An eye opening experience – Gaining the edge and shaping the future
“Connected the dots”, “Lightbulb for me”, “Eye-opener”, “Made COBIT come alive”, “Showed the value of one team”, “Understood the big picture”, “Turned an academic subject into the real world”.
These were just some of the quotes from delegates at the Business and IT-Alignment workshop we ran for ISACA South Africa’s Annual Conference
ITWinners, together with GamingWorks facilitated a post conference business & IT alignment workshop at the ISACA annual conference in Johannesburg. The overall theme of the conference was Gain the edge – Shape the future. It was clear in the conference that it is an exciting time to be in IT. Most organisations are facing a digital transformation, resulting from the explosion in emerging technologies and increasingly important role that IT can play. However it is a transformation that will require new skills and a closer relationship with the business. It is time to stop saying IT and the Business, and start accepting we are all part of the business. This requires a change of attitude, behavior and culture from both IT and Business people.
Business & IT Alignment is STILL an issue….
Business and IT alignment still is, and has been a top scoring CIO issue for more than 10 years. We can no longer afford to fail to make Business and IT alignment, or rather Business and IT Convergence a reality. But how can we do that!?
Recent figures reveal that ‘70% of everything spent on IT doesn’t meet functional goals’ and ‘more than $ 8 billion is lost every year because of downtime’ – regardless of how accurate and absolute these figures are, this type of performance represents a significant risk to digital transformation initiatives.
Considering that this topic has been a top concern for more than 10 years, obviously current approaches to tackling the problem aren’t working.
Grab@Pizza simulation – An experiential learning approach. From theory to practice! From knowledge to results!
The workshop made use of the business simulation game Grab@Pizza, which allowed delegates to see, feel and experience HOW to apply ‘Good practices’ such as COBIT, ITIL and BRM to achieve Business & IT convergence. The simulation helped delegates to gain an edge in developing new skills and shape the future by capturing insights and actions to take away.
Grab@Pizza is a dynamic, interactive classroom based business simulation experience. It is a form of ‘experiential learning’ or ‘learning by doing’.
The backstory; “Grab@Pizza” is a very successful company selling millions of Pizza’s every year. But after 6 months in the current year, the sales figures are far below expectations. IT is posing a significant business risk due to downtime and the inability of IT to respond to changing business needs (Risk Optimisation). The CEO urged the Business Manager to make a challenging recovery plan. This plan is based on a 6 month strategy to bring the sales and profit back on target (Benefit realisation). Existing IT capabilities are poor; resources are tied up in ‘keeping the lights on’ rather than supporting and enabling new innovations. The IT department must ensure the appropriate capabilities are in place to execute the strategic plan and sufficient, appropriate and effective resources are provided to ensure both benefits realisation and risk mitigation (Resource optimisation).
The simulation is played in a number of game rounds and encourages interaction, the exchange of practical insights and approaches, and explores HOW TO use these frameworks and concepts to solve recognised issues. The simulation can be played with both business & IT delegates.
The Current reality – ‘Them and Us’
The first game round was characterised by chaos, unclear roles and responsibilities, ineffective prioritisation and decision making, unstructured processes and flow of work – causing delays and mistakes, and a clear divide between Business & IT in terms of communication and collaboration.
As one delegate stated shaking his head “This is painful and frustrating. It is just like our daily reality”
The team had created a ‘Them and Us’ culture resulting in a lack of trust. This was partly fueled by IT and business both speaking in different terms. The business was talking in terms of business processes and outcomes, IT was talking in terms of infrastructure changes and percentages and volumes of incidents and changes realised. The result of the first game round was $9 million lost due to downtime and $25 million loss of revenue as a result of failing to deploy a new business initiative.
“I‘m not happy” said the CIO “I understand that during the conference they learnt about COBIT, BRM and good practices? Let them show me how they can translate all that theory into practice to save my business”!
BRM meets pragmatic COBIT, ITIL and Continual Improvement
Between game rounds the team explored how:
- the COBIT goals cascade could be used to help business & IT align and agree their strategic goals;
- the IT goals could then be mapped onto the enabling processes;
- the relevant process owners could be given the process enabler actions and made responsible for assessing weaknesses and to identify improvements;
- the BRM role could facilitate a Continual Service Improvement session to capture all identified improvements and help business & IT communicate in terms of business value;
- to gain insight into all types of changes and map these to business benefits vs risk optimisation (business case);
- to use problem management to gain a better understanding of incidents relating to changes;
- to ensure SLAs are related to business outcomes and not internal KPIs;
- to ensure that the Service Desk and Incident management understand business impact of outages to aid with prioritisation;
- to deal with resource conflicts. Not all improvement actions can be implemented at once. As the team had learnt from John Thorp in the ISACA conference ‘The business case is everything’;
- to prioritise. Key to success is ‘portfolio management and performance management’. The team, both business AND IT, agreed how to prioritise their portfolio based on agreed performance goals. Which improvements helped enable ‘benefits realisation’ or help mitigate risks caused by mistakes, delays and downtime;
- to ensure, that for each improvement action the RACI model (for both Business & IT) was agreed, especially the decision making authorities.
From Alignment to Convergence
In the final game round the team acted as a converged team, all focused on the business outcomes.
The processes were aligned. Information to enable prioritisation and decision making flowed swiftly and smoothly throughout the organisation. When resourcing and prioritisation issues arose decision making authorities were clear. Business goals and performance demands (benefits to be realised, risks to be mitigated) drove the prioritisation.
The team built a visible portfolio of business projects relating to changes. All changes had a business case; all were discussed in terms of impact on revenue growth, preventing revenue loss, or the potential damage to business reputation.
Take a look at this video – https://youtu.be/ZlyUjwG39vo
Theory to practice. Knowledge translated into RESULTS!
In the final game round $27 million additional revenue was generated, downtime loss was reduced from $9 million to less than $1 million and the portfolio of projects and initiatives necessary to realise the ultimate goal – The Super Bowl – were agreed and planned. There was clear visibility at strategic, tactical and operational levels.
‘What was so difficult’? asked the CEO (expertly played by GamingWorks own Paul Wilkinson!). ‘Why didn’t you use COBIT, BRM and ITSM good practices pragmatically from the start to deliver value’!
Shaping the Future
At the end of the session we asked the delegates ‘What did you apply today in this simulation that you will now take away and apply in your organisation to help YOU shape the future and bring Business & IT Convergence a step closer’?
- Business representation in CAB – assessment (e.g. benefits realisation vs risk optimisation) and decision making authority).
- ‘Finger on the data’ – quantify business benefit and risks in terms of revenue/value
- Analyse problems properly – Problem management can identify throughout the complete end-to-end chain where ‘value leakage’ occurs and the impact on risks and benefits.
- Problem managers need to learn to make a ‘business case’, this means understanding business impact, business strategy and goals.
- Service desk find out impact on business (BRM can help play a role in this, understand each business unit, their critical business times, the actual impact of downtime)
- No substitute for structured roles and tasks
- Simplify the scenario (end-to-end processes, that are ‘fit-for-use’ and ‘fit-for-purpose. Avoid processes for the sake of processes).
- See the big picture (start with understanding the business drivers and the Goals Cascade).
- End-to-end communication (information needs, priority and decision making) and confirming these needs, ensuring these are then embedded into the processes.
- Value of a BRM – a partner role to both the Business AND IT.
- Business must own everything (projects, business cases, what the NEED vs what they WANT, decision making and escalation authorities)
- Sharing relevant info throughout the delivery chain
- Business & IT must collaborate if we are to be successful. Create trust and credibility and break down the ‘Them & Us’ attitude and behavior.
- Change the language we use, not talking I, but talking business outcomes, value creation,
benefits vs risk and quantifying these in business performance terms not internal IT metrics.
The simulation experience had brought the theory alive. Turning what was seen as an academic subject (COBIT) into the real world. Delegates understood the importance of acting as one team with the business. They had gained an edge in shaping their future by capturing improvement actions to take away and bring ‘Business & IT Convergence’ a step closer.
“Now I need to go back and convince my IT and Business owners to go through this experience” said one delegate.
“Business and IT Alignment is about changing mindsets – the game did just that!” Gary Hardy, ITWinners