I’m a process person, so when my boss suggested I go on ITIL training, I jumped at the chance. Seriously. I love this stuff! And I was delighted to find that we had an excellent instructor – Barry Brown from Pink Elephant. He has a great way of using stories and analogies from his life to illustrate his point. One of the things we’ve talked about is why IT doesn’t plan better. Below is The Deming Cycle, a 4 stage cycle for process management developed by W. Edwards Deming. Basically, it goes like this:
First you Plan the project. Then you Do the project. Next you Check or audit your project. Then you Act by analyzing differences noted by your audit.
Sounds good and has been proven to work.This simple model has been credited with having a significant impact on the manufacturing processes in Japan as well as in other countries and businesses around the world, time and time again. But IT tends to jump right into the middle, to the Do stage, and skimp on planning, short circuiting the process and potentially leading to all sorts of undesirable effects from overworked IT staff to short-sighted solution implementations. Why is that?
Here’s a theory – often Business doesn’t give IT time to plan. It’s not that Business doesn’t know about the benefits of planning. Here at Microsoft we’re just wrapping up the planning for our new fiscal year which started July 1 and let me tell you, there was so much planning being done by the Business that my head hurt. Somehow though, in many companies, the expectation is different when it comes to IT projects.
Perhaps it starts with the Sales department (those troublemakers!) when they promise the customer a service that IT doesn’t have the capacity or infrastructure to handle. But the promise has been made and IT is good at what they do, so they deliver. Because IT delivers, Business assumes this is the norm. The next time, it’s the Customer Service department that procures an application, and then turns to IT for the implementation. And so on and so on.
Now before you go blaming the suits, consider this: IT is responsible for managing this expectation, not Business. How do you do this? Meet with the key Business owners in your company. Go for lunch. Have a coffee together. Be proactive about building those relationships, having those conversations and helping Business understand how a more proactive IT department, one that has a seat at the decision-making table and that is part of the planning process, can help the company sell more widgets, save more money and become a leader in the marketplace.
[This post also appears on the Canadian IT Manager Blog]