the best methods of process control are automated. Automated methods allow organizations to “control the gates” by preventing forward motion without the completion of a previous step. There must be room for review and approval of all processes in an institutional manner. Write down these processes and process controls so that employees down the line can benefit.

Your deliverable elements should also include clearly visible measurements for time and resources. Include process templates so everyone knows exactly what is going on. Remember to conduct quality reviews. Anderson suggests thinking of quality reviews in the terms of a customer service call. Ask how you are doing. Your standard processes and process control, if properly employed, will ensure operational IT excellence.

The next article in our series will discuss Metrics, the fifth piece of the IT Operational Excellence Puzzle.

Robert Anderson’s Bio:

Bob Anderson has been with Computer Aid, Inc. since 1988. The majority of his 38 years of IT experience have been spent as a senior executive in large IT organizations. In addition to being published, Anderson has been the principal architect of CAI’s process management, event tracking, and resource management tool, “Tracer” and most recently created a free assessment survey to help organizations recognize where and how they can improve their operations. He has also built CAI’s Production Support & Training department. Anderson is also a decorated US Marine. He and his wife have two grown daughters and reside in Boiling Springs, PA.

About Bob Anderson

Director of Product Development & Quality Assurance for CAI, principal architect of the IT Service Management Tool: Tracer, and known author, with more than 38 years of IT experience.

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