The Challenge of Process Driven IT

Organizations responsible for IT inevitably realize that they need to move from organic skill-driven improvisation to a more formal process-driven model. The good news for these organizations is that there are plenty of frameworks out there for process-driven IT. Whether you pick ITIL, Microsoft’s MOF, or some other option, the real challenge in transitioning is not in finding a process model, but molding your organization into shape to use that model.

To use ITIL as an example, you can think of ITIL as a blue print of a race car engine. Very few organizations out there are “race cars”. So even with the blue print, it’s quickly evident that some features of the process may need to be left out. The first challenge is thus determining what parts of an ITIL process are critical to your organization and which ones you can or want to leave out.

Then the next challenge is taking that customized blue print and turning it into an actual engine. For IT, that means finding tools and infrastructure to automate, measure, and manage the process in question. Different tools may be needed for different environments (if you don’t have any Microsoft servers, there’s not much reason to buy SCCM), but any process driven model requires tools to embody that process in the world of the concrete servers and network devices.

The third challenge is the big one. Up until now, your work on processes has likely been constrained to a subset of your organization. Installing this new engine into your organization is the trickiest part of the move to a process-driven model. It’s also the challenge most likely to be underestimated until the moment it strikes.

Organizations fall along a spectrum – some are already process centric and are ready to unify their informal processes into a full scale process-driven model. At the other end of the spectrum is the organization that is run by insular “key people” who resist documentation and processes at all costs (whether for job security or other reasons).

In the metaphor of an engine, some organizations are like a sports car; it is relatively easy to install the high performance engine and get on the road to great results. Other organizations may be more like a train; the theory behind an engine is sound, but both the organization and the process will need work to make them mate up and function correctly.

At the other end of the spectrum, your organization may be like a sailboat; you can see how the engine would be useful, but it’s not immediately clear how to make it fit. Or even worse, your organization may be like a horse; what you need isn’t a process, it’s a organizational overhaul!

Almost any adoption of process-centric IT requires an organization to rethink not just processes, but the very fabric of the organization of itself. You may need new roles not just at the bottom of the org chart, but throughout the organization in order to fulfill the requirements of your new process model. If you’re growing towards a process-driven IT model, make sure to think about the organizational impacts early!

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