You invest in ITSM solutions to achieve business outcomes – perhaps it’s to lower operational costs, improve customer experience, or reduce compliance risk. After successfully implementing these solutions, many customers find that they often fail to achieve their intended business outcomes over time, often resulting in a chronic tool-replacement cycle.
This can affect your personal success and the reputation of IT Operations, and it’s a waste of time and money. In 2020, the ITSM software platform itself is rarely the reason your business outcomes don’t come to fruition. So, what is it?
We believe, and have proven, that if you focus on optimizing your approach to ITSM software implementation and management, you will deliver the expected outcomes. This approach can be optimized throughout your project lifecycle, but this blog focuses on optimizing software management and improvement post-implementation.
When the project is complete, most folks find themselves in a position where the focus and resource investment in the ITSM capability has receded. Did the backlog of things that popped up during the project go away? Did the business and IT organization decide to freeze their needs to give us all a rest after the project was complete? Not a chance. Did the project itself provide the optimal outcome to the business? Rarely, it’s usually just the first step. Did you exhaust the full capabilities of your chosen platform? Definitely not, as there are usually more capabilities than a single customer will ever use.
So, how do you change the approach to crush the backlog, stay responsive to changing business needs, and exceed original business expectations over time? A focus on rapid process improvement and continuous value delivery will help dramatically.
Rapid Process Improvement
In our experience, an effective and agile organizational program for process or capability improvement is the key first step. Doing this right requires a clear organization and charter, process data insights, inclusive stakeholder collaboration, and an engaged feedback loop.
We recommend focusing on the following 3 steps:
- RPI Program Charter: Clearly define the members, the leader, the purpose, and the authority of the team of stakeholders that will meet on a regular (monthly) basis to discuss issues and areas for improvement. Make sure to have and develop executive engagement and sponsorship; establish the working practices and expected output (prioritized enhancement backlog) of this group; and ensure that this group considers process, technology, and organizational change needs in determining feasibility and proper prioritization. (We would be happy to share a templatized charter as a starting point).
- Make Data-Based Improvements: While user feedback is important, it can be surface-level or in the worst cases squeaky-wheel feedback that results in squeaky-wheel CSI (in which the underlying root causes are not addressed while we are focused on fixing symptoms that loud people constantly point out). If the data is analyzed properly, it almost always tells the truest and deepest story. It helps to rapidly identify underlying chronic issues to make informed software improvements. For example, you may find that your Self-Service interface usage is dropping off. If you solely analyze user feedback, it may tell you that they don’t like the look of something. If you look at the data you may find that virtual agents are abandoned 50% of the time, that knowledge article usage has declined, or that request approvals are creating a major delay in request fulfillment. We have found that the best way to track data is to identify the leading metrics and set them up in a live dashboard. The side benefit to this approach is that you can also show improvements in data when you fix these issues. This is a much more effective way to show value and improvement vs. “so and so used to give us so much shit and now they don’t.”
- Drive Momentum through Engaged Feedback Loops: Feedback dies in darkness. To continue receiving it, you need to acknowledge the feedback you get, prioritize it, and let people know when you have used it (or why you didn’t).
Continuous Value Delivery
With a rich, prioritized backlog of meaningful enhancements, you can put together a continuous value delivery strategy to implement these enhancements. We recommend including the following 4 capabilities in your continuous value delivery strategy:
- Outcome-Driven Enhancement Plan: Without a strategic plan in place to implement enhancements, they will likely get done in an untimely and haphazard manner. It is important to create and regularly update an outcome-driven enhancement plan that defines specific enhancements to execute, their intended impact, their estimated time to complete, and the enablement and communication necessary to drive user adoption. Expectation management is success management. You need to have a clearly defined plan to clearly set expectations. If you don’t, expect that expectations will be out of your control. Most of your major improvement will happen here.
- Rapid Ad-Hoc Enhancements: You also need to show the organization that you have the ability to quickly crank out new capability and demonstrate impactful wins. For example, if a CIO asks for a report, you should get it the same day. If a service owner needs an update to a CMDB model, get it done quickly. The ability to do this requires that you plan to have resource capacity in 20% excess of what the plan needs, or consider using a managed service for burst capability.
- Ongoing Enablement and Adoption: All major enhancements should have a corresponding user enablement plan. Even if you think an enhancement is simple, you need to enable your common denominator. To ensure your user enablement is successful, answer “how-to” questions to clarify confusion and create power users, and survey customers as frequently as possible to understand their pain points, satisfaction, and opportunities for improvement. We recommend tracking adoption and usage metric data to see if there is a need for a broader communications plan.
- Communicate Results: The paradox of value recognition in IT Operations is that people generally talk about your team only if something goes wrong. So, it is important to create a narrative that highlights when things go right. If you showcase and celebrate successes, you will maintain momentum and inform your organization about the hard work you’re doing to help the tool better serve them.
We’ve seen that when customers change their ITSM approach and focus on rapid process improvements and continuous value delivery post-implementation, their outcomes also begin to change. By following our recommendations above, you will be sure to see:
- Celebrated Achievements: You often achieve what is expected of you, but without your achievements properly communicated to executives, your successes go unnoticed. By communicating your results to executives and employees, you will not only achieve personal success, but you will also continue to build momentum around the value you’re creating for your organization.
- Increased Adoption Rates: Software implementation is only as successful as its adoption rate. Software can have great capability and be efficiently implemented, but if only 30% of employees use it, then it won’t produce its intended business outcomes. By prioritizing rapid process improvements and continuous value delivery, your software adoption rate will steadily increase.
- Long-Term Relevance: This is the real kicker! To deliver business outcomes, you need the agility to address evolving business demands, the expertise to quickly deploy new capabilities, and a standardized employee enablement process to quickly and effectively drive adoption of new functionality. A focus on rapid process improvement and continuous value delivery results in long-term relevance.
We believe it is an important part of our role in this unique community to share what we’ve learned and help organizations succeed. And we know YOU can do all of this on your own – you can put a program in place for rapid process improvement, you can develop an enhancement plan, you can prioritize enablement and adoption, you can deploy new functionality and capability to your business, and you can get credit for all of your hard work. And we have free guides to help you do it really, really well.
If you would like someone you can trust to take care of all of this for you, please reach out.