An article by Vaughan Merlyn titled; How Many “Top Priorities” Does Your IT Organization Have? is a good one to read.

Mr. Merlyn is a consultant, author, and researcher focused on large organizations. But the concept is also valid for us in the SMB space.

Do you have a laundry list of IT Gotta Do’s?

Prune the list, move them all to the back burner.

Many of them have probably been sitting there for ages and don’t even have value any more as circumstances have changed.

In this post titled; A Decision In Time  I stated;

Any decision that we make in our business is valid only at the time and circumstance where that decision was made.

Guess What. The circumstances have changed

So review those decisions and plan for just a few items that will have immediate impact on business growth, customer satisfaction, or cost reduction.

When you have one finished, sure, review the back burner list and slot in one more.

You can’t drive your car by looking in the rear view mirror.

So keep reviewing, because any decision you make may change the priority of the ones on the back burner vs. one that is currently in the short list.

So if it is no longer a priority, cut it.

Keeping that project going as a priority when your dance partner has changed is just a needless waste of money.

Photo Credit Red-Cyan

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Change Needs You, Or It Fails

February 24, 2009

Change is hard.

And I think it is doubly hard when there is a technology aspect to it.

As Michael Fillios writes here, Change is the heart more than the head.

It may be that sales rep keeping a shoebox full of contact information, or a software coder who refuses to document, it is a people issue, it is an emotional issue.

I don’t claim to have the answers.

Because it is something that I still have to work a on a daily basis.

The SMB Takeaway

As hard as change can be, it will be harder if you as the leader don’t embrace change.

If you do not support change clearly, the message to the people in your organization will be that change does not matter.

That the way we always do it around here will live on.

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NOTE: It was a snowy Sunday a few weeks ago when I cobbled this together, I was sitting watching feathery creatures flit around the yard (image), since then, a few other blogs have articulated the challenge with change, so for some linky goodness;

Olivier Blanchard with Dealing with agents of un-change  and Abandon Yesterday

And Vaughan Merlyn’s series of posts; Marketing and Leading Organizational Change

I write a lot about ITIL on this blog. My reason for that is that I have found that ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) provides a good framework to reduce IT costs and streamline the the processes of managing your technology infrastructure.

ITIL and other formalized frameworks can help provide a baseline on the requirements, inputs, and outputs required to perform a function or supply a deliverable.

But, can you do without ITIL?

In short, Yes.

I wanted to point out a couple of excellent articles that do a much better job at describing this capability than I can.

The first is Dr. John D. Halamka, Chief Information Officer of the CareGroup Health System and his blog post titled; The Broken Window Effect.

In IT organizations the Broken Window Effect can occur when management begins to tolerate downtime, constant workarounds, and broken processes.

In that article, Dr. Halamka does not mention using any framework such as ITIL or COBIT, but he extensively describes their formal change

Broken Windows

Broken Windows

review process, and the critical questions asked to ensure continuous improvement and learning.

The second article is titled; Do You REALLY Have Effective IT Processes? by Management Consultant and researcher, Vaughan Merlyn,  which provides excellent guidance on the Charactersitics of Real Process

Processes tell you how work should be done, where inputs come from and outputs go to, what results should look like and how they should be measured and evaluated

The SMB Takeaway

I urge you to read both of those articles.

As both of these examples clarify, if you already have mature internal controls to identify, monitor, and improve your internal processes, then utilizing your existing controls within IT can generate the same improvements as ITIL et al.

The Value of ITIL

If you do not currently have disciplined internal processes and controls, the third party frameworks (including ITIL) can provide  the road map necessary to begin that journey towards continuous improvement, and continuous learning.

Photo Credit phrenologist

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Dysfunctional IT

September 29, 2008

The following quote by Vaughan Merlyn is geared towards large organizations.

But it is definitely not limited to large organizations. (Emphasis is mine);

..IT eventually finds itself in a vicious cycle – low business demand maturity begets low IT supply maturity.  When IT does get engaged by the business for a new system, it fails to “push back” on the business demand to “automate the manual process as is – don’t make us change the process!”  IT does what it’s told, even if that means customizing the heck out of an off-the-shelf package.  The customization triples the implementation costs, and sends subsequent maintenance costs through the roof.

No small business / medium business manager would state that we deliberately designed and implemented our IT infrastructure to be brittle, fragile and inefficient.

But lack of vision, communication and management will definitely get you there.

And complexity? Its a killer.

Complexity equals Chaos

Complexity equals Chaos

Start now

Design in the processes and tools to ensure that as you grow – your IT Infrastructure (and people) are growing as well.

Photo Credit:Kevin Dooley

ITyrannousauras Rex

September 4, 2008

As I quoted here, Nicholas Carr stated that he would be surprised if ;

“..if …20 years from now there are still IT departments in corporations”

And Vaughan Merlyn pointed me to this “Tech Pros: The Next Dinosaurs?” article by Ben Worthen

IT Evolution is Coming Here

In house IT staff as plugging a PC or server into a wall jack will be gone.

That is not to say that this low level IT work will disappear completely, but it will be a service provider. Somewhere in the phone book between Electrician and Plumber.

IT staff in our businesses will have to be Business IT – part negotiator, relationship manager, and with deep understanding of the interdependencies among data, processes, and the individuals using them.

Susan Scrupski writes that nGenera is already there. 100% Software as a Service. (Saas)

Wanting to or not, we have caught the wave – Now we need to either ride it, or, well, like old T-Rex, be for the archaeologists to look for.

Are you evolving?

Photo Credit: only_point_five

Tyrannosaurus Rex Skeleton

Tyrannosaurus Rex Skeleton

Change – It’s Personal

August 27, 2008

An excellent blog post by Vaughan Merlyn on personal change and change management;

But the real point is a lesson in change management. If my colleagues had known, or had flushed out my personal value system, and related the change in browser to my “need for speed” I would have jumped at the change – no hesitation. Instead, they threw features at me, or benefits that I just did not relate to or was not interested in.

As a Business Technology Manager in the SMB/SME space, I know that change is an ongoing battle.

(you know it is a challenge when I use a word like “Battle” don’t you?)

When I see a phone call that requires 5 people to have a meeting to gather 3 small data points regarding a single project – and I know that I can put those data points within a few mouse clicks – it can seem so obvious to “Git ‘R Done”.

But it is change.

It’s the way it was “always done”

As Mr. Merlyn points out – it all comes down to WIFM – “What’s in it for me”

I know that it is incumbent upon me to present, and articulate WIFM to those 5 people. And I know that I ain’t no natural “sales guy”.

I know that to articulate it, I have to go in with open questions and options – because I will not always know with full accuracy the WIFM buttons of each of those 5 people.

Is it stepping out of the comfort zone? Sure.

Is it necessary? – You better believe it!

Tips from SMB/SME Managers on how they prefer technolgy change recommendations always welcome! 🙂