Campus-wide Technical Support.
If we’re really trying to help people with their technology issues, nothing we “suits” do can beat a thoughtful, skilled technician meeting face-to-face with the person who needs help. We have it wrong if we focus too much on redrawing org charts and pondering from our silicon towers about what systems to put into place, what new models to draw or design. On the other hand, such ponderings are still valuable. They help us get to a shared understanding and agreement on the bearing of the organization — something that is necessary for any team. And creating processes for efficiency at getting customers what they need just makes sense.
So, in running a pretty large support organization, I want to do it right. And where can I look for inspiration? Surely somebody is already doing a good job of providing support for their organization. I could travel around and visit the organizations that are doing it right and learn from them. Better yet, maybe I can find someone who will travel and do the research and report the results. Ah wait, that’s already in place: the folks who documented the best way of doing things based on what everyone else is doing, are the folks who wrote the ITIL books. ITIL, the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, offers the best we have when it comes to synthesizing the best practices of IT shops around the world.
Decided. We will take ITIL as the collected best practices of all things in IT, adjust them for my organization here at CU, and do it. Good. Planned. Ready.
Here at CU’s Office of Information Technology, we are pushing forward with ITIL and I’m involved in a number of pieces of this effort. At the same time, our CIO is getting interested in Business Process Excellence (BPE) as a guiding principle and methodology. BPE is coming in as a top-down management mandate: We will do BPE in everything we do. Hey, I’m good with that. I believe in the stuff that BPE talks about: good processes, everyone facing in the same direction by understanding our goals, and paying attention to how we each are contributing to get us there. I like the focus on continual improvement as championed by Demming, who happens to be the mentor of our resident BPE expert.
So, does this mean that we should drop ITIL and replace it with BPE?
Nope. We do both.
We do ITIL and BPE at the same time. (And while we’re doing both of them, I’m determined to keep in mind that the real need is for good people helping folks from a place of technical competence and human compassion.) So, how do ITIL and BPE fit together? Here’s an initial take on this — acknowledging that I’m still at the beginning of understanding BPE and I’m still a beginner with ITIL too:
ITIL and BPE
ITIL serves as a very helpful framework showing what all IT shops need to do. We do things like Incident Management with the goal of restoring service as soon as possible, Request Fulfillment where we are an organization that helps get people what they need, Problem Management where we investigate the root cause to determine a permanent solution or work-around for particular issues. And, we do a bunch of other things. ITIL defines 26 processes and functions. And at CU’s Office of Information Technology, we’re just getting serious about this ITIL effort.
ITIL talks about all the different things an IT shop should be paying attention to and then it gives pretty high-level view of how to accomplish each one. But, it leaves the details up to the individual organizations. BPE, at least in the way we are experiencing it through the consulting arrangement here at CU Boulder’s OIT, is very prescriptive.
ITIL has a process called Continual Service Improvement, which is near-and-dear to my heart since I’m tasked with making it happen at CU’s OIT. Business Process Excellence offers a prescriptive method of practicing continual improvement. Both ITIL and BPE mention Demming. BPE tells us exactly how to do it. Excellent! Thank you BPE.
ITIL talks about Problem Management which is all about getting at the root cause of a problem. BPE talks about root cause analysis and practicing the “5 why’s” approach.
ITIL has Portfolio Management. BPE talks about choosing and stating what your organization does and doesn’t don’t do. Same same. BPE says how to do get there.
Business Relationship Management in ITIL seems a lot like the customer relationship management practices BPE talks about.
Both ITIL and BPE talk about measuring things. BPE talks about gathering good data. Jeffrey Luftig likes to say “the plural of anecdote is not data.” His point is that we need real data to analyze. ITIL talks about Key Performance Indicators per ITIL process. And what do you do with Key Performance Indicators according to ITIL? You measure against them. Numbers. Measurement.
The similarities continue. The differences are also informative.
BPE pays attention to certain things that are in ITIL, but not everything. ITIL talks about Content Management Database and Configuration Items. BPE has no interest in them except that they help get us to a better operating organization.
BPE goes into great detail about how to improve those things we do (which ITIL calls Services). ITIL doesn’t go into as much depth.
In essence, ITIL covers the wide spectrum of an IT shop’s role. BPE goes into depth and detail on those things that are common across business.
As I gain a better understanding of BPE and continue to expand on my knowledge of ITIL, I hope to give better explanations here in this blog. Until then, please leave comments below on whether I got it right.
People who helped with this:
Marin Stanek – has a good sense of BPE and ITIL and has helped frame the relationship between them during our many enjoyable meetings.
Jon Giltner – inspired me yesterday with his interpretation. This post is basically a transcription of his thoughts mixed in with some from Marin and others.
Jeffrey Luftig – is the BPE King at CU (and the world) and his presentation to the OIT team serves as a good foundation of my understanding.
Steve Oulette – is the BPE King #2 at CU. He is very helpful, easy to talk with, and I look forward to talking with him more.