Go and ask the Users: the effect of the ABC Workshop By Paul Wilkinson It staggers me as I look at the development of our industry. The hype and trends. The way there is now a focus on business and IT integration, not alignment. ITIL V2 was all about alignment, ITIL V3 is all about integration. Am I the only one to say; “wait a minute! we are nowhere near to alignment yet, so what is this fallacy about us being ready to take the leap into integration?” I agree it is the next necessary step in our evolution. This column explains what I mean, it is a small case that is by no means the exception. Indeed a recent Forrester report revealed that still 80% of IT organizations have an issue with business and IT alignment. So: Why don’t we ask the users? It would appear a perfectly logical and eminently sensible thing to do if you are adopting dopting and ‘implementing’ best practices aimed at improving the quality of services to customers and users. But what has logic and sense got to do with IT service management? And what have the customers and users got to do with IT service management? Why don’t we ask the users? This is exactly what one IT organization did. Much to the surprise of both the IT managers and the users involved in an ABC of ICT™ workshop. This was the case: an internal IT organization in the health services was about to embark upon a program of organizational change. This was in response to a strategic mandate to professionalize the IT organization. The IT team had organized a one day workshop to create a mind set and start to scope the improvement focus. The workshop would create create a shared view on what needed improving. They asked us if we would run an ABC workshop with the IT team and perform the User focused exercise. We suggested they invite the users. There was a moment of stillness. The new IT manager, still finding his way in the organization and its culture, shrugged his shoulders and said: “Why not?”. The other IT managers looked wary; suspicious even I thought, as I saw their rolling eye-ball eye ball movements and heard their barely disguised sighs of incredulity. However, they said aid nothing to the contrary, and so the users got invited to attend an hour of the workshop. At the start of the workshop I explained the history of the ABC of ICT™ and explained its origin in the worst practice book IT Service management from HELL. I showed them the top 10 ABC worst practices taken from the global workshop surveys. IT has too little understanding of business impact and priority, IT is too internally focused being two of the top 3. “Now is the chance,” I said, “to find out what the business wants and needs, because the users will be coming to tell you their concerns”.
“You should have written the book Users from Hell!” !” one of the IT managers remarked. This raised the most amount of laughter so far, coupled with confirmative shakes of the head and sniggering. The door opened and two users sheepishly peered into the room. They shuffled in all defensive and apologetic. “Are we allowed to join this IT meeting?”, “Do we have to sit in the front?!”. There was a look of disbelief and panic in their eyes. “Don’t worry,” said the IT manager. “We just want your opinion about us and what needs improving.” “……Really?!” asked one of the users. The exercise was simple, I said. A recent Forrester report declared 15% of IT managers says they are aligned with the business. Whilst 80% of business managers stated the importance of IT in delivering value in terms of lowering costs, improving productivity, acquiring and retaining customers. rs. “We just want to find out how aligned you are.” I explained a service to the users according to ITIL V3. “The IT organization delivers services to you. A service is a way of delivering value to you by facilitating outcomes you want to achieve without the he ownership of specific costs and risks. The IT organization wants to know what they need to improve to deliver value and what needs changing to prevent unnecessary costs and risks”. We did the User focused exercise. The IT organization was given a set of 57 worst practice cards and I asked: “Imagine if I give this set of cards to your users and asked them, which three typically represent your IT organization; which three would they choose. Each IT person can choose three cards”. I then simply gave a set of cards to the users and said: “which three would you choose”. Both teams set enthusiastically about the task. There was sniggering and pointing and the users whispering “Shhh, don’t let them know we chose this one, let’s see what they think!”. I then told d each team to gather all the cards chosen by each team member and then to perform a team exercise. “Which are the top three cards out of all the cards chosen individually. Choose the top three based upon the negative impact on business value and the cards causing the most costs and risks to the business.” The IT team was scratching their heads trying to think about the real business impact. The business team quickly identified some concrete issues and examples of real impact. Many IT experts, ITIL V3 included, uded, stresses the need for business and IT integration, we shouldn’t talk about alignment, they say. In my opinion we should definitely first talk about alignment to see if in your organization integration is a reality or something at the end of the rainbow ow hidden beneath the pot of gold. Both teams then presented their findings to each other. These were the results: The IT team thought the business would choose the following top three cards. For the top card, the one with the most negative impact, they were were asked to describe the business impact.
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Consequences: Acceptable risk? In terms of negative impact on business value or costs and risks. Poor IT investment decisions NO Lost business opportunities Lost revenue Damaged business reputation Decreased staff productivity Higher business operating costs Failure to comply with regulations Other
IT not seen as an added value partner by the business No respect for or understanding of Customers and Users We then asked the business, which top three cards did you actually choose, and for the top card describe the negative impact and consequences. Chosen cards
9 to 5 culture
Consequences: In terms of negative impact on business value or costs and risks. Dissatisfied internal AND external customers Financial consequences Many complaints Lost productivity External customers complain Image problem Long delays
Acceptable risk? NO
No respect for or understanding of Customers and Users Quality manager card: waiting for the IT organization to improve! It was an eye opener to the IT team that they chose different cards and did not really know what was irritating the users. IT did not realize the impact on wasted hours, frustration and risks to o end customers when the IT systems were not properly aligned and when support was lacking. The users suddenly became more open and were giving examples, situations and feedback to IT without passing any blame. The feedback was focused on business V1.0
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activities, es, what outcomes they needed, the wasted costs and the risks they perceived to business operations. It became a constructive session discussing issues, impact and improvement needs. Comments from the business and IT people at the end of the session: “Incredible edible that in such a short session we identified so may business issues, in such a colourful, fun way without any feeling of blame or animosity.” “Now I understand as a non-IT IT person what my role needs to be in ensuring that our needs, priorities and impact ct are known to IT.” “This has now made it clear to me that first we need to earn the respect of the business before they will take us seriously.” “This is the first time that IT has taken us seriously and tried telling us how what they are doing, or planning to do, is aimed at improving our satisfaction.” The conclusion was that this was a highly valuable session that helped create a good open dialogue with the business, and it was decided to plan more dialogue sessions. The insights gained gave a clear ar focus and priority for the initial improvement initiatives for the IT team. “I didn’t realize....” was mentioned a few times. New insight was gained. When the users left the room there was a feeling of being one group, with a common objective for improving ing IT for the business.....with the business. A first step on the road to alignment had been taken and agreements made for more steps on the long and difficult journey that lies ahead before business and IT integration can be achieved. One of the IT managers ers sat shaking his head in disbelief. “We never hold sessions like this with the business or the users!....I don’t understand why we didn’t do this before.” In my opinion, most IT organizations should start an initiative like this. One of the recommendations ons in ITIL V3 is to “engage with the business”. If you look at the results of the Forrester report, it is shocking to see how poor we are with business and IT alignment, and how little we really know. We adopt a victim role and feel sorry for ourselves bemoaning be that the business does not understand us and will noy listen to us. Maybe we should start listening more to them. We have been paying lip service to business and IT alignment and a customer focused service delivery for too long now. It is time we got got up off our seats and asked the users and customers. My personal conclusion: Until we start to engage with the business and the users, start seeing them as people wanting to get their own work done with the assistance of IT, start to understand how they use our services, start to understand what value and outcomes they want to achieve and what excessive costs and risks we currently create, then we are never going to get business and IT integration sorted out. I do not think most IT organizations are mature mature enough to take the step. They will adopt another framework and throw this in as a solution. It will fail. They will blame the
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framework, and a group of consultants and suppliers will develop a new framework. ITIL V5, CobiT V10, I do not care what it is. It will keep the consulting companies in business, and we will be able to develop more training and certification around the frameworks. The users and business will continue to moan about IT and the level of support, IT will continue to drown their sorrowss and moan about being victimized by the business.......unless somebody wants to prove me wrong? How? Go out and ask the users.
August 27, 2010
Published on Sep 30, 2010
Go and ask the Users: the effect of the ABC Workshop So: Why don’t we ask the users? It would appear a perfectly logical and eminently sensi...