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When You Don't Have Top Management Support

Mar 7, 2005

ITSM Watch Staff

By Tim Seiter

How to Begin
Ok, now we need to know HOW. The issue now is not to convince yourself, but to convince others. How can you convince the CEO to spend $50,000 on new technology that has no apparent direct revenue generating impact on the organization instead of hiring a new sales rep that can generate $1,000,000 in revenue that drives $200,000 to the bottom line that same year? You need to show at least $200,000 in VALUE that same year for the $50,000 you are going to spend.

Step 1 - Pick a Methodology
Pick a methodology and framework that recommends best practices, but is also flexible enough to conform to your company's individual culture. There are many out there, but I have found through trial and many, many errors that ITIL worked best for me.

I viewed ITIL the same way I view the frame of a house. It provided the departments I managed with the structure we needed, but there was always room for another window through which I could communicate with the "outside world," or my customers.

If you are picking up a package at my house, you would not care how the inside of my house looks, how the rooms look, where the bathrooms are, etc. You just want to be able to ring the doorbell when you want something, and expect a timely answer at the door. You ask me for the package, and then expect me to bring that package to the door, also in a timely manner. This is how you should view ITIL. When your customers come to your door asking for something, you should be able to respond in a timely manner with the appropriate answer to their request.

Yes, ITIL goes a lot deeper than that simplistic answer. It also talks about measuring and monitoring your success through metrics, communicating your successes and failures in a format your customers understand. Most importantly, ITIL is about providing and communicating the highest possible VALUE to your customers, albeit internal and/or external. ITIL is about developing repeatable processes to maximize efficiency and communication within the IT department and between IT and your customers. ITIL is about managing change and minimizing technology disruptions.

Managing through processes is not new, and adopting industry recommended best practices is also not new. Accounting folks have been doing this for a long time, and my CPA of a wife will be the first to tell me "It's about time you guys in IT get your act together." Well, we all know that CPA stands for Certified Pain in the Assets, as well as Can't Pass Again, but I won't mention that since my better half will be reading this. Manufacturing has been following best practices since the creation of the wheel. Anyone who has seen The Flintstone's Movie starring John Goodman knows that.

Step 2 - Create a Track Record
Start small and spend no additional funds. Create processes that can be tracked with spreadsheets or your current software tools to demonstrate how you can create efficiencies and improve customer service.

Pick a process that you think is inefficient, but does not have a huge impact. Track how much time is spent by all effected parties to complete that process. Do this informally. If someone is involved but not in your department, go to their office for an informal conversation.

Take them to lunch and talk about it. Asking for formal meetings is not always the best here because you tend to not get the full picture. Also, hang out in their work area. This is especially feasible if there are cubicles. I found that I could sit in an empty cube in a nearby area if I just said I needed to work on some network things in their area and ask for any empty space for a day. Heck, they do not know what you need to do to the network. Once there, listen and observe, document, try and get a copy of the forms they are using on a daily basis that pertain to this process.

Now make the changes and track the results. Do this several times until you create enough of an impact to show qualitative, quantifiable, impactful data in pretty graphs and charts. Some stumbling and failure is acceptable because you do not have the eyes on you. Hone your craft here. Make sure you improve your teams skills here.

Step 3 - Build on that Track Record
Pick a slightly larger process that requires minimal money to be spent. Once you have shown you can impact the bottom line with improving efficiency, select 1 or 2 slightly more complicated areas. Explain what the before and after will look like with pretty charts and graphs, of course. Provide timelines that you are 100% sure you can hit and are short enough to maintain interest.

Do not over inflate the impact you will have. This will just cause the powers that be to automatically discount whatever claims you make in the future. Involve more people, keep them excited as to the end result, and provide results and various benchmarks. Remember to track, monitor, report, track, track, track.

Complete failure is not an option here. Some stumbling can occur because the expenditure is not that great, but remember, people are now watching. The powers that be are expecting positive results. They know all the tricks of explaining away the bad and focusing on the good, so do not try and fool them. They have a board of directors that do not accept revenue shortfalls, so keep in mind that they will not accept too much altering from the original plan or stated results. If you do not experience the stated results, identify additional small projects to create that credibility.

Step 4 - Build on Your Momentum
Once you have succeeded to improve a little bit with no money, a little bit more with a small amount of money, you should have the experience and credibility to take on that large project costing $50,000. Now all the powers that be are watching. Failure is not an option. You need to build awareness and keep in touch with results. All your reports should be results oriented.

Show the cost of doing nothing as well as the value of following your recommendations. Report, track, report, track, report. Be prepared to make changes if you feel you will not achieve your stated results. Do not hide your stumbles. Explain how these stumbles will eventually improve the end result. If you know you are not going to meet your expected results, let it be known as soon as you can.

Do not wait until the end to state you knew you would only obtain 80% of your goals. What if the vice president of sales knew in June your company was only going to meet 80% of their projected sales quota and waited until December to tell the CEO? How long would that person have a job?

Be very politically active with all affected parties. Just like in your investigative phase in Step 1, informally investigate the status. Don't wait for someone to tell you that hot water is not flowing hard enough, or is the wrong temperature, or is leaking out of the walls. Go find out for yourself. Know where you need to apply more pressure to prevent leaking, and ultimate failure, to occur.

Step 5 - Bask in the Glory
This will last about a week, and then you will need to get back to work and show what you can do now. Your credibility is great, so use that to your advantage, but do not overuse it. There are politics in every company that you need to embrace to enjoy long term success. Learn and understand your business culture, then roll out your solutions based on this culture.

Some of you will be able to go faster than others. Remember the first and only absolute rule in ITIL is you need to know when to break the rules. ITIL is NOT an absolute. Those of you who try to stay within the ITIL framework for everything are doomed to failure because your customers will throw too many exceptions for you to handle. ITIL is designed to allow for that room addition (the house analogy at the beginning of this article), knocking down a wall, expanding that walk-in closet because your daughter needs 30 pairs of jeans.

Remember, Rome was not built in a day, the aqueducts took years of planning to create those gentle slopes, Apple Computers was started in a garage, and the Boston Red Socks took 86 years to build another World Series champion.

Build your credibility through small successes before tackling those big jobs. DO NOT try to improve everything at once. Take small steps, and you will have a much better chance of success. At the end of the day, your success will push you higher at your current company, or will be a very nice edition to your resume for that next job.

Tim Seiter is currently the Director of ITIL Services at Conexio. He holds his foundation certificate in ITIL, and the Help Desk Manager Certification from the HDI institute.

He has 20 years experience in IT, and has played an instrumental role in creating 7 service desks, both internal and external facing. He has held positions in Network Administration, programmer / analyst, and all levels of management. His latest role prior to Conexio was CIO of the largest private Healthcare staffing company in the United States, managing an annualized growth rate of over 300% in 5 years.