Better Process Can Be Better Business – Sensible Service Management Part 1
We’ve asked Rob England, known around the globe as The IT Skeptic , to pen a few guest posts on issues near and dear to his heart.
We’ve known Rob for a few years now, and we’ve always been impressed by his no nonsense, practical approach. That resonates with us here at GoToAssist, where we believe that simpler is simply better.
Rob is going to discuss why service management can be useful, even for small businesses.
Now, if you couldn’t tell already from our favorite new IT module – GoToAssist Service Desk – we appreciate a good dose of service management. Unfortunately, we often find that smaller businesses can struggle with the ideals of service management, as manifest in all the rules and guidelines called ITIL.
Rob aims to cut through all the noise and jargon to tell us why, for the smaller businesses among us, service management can be useful and why it doesn’t need to be bigger than Ben Hur.
We’re calling this series Sensible Service Management. First up, the IT Skeptic tells us all why Better Process Can Be Better Business.
Better Process Can Be Better Business
Small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) take risks. All the time. Sure, in theory there are many things that ought to be managed and under control, but you simply don’t have the bandwidth to deal with them. So you don’t.
Indeed, experts who berate us about how we “should” do this and “must” do that remind me of an air force doctor advising World War II bomber pilots to give up smoking. But those pilots have got far more pressing risks to worry about. So, as an IT manager or IT consultant, you note the risks, fix a few, mitigate some, and live with the rest.
Instead you focus on what matters:
- successful daily operations
- growing the business
- controlling costs
- keeping customers happy
Probably in about that order.
When process wonks like me come along suggesting you improve your processes, you tend to lump us in the “give up smoking” category of advice. You say you don’t have time to do process. You don’t have the resources to investigate and implement the 1001 best procedures outlined in the ITIL guidelines.
But wait just a second.
There are ways to get some fast wins out of process improvement. There is a way to do it quick and dirty to make it serve your needs. That’s what I want to talk about.
Now by “process,” I mean standardized procedures or steps that use proven best practices to achieve your business goals. Once those procedures are put into place, you then measure and monitor them to see how well they work for you.
If we think about the four top goals I just mentioned, process improvement can help you deliver on these goals when you elevate processes in three areas:
- how you respond to user requests
- how you fix things
- how you control changes to make sure you don’t break things in the first place.
If you already know about service management (SM), you know what we are getting at here. If not, don’t worry we’ll break it down in a future blog post.
For today, let’s focus on making it achievable for SMEs.
1) Keep it simple
Process improvement doesn’t need to be the big deal that process consultants and books make it seem. If you open up one of the main SM references – ITIL – you get thousands of pages of “musts” and “shoulds.” But they are painting a picture of “best” practice: what the world would look like with infinite time and money. If we focus on the main needs and risks to meet our four goals, it all boils down to some simple concepts. In future posts, we’ll give you some simple models for what you need to think about.
2) Look at what matters right here right now
You should pick and choose among those simple concepts so you can address what is burning your toes in your organization today. If we start with where we are and work with what we have in order to deliver what we absolutely need most, then any process improvement becomes manageable.
3) Make sure it is worth it
If you are focused on successful daily operations, growing the business, controlling costs, and keeping customers happy, anything you do is likely to give a positive return on investment (ROI). In another blog post we’ll talk about simple methods for estimating the costs and the returns so we can be sure.
4) Make sure it is the best option
We all live in a world of multiple urgent requirements competing for limited funds. (If you don’t have this issue, please write to me and tell me what you’re doing.) What many organizations forget to do is the last step: an improvement may be a good use of funds with a positive ROI, but we should consider whether it is the best use of those funds right now. This means looking at all your proposed investments as a portfolio and balancing your decisions to come up with the optimum use of your resources. This doesn’t need to be complicated either: a healthy debate over the portfolio between the key people in your organization should flush out all the information for the executive to decide.
Think of it as multiple filters:
- Use simple models limited to the most important concepts
- Only look at what addresses your core business goals
- Check that the costs are paid back within a reasonable time
- Make best use of available resources
The work that drops out of the bottom of those sieves will be simple, practical, useful and worthwhile. It is OK for small and medium businesses to take more risks than larger organizations, when we make a considered business decision to do so, in order to focus our resources and efforts. But once a filter tells you that improving your process will advance your goals and is the best use of those resources, do it. In upcoming blog posts, we’ll talk about how.
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