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Are you paralysed by process?

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Workshop One of the most universal findings we encounter on our research travels is that, contrary to what we may hear from elsewhere (IT vendors, subject evangelists), IT professionals generally want to deal with fewer processes, not more. Or to be precise, they want ‘just enough’ process.

This idea is firmly rooted in practicality and common sense, and is something that should appeal to Reg readers because you have enough on their plates already.

So what is ‘just enough’ process? Broadly speaking, it’s the idea of doing the ‘right’ amount of groundwork (planning, internal selling, educating, due diligence etc.) prior to getting something started, and having the ‘right’ amount of structure in place to make sure that once something is started, it remains on track and achieves what it set out to. Conversely, what it isn’t, is a corporate-wide initiative preceding and proceeding to smother whatever it was you wanted to do in the first place.

What does this have to do with service management? The first hook is that we can always do things to improve how we manage services from the point of view of the IT department (tasked with creating and delivering them) and the business (requesting, using and paying for them). The second hook is that it is tough to strike the right balance between setting off on a project with little or no guidance in place and never setting off at all due to being stuck fast in a mire of process and procedure. This is even trickier to achieve today than in the past because the notion of ‘service’, which pervades both IT and the business, has brought increasing numbers of stakeholders into play.

With the fragmentation we discussed previously on the one hand, and the traditional lack of ‘proper’ communication between IT and the business on the other, we might as well be playing pin the tail on the donkey if we have no processes at all to guide us. Or we might as well not start trying to fix things if we ‘do the right thing’ by getting everyone involved – and end up doing nothing.

So where does the middle ground lie? Our previous research highlighted that approaches to service management such as ITIL were helping some firms and hindering others. Much of it came down to scale – for larger organisations, following ITIL is proving a worthwhile effort in many cases.

But the smaller the firm, the less positive impact it has until at a certain point, ‘doing’ ITIL requires more effort than can be justified by the benefits to be gained from it. In these situations and, indeed, something we noted across the board is that as much positive impact can be gained from adopting ‘bits of’ or ‘the spirit’ of ITIL, compared with embracing the thing in all its, er, glory. And that, is a good example of IT shops finding their own ‘just enough’ way of doing things.

Whether you work in an ITIL/COBIT/other IT shop, exploit bits of all these or get along perfectly well without them, we’d love to hear about how you get things done from an organisational and dare I say it, process point of view.

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