Best Practices for Maximizing Efficiency: Governance and Optimization

By Dennis Drogseth EMA, Vice President In my last blog, I talked about “IT Cultural Transformation and the Elimination of Technology Silos.” That blog keyed on four key areas of advice, which also provide a useful foundation for the topic of “Governance and Optimization.” These key areas include: 1. Standing in the middle of the storm –This means looking at the interdependencies between process, technology, and organization/culture as they impact your particular objectives and environment. Too often these areas are dealt with separately, without appreciation for how technologies such as automation and analytics may impact process, for instance, or how process best practices may impact organization and culture. 2. Defining particular versus generic objectives – Too often IT initiatives are not well grounded in clear objectives that reflect meaningful priorities specific to the unique environment at hand. Governance and optimization can only be addressed once you have adequately addressed the question, “To do what, exactly?” 3. Defining objectives with an eye to your resources – This area is the focus of our blog today. We’ll look at assessing priorities and applying meaningful metrics to your initiative. 4. Promoting dialog and communication – Nothing is more critical than good communication (including listening) with both stakeholders and executives. The set of metrics you decide on for governance should be a product of dialog, executive buy-in, and ongoing socialization.

Assessing Priorities for Governance and Optimization

One of the first things you should do—whatever your initiative—is to socialize your initial plan with the executive community, and then with stakeholders. This also means listening to and documenting their priorities. You will usually find that opinions differ, priorities don’t align, and perspectives on technology resources conflict. For instance, in a single ITSM initiative, EMA documented the following priorities across multiple stakeholders:
  • Asset and configuration management
  • Application dependency mapping
  • Change management
  • Enterprise view/portal
  • Problem management
  • Release management
  • End-user experience
  • Patch management
  • Retiring assets
  • Security
  • Compliance
  • Portfolio management
  • Virtualization
Needless to say, there’s no way to create a workable first-phase plan with appropriate metrics and objectives around such a broad palette of processes and technologies. Establishing this type of list is in itself valuable—as it provides a snapshot of IT priorities. But it needs to be whittled down based on readiness and need, and even on the willingness and enthusiasm of critical first-phase stakeholders.

Creating Metrics for Governance

Too often metrics for IT initiatives evolve out of the “politics of pleasing” as opposed to well-grounded project directions. This invariably results in disappointment, disenchantment, and misdirection. It’s critical to set meaningful metrics based on your first-phase plan. For instance, metrics associated with asset management might be associated with the following broader objectives:
  • Cost savings from improved compliance with SW licensing agreements
  • Savings on license, support, and maintenance contract costs for devices that no longer exist or need to be licensed/supported
  • Documented improvements in the level of accuracy for costing out services to customers
  • Improved ability to integrate and retire new assets in terms of time efficiency, cost efficiency, and service impact (downtime)
  • Number of assets mapped to appropriate security parameters
  • Completeness of mapping of assets to owners
Each of these metrics is, in reality, a departure point for more granular metrics based on expectations for improved processes and enhanced technology investments. Ideally, each detailed metric should have a stakeholder associated with it, either an individual or a team that has full buy-in and is committed to both the objective and outcome. One of my favorite examples of metrics involved telephone or Internet time spent in searching for the right CI owner by Level 1 service desk employees when unplanned incidents occurred. Once CI owners were mapped to critical CIs, this company saved nearly $100,000 in Level 1 search time, which they called “mean time to find someone” or “MTTFS.” The following are a few examples of initial planning metrics for change management:
  • Reduction in number of unapproved changes detected
  • Reduction in number of change collisions
  • Reduction in number of failed changes and re-do’s
  • Reduced cycle time to review, approve, and implement changes
  • Reduction in time to deliver/provision new application services
  • Reduction in time to onboard new employees

How to Use, and Not Obsess about, ROI

All return-on-investment (ROI) values should include OpEx (team/time) costs and CapEx (technology) costs and should map these costs to achieved outcomes in terms of IT efficiencies, service availability, improved end-user productivity, and other business outcomes. While ROI is often the first thing people like to use to highlight effective governance and optimization, the reality is that all ROI values should evolve out of solid dialog, planning, and project management. Doing the opposite—starting with a pie-in-the-sky ROI number and then trying to backfill a plan for getting there—is a sure recipe for failure. Moreover, most ROI is not “pure.” If you are doing a change management initiative, you should expect to see improved service uptime, improved IT efficiencies, and possibly improved asset lifecycle management savings as critical IT assets are better identified and managed and unused assets become more visible. However, trying to pretend that your core change management team and its associated technology investments are responsible for ALL of these benefits is duplicitous at best. What you’ve really done is create a better foundation for your entire IT organization to perform more effectively—a bit like installing a transit system in a major metropolitan area. Trying to claim that your team did it all is bound to make you unpopular and may even discredit you as you plan your next-phase objectives.

To Sum Up

Governance and optimization go hand in hand, and they depend on dialog, socialization, prioritization, and metrics. Moreover, governance should not be approached as a generic exercise, but rather as a highly individualized set of processes, metrics, and communications based on the unique IT environment at hand. We at EMA have seen many IT initiatives go awry by ignoring these two key points. But once the right process gets underway, you’ll find benefits at every step—as the realities and potential of your own IT organization become more solidly defined, and your ladder for improvement becomes a reality.