How to manage the demand for your IT services

When consulting, I am often asked about the IT demand, how to deal with it and how to decide what to take forward. I’ve covered the topic briefly in strategy section before. Let’s pick the topic a little.

The way IT demand is managed will depend on the established IT or delivery structure and relationship with the rest of the organisation and maturity of the processes. In short, what we do and how we do it.

It is useful to bear in mind what the business relationship management does in ITSM and value management context – identify, stimulate and shape strategic IT demand. It sets the boundaries of how the IT solutions are requested and delivered. The people in this role work across the organisation bridging the business demand with IT delivery capabilities and tracking the value delivery in the process.

I’ve worked in and with the organisations with clear processes for demand intake, triage, prioritisation, assessment, handover to delivery and later analysis of value produced. I’ve also worked for and with the organisations that have no formal arrangements in place and demand is dealt with on ad-hoc basis. The latter approach may work for small organisations and with low IT overall maturity. When the organisation grows and teams grow however, there’s need to put in place some frames. The easiest is to follow the ITIL/ITSM guidance and establish necessary roles and procedures.

I like to use HS2 as an example where we had no formal way of managing demand for IT. I’m generalising on purpose – there should be a single channel for the (internal) customers to interact with the provider (your IT unit). It doesn’t matter what type of IT product or service is requested, the service management tool or an IT process should make it easy for the customer to do so. We were tasked with establishing a process and sub-processes, necessary gates and such to ensure that:

  1. internal customers can and will go through a single route for requesting new IT
  2. there’s a framework for classifying demand along with investment requirements, reviews and steering groups
  3. requests for new IT are tied to budgetary process
  4. technology debt is effectively managed and…
  5. value is measured

My team’s focus was on strategic demand. By interacting with the customers, however, it became clear that they may not know what they need and may be unable to understand the implications of new IT solutions. We also noted, that our colleagues may describe a desired solution, not the problem. To counter that, we borrowed a note from the UK Department of Transport IT:

“Describe a problem, not a solution.”

After some deliberation and consulting the service management team, we decided to take the next steps:

  1. define the process, role and routines.
    • The process was initially very simple – capture the demand, assess and contact the requester to understand more.
    • Roles were defined as requester, assessor/analyst (IT Business Relationship Manager/Business Analyst), approver (the budget holder and service provider), delivery team (IT service management or project delivery)
  2. establish a service request form in ServiceNow to capture all new demand. The form was dynamic based on the customer choices and sifted standard SR’s to service desk and the rest in to new IT demand list.
  3. set up weekly demand review meetings for initial triage, demand correction and future customer education. Here we agreed who will be part of the initial assessment and expected outcomes.

With such an approach we were able to capture 95% of the new IT demand. By collating all the requests already shared with various parts of the IT, we managed to skim the list of 400 down to circa 120 (a lot were repeat requests and substitutes to existing services). By using ServiceNow routing and custom dynamic forms capabilities we were able to produce intelligent ‘interaction’ with the customer. They felt that they are not asked to describe the same thing over again, just clarify detail.

Once the standard ITSM process was in place, we could focus on strategic demand. For that we used a set of questions that formed basis for the conversation. An example would be here:

What is needed?
Why is it needed?
Who needs it?
Assumed cost and who pays for it?
What gets better?
When is it needed by?
Risks / opportunities?
Link to corp programme?
Other info

This was the initial assessment form and we deliberately chose not to add more information to it than needed for triage – will it go ahead or get rejected. That meant no more than 1-2 sentences per box.

As my team’s focus was on projects, we established a framework for financial and work time impact assessment. For this we set out the following criteria for assessing. Please note that not all may apply.

microsmallmediumlargevery large
CostUp to €50k€50k to €250k€250k to €500k€500k to €1m€1m and above
ImpactSingle directorate / unitSingle directorate / unitMultiple directorates / partnersOrg wide / partnersOrg wide / partners
Delivery timeUp to 1 monthUp to 3 monthsUp to 6 monthsUp to 1 year> 1 year

We anticipated demand to arrive later during the year and thus encouraged our colleagues to engage early and invite us to be part of their thought process. This approach served multiple purposes:

  • it enabled IT to have an early signal of business planning and to conduct internal assessments early, without commitment to delivery
  • it helped to build trust between people and to build up business expertise within the IT
  • it allowed IT to promote existing services and plan necessary changes to those.

The last element, we were asked to do was the hardest – understand anticipated value and be able to measure it. Working with our colleagues from value management team we included a set of goals for any project and measures to track their impact. Each project had to provide at least one of these:

  • improve customer experience
  • improve business
  • streamline processes
  • improve data quality
  • meet regulatory demand
  • reduce duplication
  • reduce technology debt

For example, an initiative to introduce a CRM solution helped to improve customer experience, business processes and data quality while reducing technology debt and meet regulatory demand. In this project we transitioned from in-house bespoke system to cloud-based Dynamics CRM, applied data protection policies, designed easy routes for customers to engage with the team, trained people to use the system. We finally had a single source of truth and were able to effectively respond to FOI’s and data requests. All these were assumed benefits that had values to track against once in operation.

I recognise this blog covered more than just demand management, but the function is quite broad and for it to be valuable, not just a drag on people’s time, it needs to understand both business and IT, and be engaged with both through the demand process.

Want to know more? Get in touch!

Purpose and user needs

Needs must come first…

There’s a transformation going on in many organisations. The focus is less on conventional wisdom and more on what’s actually needed to achieve targets, objectives or need.

New initiatives should always be driven by need. User needs are driven by aspirations, desires and previous experience in situations people find themselves in. In a well functioning organisation needs should stem from personal or team objectives that align with organisational purpose. Overall flow should look like one below.

Still I’m regularly asked “Do you know a tool we could use to do this?”. Default response is to “quantify and define your business problem, and state it clearly”. This is the business analysis phase where business needs to understand their problem, or what they believe is a problem. This is also a point where people often need help form an outsider who is not aware of all the intricacies of the situation or need and thus are not dismissing various options.

Many seasoned professionals tend to stick to tools or vendors they’ve used in the past rather than looking out to market for the most appropriate tool or service that meets their needs. This, however,  expects needs and drivers to be identified, listed and weighted against each other, and existing tools – again, what’s your business problem? Is there perhaps a tool in the organisation that will already met this need? Will it meet 75-80% of your must-have’s and the rest can be done using something else? does this tool need to meet 100% of your need? Are you clear on your need?

Concentrating on user needs gives organisation ability to understand its current capabilities and will potentially highlight training needs.

Focusing on existing tooling limits the choice before it’s clear what drives the user need.

On purpose.

How often do we ask ourselves or others – why are we here? What’s the purpose of this organisation, working group or project? Do we understand this or were we asked to be part of it? Have we worked out the problem(s) we are looking to deal with? Do we have terms of reference agreed?

Purpose is a tricky subject and many I speak to are mildly confused about it. How my output contributes to the cause of this organisation?

I think these are fundamental questions people who make up an organisation need to ask themselves. This sometimes happens naturally, especially during the economic downturns or when people feel stuck. In an ideal situation this should take place during the good times – then this is something to hang onto when things go south.

Processes and visibility

When organisations mature business processes are being drawn up to govern the flow of work. It’s important that those processes are reusable by different parts of the organisation, succinct and easy to understand. Often (if not always) it’s also useful to visualise the business process. People process information differently and pictorials help a lot. However it doesn’t help to discover process works against everyone involved.

In mature organisations the process flows often get muddled and people don’t really see at which stage things are. Is it with me or some other party? Who is responsible for this piece of work? Who needs to do what to progress it to the next level?

This is where business process management comes in. If you are interested to find out how to align your initiatives organisational purpose, get in touch.

Books on work

I have been checwing through a list of books on work and workspace. Read, thought about, considered and discussed with other like-mind individuals:

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

The Smarter Working Manifesto

The Joy of Work?: Jobs, Happiness and You

Business Reimagined: Why work isn’t working and what you can do about it

First book on the list was kind starting point thinking about the work and workplace/workspace as such. What really motivates us to do what we do and how we do those activities. Finding flow as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes here is a truly rewarding feeling, however can be exhaustive after long periods.

Smarter Working Manifesto is discussion about the finding the most appropriate place for tasks we perform – office, home, caffe shop, library, etc. This also lists good amount of food for thought for those planning to offer flexible working to their workforce.

The Joy of Work discusses our relationship with work – why we prefer to work rather than sit idle. Loads of references and long list of suggested reading. Best to read it and conclude whether applicable to your situation or not – Amazon reviews help.

And still to go through:

Planning Office Spaces: A Practical Guide for Managers and Designers

Workplace by Design: Mapping the High-Performance Workscape

Sound Business: How to Use Sound to Grow Profits and Brand Value

The Human Fabric

A Brief History of Tomorrow: The Future Past and Present

Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies

Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness

The Future of Management

The Shift

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