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Reaching Normalcy with Operational Excellence

Feb 5, 2015
Posted by: GZupan
Category: General

With statistics, "normalcy" is achieved when special cause variation is eliminated. In business, "normalization" is defining business processes, training for universal understanding and monitoring to help reach productivity goals. In society, cultural "norms" vary between different audiences, thus conformity is not easy to achieve. How can businesses influence paradigm shifts in IT targeting an ideal state for enterprise-wide adoption?


The Operational Excellence for IT (OpEx4IT) business model has three separate audiences: customers, operations and management. Based on meeting the needs of customers, management's strategic planning determines objectives and deliverables to influence operations by targeting goals. Operations staff should understand their role and responsibilities to decide their individual contribution in reaching those goals. When management lacks adequate understanding of the current state, strategically planned changes may not align to the true needs of the business. In turn, traditional autocratic leadership makes decision from the top-down, which can lead to confusion and disagreement, as well as, higher costs and customer dissatisfaction. For effective OpEx4IT integration many frameworks and methodologies can help reduce this negative effect. This can be promoted by applying five industry wide business models:


1. Agile Scrum


Agile Scrum is a software development method that steps away from traditional waterfall / Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC), promoting creativity and autonomy within development groups to achieve goals considering user experience (UX). Based on a Google trending report, Agile is growing in popularity. Agile uses a short development life-cycle focusing attention on prioritized needs while considering dependencies. This builds close-knit teamwork driven by UX. The Scrum framework limits hierarchy with clear roles and responsibilities to promote quicker turnaround. Agile Scrum is best applied for new software design, and not for IT support framework.


2. Business Process Management (BPM)


Based on the same Google trends report referenced above, BPM has received little attention. Top-down driven BPM verifies that managerial strategic plans align with operational processes. Base service offerings are defined before integration, focusing resources on targeted service delivery goals. BPM produces documents and workflow diagrams involving the input of key stakeholders, i.e., service definition, business process definitions, service/operations level agreements, and roles and responsibility definitions. These concise service guidelines help reduce obscurity and build uniformity to align interpretations (customers, operations and management) with existing and new services.


3. IT Foundation


The Enterprise Architecture (EA) method basically embeds a conducive relationship between managerial strategic planning and idealistic IT engineering. Application of EA aligns development to meet internal quality and marketplace legislative standards. While incorporating EA in design, the improved quality standards within IT infrastructure result in lower costs in the long term.

Following integration, a standardized IT Service Management (ITSM) framework, also titled Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) version 3, instills consistent architecture, terminology and monitoring capabilities. This industry-wide standard framework gives separate service areas a common approach in how to structure and support IT. A foundational part of ITIL is monitoring "the pulse" of service delivery and customer satisfaction with dashboards showing metrics. IT knowledge and autonomy as a foundation builds a culture of quality. Quality focus improves productivity by promoting long-term investment rather than fire-fighting. BPM, EA, and ITIL culminating within the IT culture results in reduced problem occurrences and lower cost sustainability.


4. Business Process Improvement (BPI)


The BPI is applied when oversight or monitoring of key performance indicators show a negative trend. Another name for BPI is continuous improvement following certain methodologies, i.e., Lean Six Sigma and Kiazen Events. Empirical, root cause analysis is needed when complex problems are not easily resolved. Workouts sessions determine solutions to problems with universal support. Reconciliation best occurs before piloting changes to manage any incorrect interpretations or assumptions. BPI exposes stakeholders to empirical evidence supported by data to help reach a consensus with solutions.


5. Business Process Re-engineering (BPR)


BPR can greatly ease barriers faced within an enterprise. To redesign a business service, product, or core competency requires lateral thinking or structured, innovative ideation, which produces an opportunity to shift standards. Here are some examples of transformational changes:

  • Horse Carriages to Automobiles
  • Film to Digital Camera
  • Cell to Smart Phones
  • Cable to Digital Streaming
Service Models
  • Waterfall SDLC to Agile Scrum
  • Plan Do Check Act to Lean Six Sigma
  • IT Help Desk to Service Desk
  • Hospital healthcare to Healthcare On Demand


These examples are industry "disruptors" maturing over time, leading to shifts in customer's preferred practice or product. It can take time for the consumer market to accept paradigm shifts. Within sub-functions delays in accepting change will always occur. IT optimization has intensified since the early 2000, dot-com bubble recession. The globalization of market competition has led to role and function being replaced with IT automation. For example, IT virtual cloud capability, creating a virtual machine by copying several files with little configuration time, has significantly reduced throughput-time, cost and electrical waste. Privacy and trust must also be considered; legal barriers like HIPAA, intellectual property may lead to limited acceptance within the IT cloud marketplace. When successful, BPR can influence disruptive changes to leap ahead and have greater influence on market segment acceptance.

When dramatic change is needed to compete within the marketplace, significant barriers can complement the maturation process. The creative, early adopters of change endorse ideas as role models to motivate general acceptance within the audience(s). This BPR renovation is orchestrated with leadership, or conductors, and mentors, working in alignment with BPI, BPM, and Agile Scrum to help motivate new product market acceptance or adoption of standardization. Simplification of the vision is essential. I also like to call this "the dream" or ideal state.  Allowing autonomy promotes self-actualization. Marketing can capture a simplified understanding and help motivate this paradigm shift. Everyone must be able to envision "the dream."

To achieve this idealistic vision of OpEx4IT standardization requires time, coaching, mentorship, and openness to change. For acceptance of the five elements discussed (i.e., Agile Scrum, BPM, IT Foundation, BPI, and BPR) a simplified model of these ideas needs to be universally understood. Leaders by vision, on-line education, and mentorship influence change and bottom-up collaboration. Continuous improvement at the operations level drives business maturation. To achieve normalcy or standardization, management must sponsor innovation in a systematic manner to limit staff saying "I just do what I'm told." With Agile Scrum, there is silo or concentrated application, while the other methodologies have monitoring. It's vital to control the strategic goal alignment with tactical program/project management oversight. It also requires sponsors and champions that are motivational endorsers of the integration efforts. To achieve smooth operations and positive social media recognition, businesses must mature to a simplified, normalized OpEx4IT business model. Cultural endorsement motivates autonomic incentives leading to process normalization, i.e., mitigating risk of special cause variation within the operations of the service lines. This improves awareness, agility and motivation providing the evolutionary leverage needed to compete within tomorrow's marketplace successfully.

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