Guest Contributor: Isaac Sacolick, President | CIO, StarCIO
If you can fully define what the new normal is and how long it will last, then you are one step ahead of many of the experts. What we can safely say is that people, families, and organizations must prepare for months, if not years, of uncertainty.
There are many unanswered questions for organizations around their business models, customer needs, and operations. For IT leaders, that translates to frequently changing priorities. Just look at the last several months as organizations shifted from executing business continuity plans to supporting remote working and operations, then to planning office reopenings, and onto establishing a longer-term hybrid working model.
Over the last decade, many IT organizations adopted Agile methodologies, DevOps cultures, and IT services to better support ever-changing priorities, ill-defined requirements, and feedback from stakeholders. CIOs, IT leaders, and IT teams must push these practices to their limits to elevate IT resiliency, partner with business stakeholders, and demonstrate where IT services can deliver business impact.
Before I share some examples, I hope you answer one question honestly:
Are the tools you're using to manage IT processes, including Agile backlogs, DevOps automations, incident management, and IT services ready to deliver and easily improve these capabilities rapidly?
Think about your history of implementing, upgrading, and integrating these workflows. Can you implement a service in a few hours, integrate workflows in a sprint, and deliver services that employees want to use?
Here are five ways to improve IT resiliency:
1. Measure and Improve Employee Experience
If you think times are stressful for people in IT, it’s equally difficult for employees who must adjust their business processes to new priorities and remote working. Many employees are fully relying on technologies to perform their work and require easy-to-use, integrated, and high-performing applications to improve the productivity and quality of their work.
So how well are applications performing? What are some new areas of needed integrations? What applications require enhancements? Most importantly, do you know whether employees are happy with the tools, data, and technologies provided by IT?
Many IT departments have been reluctant to interview or survey employees on their satisfaction, opportunities, and pain points with IT services. Others that have done yearly “check-the-box” surveys should review the questions and increase the frequency of surveying employees. Employees are often customers of IT’s services, and during uncertain times, it’s best to schedule frequent dialogs and conduct surveys to capture satisfaction and understand shifting requirements.
2. Partner with HR on Services for Employee Safety
Every business and office has different considerations on how to help employees remain safe when coming into the office or working remotely. The location of the office, number of employees, layout of the office space, and type of work performed are all factors in how HR must set policies and guidelines.
And guess what? They need tools to communicate with employees and ideally help them determine courses of action.
Now, do you want to comb through pages of material published on the intranet, or do you want to answer a few questions and get personalized help based on HR’s policies and guidelines? I’m pretty certain that most employees prefer the latter and don’t want to be inundated with too much information. Developing safety services is a perfect opportunity for IT to provide personalized information to employees and partner with HR on updating the information as circumstances evolve.
3. Develop Business Services as a Service
IT isn’t the only department providing services to other areas of the business. Almost every business function offers services that should be cataloged, have tools to enable intake, support workflows to prioritize and assign the work, and deliver reporting on key performance indicators.
However, many departments may not have the tools to make services available and transparent to the organization. Or maybe they do, but the department manages the work through email or other tools that make it difficult for employees to make requests and for others to serve them.
But most IT departments have tools for different types of workflows. Marketing departments are often interested in Kanban or even scrum tools to manage their work. At the same time, field service teams may need simple tools to open tickets, report on work status, and close out completed work.
Resilient IT teams seek opportunities to leverage the tools and practices they have in underserved areas of the business.
4. Integrate IT Application Support from Incident to Agile Development
Many IT departments have embraced DevOps as a culture that aligns development and operational teams. They’ve invested in practices that enable Dev and Ops collaborations and tools for automating integrations, deployments, infrastructure configuration, and end-to-end monitoring.
Now, let’s take the elevator up a few levels and ask some tough and honest questions.
- Are your department’s Agile, DevOps, and IT service management tools and workflows fully integrated?
- Are the optimal people alerted to provide support to major or critical incidents?
- Are defects automatically generated from incidents and closed when releases include fixes?
- Are playbooks available so that tier-one support functions can answer questions or address issues without escalating them?
- Are requests reviewed regularly to identify pain points and opportunities for IT to develop new or enhanced solutions?
- Are performance reports shared with those most responsible for developing and supporting the underlying systems, and are they used to prioritize changes and enhancements?
- Can support and incident management teams easily trace a problem to changes that might be root causes?
These are sample questions that should help tease out the effectiveness of tools and processes used by IT to provide development and operational services. If you answered “no” or “sometimes” to many of these questions, then this is likely a good time to bring teammates up the elevator and discuss process improvements.
5. Drastically Simplify IT Complexities
Let’s review my last two points on whether IT can easily help business teams in developing service management tools and how well IT can easily integrate workflows between Agile, DevOps, and IT service management functions.
Here are some questions: How fast can you develop service centers? How easy is it to integrate workflows and data across teams? How hard is it to enhance and update services? And are the employees using these service tools, or are they working around them because the experiences or user interfaces are overly complex?
As President of StarCIO, I have the opportunity to review and assess many IT organizations and their readiness to support digital workflows. I see many good intentions fall short on execution. Why is that you ask? Because IT often underestimates the complexities of managing too many tools and integrating workflow and data between them. If there’s one tool to manage Agile backlogs and scrum, and a separate tool for IT service management, many in IT believe that it’s straightforward to integrate them.
So, how’s the configuration of workflows and integration working out for you?
Even though there are APIs, integration platforms, and IFTTT tools available to ease integrations, many IT organizations stumble or fail to integrate workflows sufficiently. There are many reasons, but the common thread is that different tools deliver workflow experiences from different operating perspectives. They leave IT leaders way too much work to figure out handoffs from one process to another, terminology alignment, workflow responsibilities, and end-to-end reporting.
The result is that I hear IT leaders say the right things but miss delivering on expectations. When I see this happening, I ask a simple and straightforward question. Are your IT tools for managing Agile, workflow, DevOps, services, and incident management holistically working well for you?
Isaac Sacolick, President of StarCIO, guides companies through smarter, faster, innovative, and safer digital transformation programs that deliver business results. He is the author of the Amazon bestseller, Driving Digital: The Leader’s Guide to Business Transformation through Technology, industry speaker, and blogger at Social, Agile, and Transformation.