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The IT Accountability Model

Use RACI, ITIL and SLM to transform your ITSM efforts, writes ITSM Watch columnist Valerie Arraj.
Jan 5, 2009
By

Valerie Arraj





The first step in charting a course to effective and efficient management of IT services is getting a baseline of your current resources and capabilities. This assessment phase includes evaluating not only your processes, but the people in the organization and their skills, the technologies that enables effective management and the external partners you rely on to provide goods, services and support.

 

In conducting many of these assessments, the characteristics of the IT staff are usually remarkably similar across enterprises—for the most part: IT staff have a very solid work ethic and staff members want to “do the right thing” for the company. These are great qualities to start with; folks who work hard and want to do a good job coupled with the right skills are truly an asset to any IT organization. These cross-enterprise similarities continue with most  IT staff not exactly clear on:

 

  • Who their “customer” is.
  • What business services they support.
  • What service levels, if any, they are expected to meet.
  • How they are being measured.
  • How to prioritize the myriad of tasks they are asked to perform on a daily basis.
  • How they should be interacting with other members of the organization with respect to incidents, problems and changes.

 

Unfortunately, the latter set of traits has a tendency to outweigh the value of the hard work and fortitude when it comes to delivering effective and efficient services.

 

There are many jewels of IT service management (ITSM) guidance in the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), but of the most valuable is the inherent accountability model that is referenced throughout the framework. Utilizing this accountability model can make all the difference in changing “hard work” efforts to “smart work” efforts.

 

Having clearly defined accountability and responsibility allows for individuals to understand what service they provide; what their role is in the overall management of a given service, process, or function; and provides a mechanism for aligning their daily activities with business priorities. Within the ITIL framework the identification of “roles” with processes, the RACI matrix and contracts associated with Service Level Management help to lay the groundwork for unambiguous, goal-based, service-oriented accountability.

 

Roles

 

Many roles have been defined in ITIL v3 outlining responsibilities required for an effective ITSM program. Two important roles are process owners and service owners. These people have the overall accountability for the delivery of an IT services and the processes used to manage services. The identification of a single individual to define, coordinate and mind the store of each service and each process required to manage these services means there is ownership of oversight and, hopefully, assurance of success.

 

Of course, it is also important that this person be empowered and have the supporting resources to be successful. But the definition of these and other supporting roles brings clarity to the overall accountability for these critical elements. Once assigned the “ownership” role, these individuals can then put a structure around the management of the service and the process for which they are accountable using a RACI matrix.

 

RACI

 

The RACI matrix is a simple, yet important tool to clearly document the roles and responsibilities of a team of people responsible for delivering a service or a process. The RACI matrix spells out the activities or tasks associated with a specific service or process, the roles that are associated with these activities and the types of responsibilities a role has for a particular activity.

 

The responsibility types include:

 

  • Responsible – a doer or worker bee that performs the activity.
  • Accountable – only one person can be accountable. The “buck stops here”.
  • Consulted – these are people with related expertise or knowledge who should weigh-in on the activity.
  • Informed – individuals who must be kept abreast of the progress of the activity.

 

The matrix has each of the activities of a process listed horizontally, the roles listed vertically. The columns adjacent to the activities specify R-A-C-I depending on the responsibility that role has for the corresponding activity. The RACI matrix is an important mechanism for documenting a process and contributes greatly to efficiency and effectiveness of the process by eliminating ambiguity of roles and responsibilities.


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