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6 Success Factors for ITSM Governance Structures, Part II

Taken together these six factors will improve your chances of ITIL/ITSM success, writes ITSMWatch columnist Edward Rivard of Forsythe.
Feb 25, 2011

Ed Rivard

Many information technology (IT) organizations approach their IT service management (ITSM) and ITIL initiatives from a process or tool perspective; often expecting the organization to simply adopt and adapt to the new process or tool, or "hoping" everyone will buy in when they "see the value."

As a result, many organizations struggle with process adoption and adaptation, limiting the value of ITSM/ITIL and possibly leading to a premature death. The answer to ensuring you gain the greatest value of your ITSM/ITIL initiatives involves ensuring you plan and design for the type and level of governance appropriate for the organization and the initiative(s).

In the first half of his column, Ed discussed the importance of culture, communications and executive support in succeeding with your ITIL efforts. In part II, Ed will cover the role governance, roles and responsibilities, and measurement and reporting play in your efforts.

4. Governance structure

For the purpose of this article, governance structure refers to your organization's decision making process related to establishing policy and ITSM/ITIL-related improvements. Many organizations already have some form of governance in place. For example, a common area of governance involves managing projects and project portfolios. Although an organization may apply some form of size limit (e.g., project cost, IT labor effort, etc.) to their projects, all projects meeting this limit often are required to abide by a higher level of evaluation criteria and documentation requirements than smaller projects.

ITSM/ITIL references the entire service lifecycle including Strategy, Design and Transition -- the core emphasis of most projects. Establishing your ITSM/ITIL governance framework in a manner that complements your existing governance frameworks will help facilitate future integration of the separate frameworks as you mature your ITSM/ITIL capabilities.

Other factors to consider when planning and designing your ITSM/ITIL governance structure include the decision-making process, exception guidelines and incentive/disincentive programs. In large organizations, the first two of these provide the framework for identifying decision-level authority within your governance structure as well as determining the required supporting documentation and reviews. Establishing exception guidelines also enables identification and management of exceptions.

An excellent way to facilitate the decision-making process and document key decisions is to frame each decision with a “decision paper.” A decision paper is a template used to present topics to the decision makers in a consistent manner, equipping them with the information they need to make the decision at hand.

Key elements of the decision paper template include:

  • Author - who drafted the decision paper and is presenting the topic for decision.
  • Approval Body - who will the decision paper be presented to for making a decision.
  • Decision description - a simple phrase giving a title to the decision topic.
  • Recommendation - description what the author is recommending.
  • Alternatives - descriptions of alternatives the author considered as well as why each alternative wasn't recommended.
  • Assumptions - identification of any key assumptions made when evaluating and forming the recommendation.
  • Background - a brief description of any pertinent history that may contribute to the recommendation.
  • Rationale/Benefit - a description of how the recommended solution will benefit the organization.
  • Impact - identification of any additional considerations that may influence the decision.
  • Decision - documentation of the decision maker's decision (e.g., approval, denied, or further action needed).
  • Action needed (if denied or further action needed).

5. Roles and responsibilities

Defined roles and responsibilities complement your governance structure. By defining and assigning roles and responsibilities within your governance structure, you establish clear expectations for the individuals assigned to each role. Clear expectations are a key first step in positioning individuals to be successful -- and everyone wants to be successful.

A good approach for ensuring that the various roles work well together is to establish a RACI Chart. RACI stands for responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed. A RACI chart is especially useful in clarifying roles and responsibilities in cross-functional/departmental processes, such as your ITSM/ITIL processes. By developing your RACI chart for both your governance structure and your process roles during planning and design, you'll help ensure that key responsibilities are properly defined and assigned.

6. Measurement and reporting

Measurement and reporting is often the "tail on the dog,” the last thing we consider. Successful organizations recognize that good measurement and reporting doesn't just tell them where they've been, but also guide them to where they want to go ... the dog's nose, if you will.

The three main axioms to consider when establishing measurements/reports are:

  1. 1. Don't expect what you don't inspect;
  2. 2. Triangulate, or be careful what you measure because you may drive undesired behavior; and
  3. 3. People want to be successful, but they also want to understand what success looks like.

The old adage, "You can't manage what you don't measure," fits well with the saying, "Don't expect what you don't inspect." However, measures are not the end, they are the means to the end. The "inspection results" are just the beginning point of the improvement plan. I've seen many organizations -- and I was guilty of this myself early in my ITSM career -- equip themselves with volumes of measures and reports, only to spend time reviewing and little to no time planning their improvement initiatives.

By "triangulate" your measures, I'm referring to a practice where you collect three related measures to give you a better idea of the whole. A classic example is focusing on the effectiveness of your incident management process by reducing your Mean-Time-To-Restore (MTTR); measurement-focused individuals will be inclined to close incidents early in order to "improve" their MTTR measures. Including other measures such as incident volume, customer satisfaction, and the number of times tickets are closed/reopen along with MTTR will help ensure that the incident key performance indicator is well-balanced.

While individuals want to be successful, too often we do little to help them understand what success looks like. As you define and design your measures, I encourage you to review the proposed measures with the people you are measuring. Involving the individual contributors in the definition and design of the measures and allowing them to assist in identifying what will be measured and how will shorten your measurement and reporting design.

Speaking from experience, without this consideration, you should expect team members to challenge what you're measuring twice. First you’ll hear that you're measuring the wrong thing. Then later, you’ll hear, "Okay, now you're measuring the right thing, but you're measuring it the wrong way."

By considering these six key factors when planning and designing the type and level of governance appropriate for your organization and your ITSM/ITIL initiative, you will significantly improve the likelihood of your organization's ITSM/ITIL success. Addressing these six factors from the start will help accelerate your organization's adoption and adaptation of its ITSM/ITIL disciplines. In addition, greater clarity around individuals' roles and responsibilities will help them understand what it means to be successful in this context. Moreover, by designing the proper governance framework, you will have help position your organization for continual improvement ... which is the main ITSM/ITIL objective, after all.

Ed Rivard is a managing IT service management consultant at Forsythe. He can be reached at erivard@forysthe.com.

IT governance, IT strategy, Forsythe, IT steering committee, ITIL/ITSM

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