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The Beginning of Good Process Implementation

Many organizations that I meet with often are struggling to implement best practice processes into their environments.  They sound completely overwhelmed and often I hear “Where do we begin?”  I smile and usually respond with “At the beginning of course”.  The beginning of good process implementation of course is “defining and analyzing your customer’s requirements”.  I once read that to provide good services a service provider must have good customers.  I think this statement also holds true for processes as well.  Good customers / employees must:
  • Understand the process
  • Understand the expected results of the process
  • Know where they fit into the process
  • Understand how they and others contribute to produce the expected results
When your employees understand the processes within your environment they can easily identify new customer requirements and positively respond to rapidly changing customer needs.  This is the basis for making it part of the service culture within your organization, ensuring that business and customer requirements are always driving process enhancements.

The first step is to understand when change is necessary and then gather customer requirements for the changing business needs.  This can take place through several mechanisms.  It can happen in one on one conversation or through town hall type meetings.   Some organizations have analysts who manage the relationship between the business and IT and meet with customers regularly to discuss these needs.  Some industry standard techniques that can be utilized are:
  • Surveying customers
  • Conducting needs assessments
  • Creating and agreeing on Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
  • Benchmarking
Customer surveys are a defined set of questions that help IT to understand the how our customers perceive the services being delivered.  We want to define what they see as weakness as well as the strengths of the services and if their needs are being met.  Is the service enhancing their ability to do their jobs?  Value creation!  These surveys can then be used to identify opportunities to create process improvements.
Next we can do a deeper dive by conducting a needs assessment.  This can take several forms and,  used in conjunction with our surveys,  can lead to in depth and complete needs assessment.  By trending data received from our surveys we can then focus further with direct interviews, documentation review and analysis and physical reviews such as formal tours or demonstrations.
Through the use of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) IT and the customer can define and agree on the level of utility and warranty that will be delivered by IT to guarantee that the customers current and future agreed needs are being met.  The service provider must also ensure that the underpinning agreements (contracts, OLAs) are aligned to the SLAs.
We may also want to do some benchmarking.   This is the process of comparing your organizations practices and performance metrics to industry best practices and industry standard metrics.  This can allow you to identify practices and processes in place at other organizations that can be utilized for improvements in your own organization.
Once all of this data has been gathered you can then begin to categorize the data and prioritize your opportunities and options for improvements.  Requirements generally fall into four distinct categories:
  • People
  • Process
  • Technology 
  • Information
From all of these activities a formal Requirements Definition document can be created to define a roadmap for your organizations journey forward.

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