Four Ways to Fix IT’s Bad Reputation

Does your IT group suffer from a bad reputation? Many corporate and public sector IT departments do (and high-profile miscues like the recent Heathcare.gov rollout don’t help).

Speaking at the Interop New York tech conference in October, William Murphy, CTO of the investment firm Blackstone Group, described the perception of IT departments as “at best adequate — a cost center and a back-office necessity at many companies. Worst case…people who say ‘No’ first and ask questions later,” reported InformationWeek. Murphy went on to say that IT is “too often considered defensive, late, overpriced, uninformed and unhelpful.”

Fixing the Bad Reputation IT Sometimes Has
Image credit: Tweak Your Biz

Ouch!

Yet, Murphy continued, as bad as IT’s reputation (sometimes) is, “colleagues know that it’s also central to creating business change, new products, efficiency of their current workloads, really the future of the company.” He then outlined four “operational pillars” core to fixing the brand image of IT so it’s “seen by other business departments as a problem solver.”

Taking an enterprise request management (ERM) approach–in which users can enter and track requests for virtually any type of service from a single intuitive web-based portal which connects to a software orchestration engine that automates scheduling, approval, fulfillment, costing and reporting tasks–addresses all four of the operational pillars identified by Murphy.

1. An Open Design process, driven by technology.

IT and business leaders need to work together to solve the “top priority problems” first, whether those be the most common, the most painful, or based on some other criteria. Users are often articulate and vocal about what these problems are, and what end result they would like to see. Business and IT leaders then need to design processes and apply technology to solve those problems. Users generally don’t care what happens “behind the curtain” and shouldn’t need to know.

Task automation software (such as Kinetic Task) enables business function managers, with minimal IT assistance, to map out task workflow processes in order to meet a need or solve a problem. The software then communicates between enterprise applications (ERP, HRMS, ITSM, etc.) to manage approvals, scheduling and fulfillment tasks.

2. An iterative release model.

A key tenet of ERM is agile service development. Though the ultimate objective in ERM is to enable employees to order any type of service or product through a single intuitive interface, ERM projects are best started by mapping and automating a few particularly common or painful processes, then building out from there.

Because service items are defined in a request management portal, without any need to modify core code in underlying enterprise or departmental systems of record, it’s easy to create, test, tweak and deploy new processes, then clone and modify these processes to iteratively define and add new service items.

3. A transparent cost and decision process.

As noted in a previous post here on the consumerization of IT, “The ERM approach provides three key capabilities with regard to costing. First, it enables accurate costing by measuring actual time required for completing all tasks. Second, it automatically charges costs back to the requesting department. And third, it makes it easy to present costs to users, to enable them to make better, more informed ‘purchase’ decisions for requested services from IT or other departments.”

To improve their reputations, Murphy advises IT groups to ” Be efficient and clear on how you communicate project plans and costs.” By automating back-end processes, capturing accurate cost information, and presenting it to users as an element in the  request management interface, ERM enables just such efficiency and clarity.

4. A simple, honest feedback process.

ERM is designed to include both automated measurement (e.g., elapsed time to complete specific tasks, SLA performance) and human feedback. By automatically sending each service requester a context-specific survey after fulfillment, with these results included in ERM reporting and analytics.

Incorporating both automated and human feedback assures that ERM implementations meet their primary objectives, which are to reduce service delivery costs and delight customers. Both types of feedback also support continual process improvement, and even more fundamentally, fixing any elements of a process that may be broken.

As IT departments work to improve their reputations, implementing ERM can play a highly visible and productive role, as well as making the organization more competitive.

To learn more, download the Enterprise Request Management Overview white paper, and join the conversation in the Enterprise Request Management Group on LinkedIn.

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