Every IT organizations has processes. They may not focus on them after they are created but they do exist. The process includes the steps and decisions that are made to achieve a specific outcome for a customer. In IT, we often see processes relating to managing incidents, fulfilling requests, managing projects, managing change, etc.
Most IT organizations focus on operations at various points in time but improving processes generally means making small changes as a result of some sort of metric or process failure. Rarely do organizations look at how a process can radically change to increase the value that is offered to the customer. When assessing and making changes to processes, if the required results is to dramatically change the IT customer experience, deliver faster results through technology, or significantly reduce the cost of providing service, IT needs to embed innovation into the process. While many IT organizations focus on continual service improvement (CSI), few take the extra steps required to support process innovation.
Supporting process innovation requires enabling thinking outside of the box. Leaders and staff must work to produce results without considering the organizational boundaries that normally exist. Companies that support this type of activity are generally measuring employees on the amount of value they create or sustain vs merely completing specific tasks. IT leaders and staff often have difficulty understanding how IT can be innovative with their processes. It is much easier to understand how IT can support business innovation by allowing for new products, faster delivery of a business service, or automation which supports a cost reduction.
Consider the IT organizations that have focused on finding a way to offer a more consistent, continuous delivery of value to their business. Their efforts are part of the movement we now know as DevOps. DevOps required process innovation as radical change was needed to the change management process by modifying the archaic bureaucratic change management process which required numerous signatures to move code into a production environment. A change management process was still very valuable to an organization as it helped them understand and manage risk but the process had to change to become more nimble and allow for a continuous delivery model which supported a much faster pace of change occurring in the production environment. Many organizations are still evaluating how to make this transition and how this is managed is unique with different companies but modifying change management to support DevOps requires out of the box thinking. It is a great example of process innovation in IT.
When conducting problem management, some organizations merely complete root cause analysis but others have gone a step further. They look at the root cause of customer impact. This is an innovative step that allows them to potentially take dramatically different actions to improve the customer experience. With standard root cause analysis, IT staff evaluate what caused an outage so they can decide if it makes sense to resolve the root cause and reduce the opportunity for a similar outage to occur. When looking at root cause of customer impact, IT is evaluating how they could eliminate the root cause of why the customer even know there was an outage at all. This type of analysis allows IT to significantly reduce the opportunity for the customer to be impacted going forward. An application or system issue can still occur but the customer isn’t aware of the issue and they would still be able to work as if there is nothing wrong with the technology. Root cause of customer impact analysis is another example of process related innovation in IT.
Process innovation rarely occurs unless an organization focuses on how to make dramatic changes which create substantive value for the customer. The standard continual service improvement practices used by information technology organizations do not incorporate the steps necessary to achieve dramatic change. IT organizations should not ignore the opportunity that is created by instilling innovation into how they manage the day to day operations of their business. Taking the time to radically change the “IT process status quo” can not only improve the customer experience and lower the cost of providing service, it can result in increased employee satisfaction and engagement.
Supporting process innovation requires changes to both process development and continual service improvement processes. The more significant change is to the mindsets that exist in the IT organization. Making this leap requires that leaders recognize that not every change will be successful and failure is a necessary part of any innovation. Failure allows staff to test changes, learn from the process, and develop a stronger solution.
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At AdOPT, we focus on culture, strategy, process, and innovation to improve performance, increase customer and employee satisfaction, and reduce costs.