From Vertical to Horizontal – What?

This is the second in a three-part series:

The key to shifting to IT as a Service (ITaaS) is to orient your focus on the customer experience. Think of the example of going to a white tablecloth restaurant. What would a memorable dining experience feel like? What goes into providing an exceptional experience?

There are many touchpoints when the restaurant has an opportunity to create a favorable or unfavorable impression. They include the physical environment (parking, waiting area, bar, noise level, seating, lighting, view, etc.), everything related to the food (planning the menu, purchasing ingredients and preparation) and all matters staffing (hiring the right people, training and having the appropriate staffing level). All of the elements affect how you feel about the overall dining experience. Just because the food buyer found great tomatoes this week doesn’t ensure you’ll have a five-star Yelp rating experience.

Think about how this maps to the services provided by an IT function. It’s really not that dissimilar, as I’ll review below. Let’s start by thinking about what we do in three major phases – design, build and run, as illustrated in our Wipfli ITaaS framework.

vertical to horizontal

Designing Business Capabilities – “Design Phase”

Within information technology, there must be considerable work to understand the business plans and needs. Based on discussions with the various Wipfli industry, service line, niche, regional and specialty groups, there is a long list of needs, projects, upgrades and opportunities. This input shapes demand for improvements to current services; changes to existing tools, applications and systems; and completely new capabilities.

Through governance, budgeting, further analysis and some careful behind the scenes arm-twisting, a rolling list of “demand” is developed.

Building Infrastructure and Systems – “Build Phase”

The demand list drives project planning and resource allocation. Effective, agile project execution adds value through the enhancement, maintenance and/or addition of infrastructure and systems. We help provide business value by providing associates new capabilities. We enable the business, we don’t install technology – anyone can do that! A Dilbert comic that illustrates this point has stuck with me over the years.

There can also be “portfolios of projects” which are grouped together. For example, there could be several annual infrastructure upgrades that are group together for implementation. “Office Infrastructure Upgrades” could include switching, storage and server upgrades (the typical way we have approached these projects in the past).

Effective Service Delivery – “Run Phase”

Service delivery is where the customer’s experience is realized. The first and last impressions are created at the point of service delivery. Is it easy? Does it work consistently? When there is a problem is there an effective troubleshooting process?

Effective service delivery doesn’t happen by accident. The problem/incident process, transition from project to operations, change management and related processes need to be designed and constantly improved upon. The focus must be on the customers “moment of truth,” which happens each time they use their technology tools.

Obviously a critical and very visible part of service operations is the service desk or help desk. The problem/incident process is most effective with a quick diagnoses and remediation. With timely root cause analysis and deployment of a fix, there can be fewer incidents for each problem.

The best incidents are the ones that don’t happen.

Problem avoidance is driven through effective transition from project to operations: testing, documentation, training and communication. Change control also helps contribute to this problem avoidance. Effective management of assets, configuration data and service definition can also help avoid problems or make root cause and remediation efficient and effective.

Next time you’re dining out, try applying this design-build-run framework. What did you notice that contributed to an overall positive experience? What went on behind the scenes that contributed to the experience? How does that align with what you do in your daily work?

Learn more: Transformation to innovation. Changing the way IT and business get done.

3 Comments on “From Vertical to Horizontal – What?”

  1. Fascinating stuff, Mark. When I started here about two years ago, one of my highest priorities was to move from a technically to a business-focused culture in our IT shop. One of the first things that I did was to have all of my staff ask the question, “What’s the business problem that we are trying to solve?” whenever a request came in from a business partner, and I’m so pleased to say that we are now seen as a true business partner rather than a technology implementer.

    Looking forward to the third in the series, and then I’m planning on spending a team meeting discussing it. Thanks for articulating the concept so understandably!

  2. Ken says:

    Great series, Mark. It speaks to me. 🙂

  3. […] of the other retailers should take note. Much like my previous posts on IT as a Service (here and here), we need to thoughtfully design the experience we desire. If not, we’re just standing around […]

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