How innovative is your IT organization? Are you looking at ways to embrace current technologies and use them to make your business or organization more competitive in its market space? Do you have an IT Strategy for how to use technology to empower the business? Do you work with the business at a strategic level?
While not everyone in IT is empowered to work at a strategic level with business associates, these are good questions for your service management officer to begin asking. There also needs to be a solid foundation before the business will look to it strategically. To get there, IT needs to demonstrate that it understands the business, its needs and initiatives. Thus, to become strategic you first have to get tactical.
The place to start is looking at your services and your processes. Remember ITIL’s definition of a service: ‘A means of delivering VALUE to CUSTOMERS by facilitating OUTCOMES that they want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks.’
Thus, the first thing an organization needs to have in place in order to create a strategic relationship with the lines of business is a listing of defined and agreed upon services provided by IT. This can include the standard IT services we all come up with first: web hosting, infrastructure services and support, communications services etc., but it should also include business services like ‘claims processing’ for insurance companies and ‘on-line sales’ for retail organizations. Until this is done, IT cannot speak to the business in terms that the business cares about.
The next piece to think about or identify is the existing strategic initiatives of the business and how IT supports them today. Every member from the CIO down to every service desk agent and computer operator needs to know how they support these initiatives and which services underpin them. They should also know every service that is vital to the business. These services must have definitive service level agreements associated with them.
Yes, that was service level agreements. Not the kind you know about, you know, the ones you hide in a drawer and never show to the customer. The real ones, as described by ITIL. The ones where you collect the customer’s requirements first, then negotiate and agree to and then support from a day-to-day perspective and with reporting. The ones you talk to customers about regularly.
When you are regularly achieving these service levels for business-critical services, you are ready to get strategic.
One way to gain the attention of your lines of business and begin this journey is to learn more about the industry you’re in and what the competitors are doing. Then look at products available to that industry or what you can create to help the organization address their strategic initiatives. With this done, go out to them and bring them ideas. Instead of having them go contact SAS vendors on their own and enter into contracts for solutions they need, resulting in ‘shadow IT’. You need to become the IT organization they need and want, one that brings solutions to them and then makes them happen.
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