Measure Twice, Cut Once! The key to successful configuration management

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Most of us have heard the expression ‘measure twice, cut once’. Used in a carpentry sense (literal) it means you should double-check your measurements for accuracy before cutting a piece of wood; otherwise it may be necessary to cut again, wasting time, materials and money. This applies to configuration management.
In a figurative sense it means plan and prepare in a careful, thorough manner before taking action. In other words, think before you act. Not taking the time to make sure of what you are doing will cost you time or money, and most likely both.

A fellow consultant used this term whilst we were putting together a proposal for a prospective client who wanted to put a Configuration Management Database (CMDB) in place along with a supporting Configuration Management process. We knew that they just wanted to jump in and do it and we needed to convince them of the need to carefully plan before embarking on the actual implementation.

In conjunction with the client we needed to:

  • Clearly define the desired business outcomes, objectives and scope
  • Identify all of the stakeholders
  • Clearly articulate the current state and the desired state
  • Identify existing repositories of data
  • Identify supporting technologies and determine capability
  • Identify supporting processes and their capability
  • Identify supporting resources and their capability
  • Determine the risks, dependencies and assumptions
  • Determine indicative timeframes
  • Provide a high-level overview of next steps

This is what we call a Discovery phase that then provides the information to create a detailed Journey Plan, supported by a project plan.

Luckily in this instance the client realised the need for the upfront planning.

Another prospective client was looking to ‘transform’ the Service Desk due to customer dissatisfaction. Part of that transformation was the introduction of new channels to access support. Another organisation had already been onsite and conducted a ‘Discovery’ so the client did not want to repeat the exercise. When I asked whether the Discovery had engaged with the rest of the business the response was ‘No, but we know what the business needs’. Really! Without actually asking them what problems they needed resolving and what outcomes they desired!

In this instance the client did not progress the engagement but we certainly would not have embarked on a Service Desk transformation project without having first engaged all of the stakeholders to determine their needs. Until we had done this we would have no idea of the scope and objectives.

All too often I witness ITSM initiatives underway that did not take the time to do the upfront planning. It is too tempting to rush through the planning stage to get a project launched only to find later that hurrying through the details meant dealing with much larger issues midway through the project.

ITSM initiatives that fail to do the right amount of upfront planning are likely to miss the mark. By that I mean failing to deliver what the business needed, not delivering within specified timeframes, excessive scope creep and cost overruns.

It will be increasingly difficult to get resourcing for your next ITSM initiative if previous ones have failed. Therefore planning in order to get it right first time becomes even more important.

Also consider the people trying to deliver the ITSM initiative and the stress and frustration they will experience because the project was poorly planned. Are they going to want to jump on board the next one?

However tempting it may be, don’t hurry through the planning phase just to get into the ‘doing’ phase. Make sure you have a clearly defined scope, you understand the business problem or opportunity you are trying to deliver through engagement with the stakeholders, you are clear about the current state and the desired state and what will be needed to get there.

Poor planning is only one of the reasons ITSM initiatives fail but it is one of the most common. I will cover some of the other in future posts.

In the meantime, measure twice, cut once!

 

 

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Karen Ferris is an organisational change and service management rebel with a cause. She is an author, consultant, speaker, facilitator, coach and mentor. Karen is an internationally acclaimed speaker with a reputation for providing both strategic and practical advice and insights for organisations in their implementation and maintenance of efficient and effective service management and organisational change. Karen has the ability to share her experience and knowledge with every audience and individual within that audience, so everyone is empowered with the ability to make a difference within their organisation.