The role of IT in process focused organisations
IT departments are often accused of not understanding the business, and it is true that the business rarely understands what the IT department does. To an IT manager achieving a service level availability of 99.95% might represent a great year and result in a bonus, but to the business, if the downtime occurred during a key trading window then IT has failed. So how can we resolve this anomaly, and how can Business Process Management help?
I believe that IT and business needs to become more focused on customer facing processes where IT is part of a cross organisation team measured on achieving process success. Consider the function of producing client reports within a financial services organisation. The target success is that 100% of client reports are delivered on time each month, with outperformance achieved by beating targets. It makes sense for all staff, including those in IT, delivering this process to be rewarded when these targets are achieved. The traditional model would see middle office staff challenged to meet the key business target and IT staff with an unrelated uptime, or response time measure. Providing a business focus for IT will encourage IT to make sure adequate support is available, and that appropriate capacity has been provisioned. It will get IT and business on the same page.
For this approach to work, a senior manager needs to be made responsible for delivery of each process, which in most organisations will lead to a degree of matrix management. Over the years I was always told that matrix management is bad and should be avoided, but I don’t believe that now. I believe that optimum performance comes from being a process focused organisation. That doesn’t necessitate the need for immediate restructuring as most benefits can be achieved using matrix management.
Identifying key processes and establishing a matrix management structure for selected processes, will allow organisations to become more responsive to customer needs. It will be easier to support continuous improvement of these key processes as staff from all disciplines will be rewarded to do this. From an IT perspective, it will allow the benefits of a functional structure to focus on delivering scalable, robust and affordable infrastructure and systems, whilst better understanding the various business activities which rely on those IT assets to be available.
Business Process Management provides the toolkit to help organisations design, implement, measure and improve these key processes. An investment in a BPMS, will further improve control, visibility and acceptance of this improved way of working, but this should only be done once the high level structures have been designed. To learn more about BPM, please contact Lithe IT and ask for Anthony.