Make ITSM More Relevant to Business with BPM

Ann All
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14 Tips for a Successful ITIL Implementation

Tips on completing a successful IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) initiative.

I'm not a business process management expert. But I've met and interviewed quite a few of them. Those discussions have helped me develop a pretty good sense of some common problems that hurt BPM initiatives. I wrote about one of them, a tendency to focus on technology and tools rather than actual processes, just yesterday.


In my post I cited an eBizQ discussion in which several experts offered their own takes on problems. An issue mentioned by Thomas Olbrich, co-founder of taraneon Consulting Group, was the inflexible way many organizations approach BPM. All too often, he wrote: "once you design a process and put it into operation, you are actually setting a mark the world around has to accept and follow."


A closely related issue that seems to dog BPM, at least in my opinion, is a tendency for organizations to treat it as a destination rather than a journey. Business processes are constantly changing and evolving, yet organizations don't always update their process models to keep up with the changes.


Andrew Brummer, USA country manager for ICCM Solutions, touched upon this in our recent interview, telling me that the business managers who often lead BPM projects sometimes forget about the "continuous" in continuous improvement. He said:

If you look at why BPM has failed to live up to expectations, most projects were led by a business unit manager that gets the value of using business improvement technology to create a business process. What those business managers don't do is create a service improvement team whose job it is to ask, "Now that I've invested in this and have the skills and the know-how, what else?"

And that is where IT organizations can help, he said. IT has long embraced the idea of continual process improvement, by adopting the IT Infrastructure Library ((ITIL) and other frameworks. Said Brummer:

... That drive has to come from IT in terms of the creation of a service improvement body. It's not in their commercial interest for business units to create a service improvement body. IT, because of ITIL, is the operational business unit that has landed with the responsibility of creating a service improvement team. That team has to demonstrate itself once. Then more business stakeholders will start paying attention to what is going on.

But first IT must realize it can apply IT service management ideas like thinking logically, looking for efficiencies, negotiating organizational change, developing processes and introducing automation (all mentioned by Brummer in our interview) to non-IT processes. He suggested digging into messages in email inboxes, "looking for things they've been asked to do, have tasked someone to do, have asked for an approval or been asked to approve something," to identify processes in need of improvement.


He mentioned the employee onboarding process as a likely candidate. Not surprisingly onboarding was also tapped by Nathaniel Palmer, principal and chief BPM strategist at SRA International, editor-in-chief at BPM.com and executive director at the Workflow Management Coalition, as a logical candidate for a first BPM effort. I cited his advice, and suggestions from analyst and systems architect Sandy Kemsley, and Steve Russell, SVP of Research and Development and CTO for BPM software provider Global 360, in a post on how to pick a first BPM project.


ICCM likes to promote the underlying BPM architecture of its ITSM software as a key to making ITSM more flexible and relevant to business stakeholders. Brummer told me:

... As soon as you bring BPM into that operational efficiency continuous improvement discussion and give the service team a tool they can use to mold how the organization behaves, it makes continuous improvement an executable, rewardable, trackable, auditable activity.

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