In this second article of our IT Operational Excellence series, Bob Anderson discusses the first piece of his puzzle. The puzzle, comprised of eight components, displays a methodical system in which a user can improve or increase IT operational excellence. This component, The Right Management Systems, promotes support as well as strategic and continuing alignment with company goals:
That’s very much what IT Operational Excellence is about. It’s not really about just doing one thing well in isolation from other activities or major elements that contribute to operational excellence. It’s not separate from things like client productivity, quality, satisfied customers, lowering our costs and improving the delivery rate of the products that we deliver to the company and ensuring that they are in alignment with the company’s goals. There are a number of key elements, a number of key components that must work together. The first piece is The Right Management System.
Critical Success Factor: Proper Management
This management system takes place at the CIO level and includes clearly defined business strategies, plans, goals, objectives, and functions. It also includes rules and requirements. Anderson notes that everyone involved in an organization should know where they stand. In other words, everyone always knows where their handoffs are. More importantly, they are able to communicate what is being heard by company employees is what the company as a whole wants to transmit. Visibility is crucial in this and in all areas of The Right Management System.
Anderson also stresses the need for issue management at all points within each business process. An organization must remedy outside influence during specified periods of time so that no issue will seem too big to be addressed. Mechanisms should be put in place early on so that issues can be dealt with before they have a lasting effect. Again, visibility is a must.
If you are creating a structure and setting goals, it is important to have quantifiable metrics with which to gauge progress. In addition to knowing what you are trying to achieve, you should know the time frame for achievement. Furthermore, goals must be agreed upon. In other words, if anyone in your organization says that a goal is not advisable (and that person has the business rationale to back-up their claim), then it is a no-go.
In order to have metrics to reference, you must first have the data with which to create said metrics. Anderson stresses that data should be collect at the absolute earliest point of origin. In this way, data is like food: If you leave it alone for too long, it will spoil past the point of use. Organizations should also avoid making anecdotal references. It is easy to say goals were met, but if you cannot explain exactly how you met those goals, something is missing. As simple as it may sound, organizations tend to forget to do what they say and just rely on saying what they do. An organization, according to Anderson, should be able to report on all work by producing trends, graphs, and other reports. If you are able to tie work back to individuals, you are able to display a better understanding of all actions.
“If you think that knowledge is expensive, try ignorance.” Anderson champions this notion and reminds us that you cannot hold employees responsible for missteps and issues if you did not train them. If any sort of disruption occurs (and you have trained your employees) you must have an escalation plan in place to deal with the situation at hand. In this instance, escalation means knowing who to talk to about issues and who will be the most likely to help remedy things. It is also important to note that this needs to be done in a timely manner for the sake of employees and the organization as a whole.
This first piece of the IT Operational Excellence Puzzle is meant to support and reinforce company goals. It is also a strategic stepping stone for the next seven pieces of this puzzle. Once you know where everyone stands within your organization, you begin to take greater steps toward operational excellence.
The next article in our series will discuss Best Practices, the second 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.