Meet Trixie, a twice-rescued dog with whom my wife and I have joyously shared our lives for the past few years. She's of indeterminate age and breed(s), but is definitely still a happy puppy at heart.
Trixie is only the third dog I've lived with full-time, so I wasn't nearly as familiar with dogs as companions as my lovely wife, who had dogs around throughout most of her life growing up. So between living with Trixie and my very dog-friendly wife, and thanks to the Animal Planet and Discovery television channels and lots of reading, I've learned some things. Some of which actually apply to IT and its transformation, so bear with me a bit longer, please.
As I see it, every domesticated dog has a role – think guard, watcher or companion – and a goal – primarily approval of the pack leader, whether human or canine. (Dogs are so focused on this goal that they will tailor their behaviors based on those of us human pack leaders, separately from what the dogs are actually feeling – or not feeling.)
Seems to me this "role-plus-goal" dynamic is a description of every job held by every human on the planet. Further, it seems to me that for too long, IT people have had their role and their goal confused.
Too many IT people for too long have thought that both their role and their goal are to "run IT." I beg to differ. "Running IT" is IT's role, and a tightly constrained one at that. IT's goal, and its far more important goal, is (or should be) to serve the business.
This is a relatively subtle shift in linguistic terms. Perhaps no more than a verbal quibble. In real life, though, it is nothing less than transformative. And it is the critical attitudinal transformation that must happen before any meaningful transformation of IT or the enterprise can take place.
Once this attitude shift takes hold, IT leaders and their teams can and do begin looking less at the IT they're running and more at the processes they're using to run it. They also can and do begin looking more closely at the processes that run the business, and for opportunities to align their own efforts with those business processes and goals.
Once started down this path, the IT leaders and teams I've seen and heard about quickly revise the criteria by which they judge their success in their role. It stops being about how many incidents, trouble tickets, servers or applications they're "managing." It starts being about how much they're contributing to the smooth, agile functioning of the business.
And that's how meaningful IT transformation begins, accelerates, and promulgates beyond IT across the enterprise.
IT revamps how it does, views and measures all of the tasks involved in "running IT," framing these in terms of effective delivery of IT services to the rest of the business. As success with this approach broadens and deepens within IT, those responsible for delivering other shared services take note and seek greater collaboration with and support from IT. Teams responsible for HR, facilities management, financial and legal services and other business-critical areas begin adopting IT's successful tools and processes. And lo! True, enterprise-wide service relationship management emerges.
Of course, there are many intermediate steps and significant obstacles between today's reality and this vision of a kind of "IT Nirvana." One of the biggest buyers and users of enterprise IT is the US federal government. ServiceNow underwrote a January 2014 in-person survey of 138 federal IT professionals, on the subject of shared services. The survey was conducted by MeriTalk, "a public-private partnership focused on improving the outcomes of government IT," according to its Web site. Some key findings, as reported by FCW:
- Culture is a more significant hurdle than security.
- Nearly 90 percent of respondents believe cloud computing is transforming views of shared services.
- The top three criteria respondents cited for success with government-wide shared services: senior leadership support (81 percent); service level agreements (SLAs) (75 percent); and a governance process for IT services (66 percent).
- Respondents believe that shared services can save as much as 34 percent of the total federal IT budget, the equivalent of $27.9 billion.
If you're using ServiceNow, you've already got a head start on two of these three criteria. But even if you're not a ServiceNow user (yet), you can and must start transforming IT at your enterprise by refocusing IT's view of its role and goal. ServiceNow can help a lot, but you should keep in mind the answer to the question, "How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb?" "Only one – but the light bulb has to really want to change."