I don’t visit shopping malls that often. When I do visit the mall, it seems that a new store has moved in, or a store has relocated or left the mall. And yes, I also have to admit that when I go to the mall, I am in ‘man shopping’ mode. I’m sure you know what I mean by ‘man shopping mode’— go directly to the store, go directly to the item, purchase the item, leave the store. No browsing. No comparison-shopping. No walking-around-the-display-three-times. Get in. Get it. Get out.
So when my purchasing mission means a trip to the shopping mall, usually the first thing I look for is the mall directory. The directory always has a categorized listing of stores, each with a location code, under a map of the mall. The map of the mall identifies the location of the store, with each location identified with the location code that is listed in the categorized list. Also on the map of the mall is a brightly colored dot with the words ‘You are here’. At the risk of stating the obvious, from these two data points – the ‘you are here’ dot and the store location on the map, I then plot my course to the store to finish my ‘man shopping’ visit to the mall. Get in. Get it. Get out.
So what does any of this have to do with ITSM? There are two things you must know with any ITSM implementation:
- Where are we going?
- Where are we now?
Understanding where you are now is a critical step in any ITSM initiative, especially if you’re just starting the journey, or even if you’ve been on the road for a while. In my experience, IT organizations have a tendency to jump to conclusions and take action, rather than taking the time to understand issues. Taking such an approach with an ITSM implementation is not only an extreme detriment, it usually is a showstopper. How do you find out where you are today? Conduct a formal assessment. A formal assessment against defined criteria is crucial to the success of any ITSM implementation.
To be clear, conducting an assessment is not a solution. Do not conduct an assessment for assessment’s sake. I’ve worked for organizations that have conducted assessments that took nearly six months to complete—what a waste of time and money! Think about it—six months of effort and expense, only to find out where you are today? First of all, a lot can change in six months! The business will not wait patiently while you’re conducting your assessment! Secondly, in six months, you’ve spent a lot of money and effort conducting an assessment—some of that money and effort could have been used to invest in the solution!
When it comes to conducting an assessment, I’m a big believer in ‘good enough is good enough’. In my opinion, a well-defined assessment should take about 4 to 8 weeks – while you may not gather all of the nitty-gritty details within this timeframe, you should get a fairly good picture of where you are. In my experience, most organizations already have a ‘gut feel’ of where they are today; an assessment will confirm this and usually identify some other issues that you didn’t know that you didn’t know. What you’re looking for from an assessment is enough data to justify the actions and investments that you need to take next, not just confirmation of what you already know.
An assessment is not the means to an end; rather, it is the means to a beginning. By defining the vision, goals and objectives for an ITSM implementation, then assessing where you are today against this criteria, the IT organization can understand the challenges it faces, scope the implementation, and identify and prioritize the actions it should take in its ITSM implementation. A good assessment gives you the information needed to develop your ITSM project plan (see my blog article ‘How to have Fun in your ITSM Implementation‘). The information and understanding you get from a well-conducted assessment helps you identify objectives that are attainable, yet require the organization to stretch-and improve! It provides the baselines needed for future comparison so you can demonstrate progress in your journey. It gives you confidence that you’re attacking the right issues in the right order, putting you well on the road to success in your ITSM implementation.
Most importantly, an assessment provides you with that brightly colored dot labeled ‘you are here’. Now you can plot your course toward your ITSM vision. So while an ITSM implementation is not as easy as a trip to the shopping mall, knowing where you are now makes all of the difference.