Mark Smalley has a great mantra for IT Improvement

My IT Improvement Mantra

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Compliance and ITSM

Effective, Efficient and Energizing

One of the most satisfying parts of my work as an IT management consultant is helping IT departments improve how they work. This is usually related to my mains areas of interest, application management and business information management, but the principles apply equally to other areas. I’m particularly pleased with how my ‘IT improvement mantra’ has been adopted and I’m happy to share it with you as well.

I’ll illustrate it by telling you about a recent consultancy engagement. The management team of the Application Management department of a large local government authority in the Netherlands felt that they were lagging behind their colleagues in other IT departments are far as professionalization was concerned. Not only did they have the distinct impression that the quality of service provided to the business could be improved, but also that their way of working was inefficient and often frustrating for the ninety practitioners in the department.

They consulted me as to the best way to improve the situation, emphasizing the desire to have an inclusive, bottom-up approach that would involve the practitioners in the process. They engaged me to conduct a series of workshops, first with the management team in order to identify the major improvement areas and to ensure that they were confident that the approach would work. After the initial high-level workshop with the management team, six identical workshops for 15-20 participants per workshop were scheduled, enabling everybody to participate. Each workshop took two half days, with a week in between for reflection.

Selecting Improvement Targets

As preparation for the workshops, each participant filled in a 40 question quick scan in which he or she shared his or her opinion regarding the various activities and relationships in the Application Management domain. I compiled the results of the quick scans so that each participant could see the degree of consensus or disagreement with respect to the various topics. Using the Application Services Library (ASL® 2) framework to structure the discussion, I helped the participants decide which quick scan topics really needed improvement. The crucial question was “Will improving this topic result in better services for the business, a more efficient way of working and collaborating or more satisfaction you as individual practitioners?” In other words, whether the improvement makes your work more effective (for the user), more efficient (for the department) or more energizing (for yourself). At the end of the workshops they had a list of worthwhile improvement initiatives.

I’ve been using this effective-efficient-energizing ‘mantra’ for several years and I’ve noticed that – after liberal repetition – the participants adopt it quite naturally in how they talk about their work. It helps them to decide whether an improvement initiative is worthwhile. It helps them to ‘sell’ the initiative because they can explain the outcomes. And it helps them with the most difficult part of improvement programmes: actually executing the improvements after the initial workshop enthusiasm has diminished. Because they’ve pinpointed why the initiative is worthwhile, they seem to be better motivated to execute them. I’ll leave you with a quote from a client: “Even though they seem simple, your words ‘effective, efficient and energizing’ have given our work an extra dimension.”

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Mark Smalley, also known as The IT Paradigmologist, thinks, writes and speaks extensively about IT 'paradigms' – in other words our changing perspectives on IT. His current interests are the digital enterprise, IT operating models, value of IT, business-IT relationships, co-creation of value, multidisciplinary collaboration, working with complexity, and as the overarching theme, management of information systems in general. Mark is an IT Management Consultant at Smalley.IT and Ambassador at the ASL BiSL Foundation. Mark has spoken at 100+ events in 20+ countries.