IT maturity

Increasing IT maturity: Jumping the (very high) Level 2 hurdle

By |October 31st, 2013|Categories: Leadership|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

I often describe the Level 2 hurdle as the highest and hardest to jump over. I’ve witnessed many an IT organization trip and fall, ending up with the proverbial skinned knee. The biggest tripping point is also the most common one: IT leaders are too accustomed to managing “noise.”

The inclination is often to do something radical—like a reorg—in a desperate attempt to stop the noise. Can you start with a reorganization? Sure. But this only works for organizations at a very high level of maturity, where processes are well instituted. Likewise, it can also work for organizations at a very low level of maturity that lack process rigor, but it will often result in sub-optimization. It’s not about moving things around, it’s about doing things differently.

Getting past Level 2 requires a three-pronged approach:

Stop managing and start leading. This one’s not easy. Leaders at this level have worked very hard to get where they are. They’re confident in what they’re doing and they’re good at it. But when things start to change, the heroics stop mattering to the business and the noise begins, and it only gets louder as time passes. Often leaders make one of two decisions: 1) comply with whatever the business says, or 2) leave. But there is a third choice and it’s to lead, step up, break free from the rut of managing noise, and take the organization to a new place.
Make processes efficient, then effective. Organizations at a Level 2 already have many processes that are installed. Their focus needs to be on making them more efficient, and then effective. Gaining efficiency comes through repeating the process numerous times and measuring the results to continuously improve. As every good designer/architect
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Increasing IT maturity: “You have HOW many Severity 1 problems?”

During a recent call with a prospective client, he informed me that his organization has had 15 Severity 1 problems sitting in a queue for over 90 days. From what I know about this IT organization, and because it tracks its incidents, problems and duration, I would peg it at just over a level 1 IT maturity, where some foundational services are installed but not fully implemented.

Classically, an organization operating at, or just above, a level 1 is focused on “keeping the lights on” activities, as well as “putting out fires.” What’s broken rarely gets fixed because no one has the capacity to diagnose the problem (i.e. root cause) and then implement a change. Likewise, the demand for “getting it done” outweighs the need to do it right.

Here are some other indicators of an organization operating between a level 1 and 1.5 maturity level.

Nothing is tracked well. One former client’s company paid millions of dollars in penalties due to an over-allocation of software licenses because no one in IT was keeping track of the number users during a period of high employee headcount growth.
Documentation is sketchy. Another client’s organization had loads of initial process/software/configuration documentation but didn’t have the discipline, change control, and quality practices to maintain the knowledge as the environment evolved.
IT manages noise. My favorite anecdote is about a senior director who held a one-hour operational review meeting EVERY morning with all her senior staff just to understand what happened over the last 23 hours in case her peers or boss called.

Organizations between a level 1 and 1.5 usually have a myriad of problems across multiple dimensions. Assessing these issues can seem overwhelming. In fact, it’s often the hardest thing for an
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Increasing IT Maturity: Access for everyone, a telltale sign of low maturity

By |September 30th, 2013|Categories: IT Maturity|Tags: |0 Comments

Let me tell you a little story about a company called Acme. (Names have been changed to protect the innocent.) A financial analyst…let’s call him Bob…worked daily in Acme’s financial accounting system.

Since everyone was always busy, and everyone “grew up” together, access and change controls, and roles and responsibilities were loose at Acme. Bob made a few minor data and calculation changes to the accounting system to make his work easier. But he didn’t document or test his changes. Even worse, he didn’t realize his changes impacted the month-end closing application.

When the time came to close the books, the month-end closing application failed. And, as luck would have it, Bob was on vacation and inaccessible. As a result, the company was forced to perform a manual month-end close. Acme’s CFO demanded to know what happened and Bob’s tinkering was eventually discovered.

I wasn’t all that surprised by this situation. Typically, level 0-1 IT organizations operate in a very ad hoc manner. Case in point, at Acme, Bob the financial analyst had the same access rights and privileges as the DBA support person. In these low-maturity organizations, everyone works in an isolated way, focusing only on their individual needs. There’s a general lack of rigor and awareness about the complexity and interdependencies—the cause and effect—between environments.

Our belief is that stabilizing the environment is the goal at this level. In baseball, you have to get to first base, before you can get to second. But defining rights, putting processes in place, and helping colleagues realize that process is not just overhead is downright hard. While every maturity step change has its challenges, at a level 0-1, one of the biggest challenges is the people.

There are also a
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Let’s start from the very beginning

By |September 30th, 2013|Categories: Change|Tags: , , |0 Comments

Hey folks! Welcome to the final quarter of 2013 and thanks for reading the first issue of TransAccel’s refreshed blog. I had a whole blog series planned on the different levels of IT maturity that I wanted to lead off with. You can still read the first blog in that series, but I decided at the last minute to lead with something different.

Two weeks ago, my team and I reached out to our network of past and present clients and colleagues with an update on what TransAccel has been up to. We received so many kind responses with great feedback on our website and more. But we also heard one question consistently: Can you help me better understand what you do?

I’d like to use this blog to tackle that question head on, and I’m hoping that you’ll give me feedback on whether or not my answer makes sense to you. I’m truly looking for candor, advice and constructive criticism. So here it goes…

TransAccel Group is, first and foremost, a management consulting firm. We help organizations improve their performance by analyzing existing organizational problems and developing plans for improvement.

Today, every business change has an information systems component. So we focus our efforts on Information Technology (IT) organizations because of our firm belief that a company can only progress as fast as its IT systems and organizational capability allow.

Our ultimate goal is to help IT mature: develop, grow, and become more efficient and effective. An IT organization with mature capabilities can better support change while one with immature capabilities can and will hinder it.

Since maturing an organization requires extra hands, we also provide the thinkers and doers to help with implementation…what we refer to as the
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October: Conscious Planning

October is probably the most grueling month of the IT planning cycle, given the exorbitant amount of time expended in meetings. Each department—Sales, Marketing, R&D and Manufacturing—will meet with its IT counterpart to plan next year’s projects. These meetings should be dialogue-driven events that result in a shared understanding of anticipated business drivers over the next 12-18 months, current market conditions, emerging trends, and specific strategies to capitalize on opportunities. In preparation for these meetings, it would also be helpful for IT to conduct a SWOT analysis (strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats) comparing your company to 3 or 4 competitors. Not only will this assessment point out technical strengths and weaknesses, but it is always wise to know what the competition is up to.

Unfortunately, October is also a time of enormous pressure, as both IT and the Business push hard to achieve MBO deliverables before the end of the year. Too often, the competing time constraints of completing existing projects while planning new ones causes Business to default on the planning side, leaving IT to design new projects on its own. This lack of input from Business leads to “silo” thinking: “We know what they [the Business] really want or need.”

Now, in a perfect world, Business would remain engaged with the IT Account Manager—the one who not only has the best vantage point from which to understand and articulate Business’s needs, but is also well-equipped to offer ideas and solutions to address those needs holistically (end-to-end) rather than piecemeal. But, if Business opts out and IT can’t get it back to the table, or IT believes it actually can do the planning on its own, the next step needs to be the creation of a business case, or
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Rx: Annual IT Health Check

Welcome to TransAccel’s inaugural blog! I’ve been eagerly anticipating the opportunity to talk to you about what I see as the biggest challenges facing IT and business today. To stimulate my thinking around the new adventure of blogging, I’ve been reflecting on the many years my colleagues and I have strategized, innovated, and just generally cleaned up messes. You have your stories too. This is the place to share them, and we hope you do.

Over the next few months members of my team and I will be writing about:

Where to start? For me it all begins with a good understanding of who you are, where you are, and where you would like to be. And, just as an annual physical exam uncovers potential health issues, we insist on a “IT Health Check” too. After all, how can we know what remedial measures to take without an initial assessment?

Now, it seems pretty obvious that getting an annual check-up is smart and generally contributes to better health, right? Well, how many IT organizations put off a yearly exam and try to self diagnose? Worse yet, how many IT organizations have never even had an exam—you know, an independent review of how they operate? Interestingly, when we do a “Health Check,” we find that most IT organizations today are similar in two respects.

First—and to the seeming surprise of Business—IT is made up of human beings who have the same issues as everyone else: lack of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, inattention to detail, and indifference towards results. Having been in the business some 30 years I can tell you without question that these “soft” skills are just as important as “tech” skills
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