August 2017: Your organization’s technology team needs to deliver consistent, verifiable results so your business can say yes to new opportunities. Yet growing companies can struggle with aligning IT operations and business objectives because they’re so busy doing other work.
In this second installment of our series on IT and business goal alignment, we look at why IT policies, processes and procedures are so important when it comes to scaling, accountability, managing change and more. Start by asking these three important questions about your organization:
1. Do you have guiding principles for consistent results and accountability?
Clear guiding principles for IT allow your organization to develop policies for effective IT management. Guiding principles form the foundation of a successful IT operation by providing an overall vision and guideposts for measuring success. Communicating your IT principles to your team helps them better understand and follow the policies, processes and procedures that flow from them. This in turn can move an organization from operating chaotically or in a state of perpetual response to functioning as a lean, mean, business-goal-meeting machine. Plus it holds employees accountable all along the way.
For example, if a guiding principle is that the organization needs a secure file system to protect against hacking and data theft, then the company’s policies will only allow employees to access the files they need for their work product. They might need to access some additional files temporarily and can get permissions for that, but when the work is done so is the access. The guiding principle sets the stage and the policies that flow from it protect the data by reducing the number of ways that hackers can get at it. Of course, it’s faster to cut corners and let everyone have access to everything but that goes against the guiding principle and overall business objectives.
2. Can your processes and procedures be taught and verified?
Your IT processes define how your organization follows its guiding principles and your IT procedures explain how the processes actually get done. Organizations often run into trouble because new employees can’t deliver with the same quality as people who have been there for years. The problem is usually because processes and procedures haven’t been well defined or explained to new employees. Yes, it takes time for an organization to codify its own best practices and it’s not the most fun project on the table. But without making the effort to put processes in writing in a teachable format with built-in ways to verify that they’ve been completed correctly, new hires will take a lot longer to ramp up. And if different team members deal with IT in different ways, you open up the organization to discrepancies, imbalances and maybe even lawsuits if there are problems related to employee or customer privacy.
Institutional memory is important and valuable — so put it in writing! When you teach people how to handle IT issues the right way, it’s a lot easier to leverage your IT to meet your business goals.
3. Do your methodologies ensure you can manage change effectively?
The quality of an organization’s IT processes and procedures impact its ability to manage change effectively. In real life, opportunities present themselves unexpectedly — and so do challenges. Your IT needs to be ready.
Companies that can absorb and manage changes effectively are the ones that grow and thrive. Following a set of IT standards, such as ITIL, is critical — the heavy lifting has already been done for you and effective processes and procedures for change management have already been defined. Best practices include assigning owners to each IT area, such as infrastructure, apps and support, and having each owner conduct impact analyses to look at how changes might affect the business. When your IT methodologies ensure the business can achieve what it wants when it wants, you know you’ve reached alignment Nirvana.
Here are some specific questions you can ask to see how you’re doing:
- Is your team able to hop into action because it knows how to coordinate their activities? Or will they wing it then go back later and fix it?
- If a board member or auditor asks for your incident response plan, is it presentable? How about your authorized use policy or your remote access policy?
- What are the steps of your HR offboarding procedure?
- If you had to double your workforce in three months, do you have a model to follow? Do you have the assets and processes in place to allow them to be productive right away?
- Could the policies, processes and procedures you have right now prevent you from taking advantage of an opportunity that comes up tomorrow?
In short, is your IT ready for your organization’s next step?
Team, tools and budgets
Last month we discussed having the right IT team in place for meeting business goals — the people responsible for your IT are key to growing your business. Next month we’ll take a look at how the right IT tools make a difference and how you should budget for an IT operation that supports the business.
At Leapfrog, we believe IT exists for one reason — to help companies achieve their business goals. For processes and procedures, Leapfrog uses the global ITIL framework and for special projects we use Agile. The tried-and-true default IT policies and procedures we’ve developed over time work well for most of our managed IT services and if they have unique requirements, we customize to meet their needs. And everything is documented so we are fully accountable. We’d be happy to discuss how you might be able to better align your IT process and procedures with your business goals — just give us a call.
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