Are IT Management Frameworks Effective?

Although it can be overwhelming at times, the toolbox of IT management frameworks, methods and standards are a good thing. (Anything that helps us to understand and improve the IT management processes must be helpful, right?) There is of course the question of which ones to implement. The actual modus operandi will be unique to each enterprise, each implementation will vary in its formality and effectiveness, but all are usually based upon a cocktail of some 20 to 30 such IT management tools.

But before, during or even after we embark on one of these framework implementations, we need to ask if this investment is having or will have a beneficial effect not just on the management of IT but also on business outcomes. We should always try to establish what most helps us to achieve successful business outcomes so that we can improve our success rates.

The answer to this question is that failure rates are still running at 80% (consistent with all of the surveys over the last 40 years). Research I recently conducted also showed there is no correlation between successful business outcomes and the use of today’s common IT management tools. It’s obvious that these tools may help us to manage IT but somehow this is not always translating into successful outcomes for the business.

What is clear is IT has adopted an increasingly limited interpretation of the term “service” and this may have limited the value IT is able to add to the business. Even if we implement the latest versions of ITIL, COBIT, Val-IT, eTOM, TOGAF, PRINCE2, etc, and all the relevant ISO/IEC standards we would still only be addressing about 20% of the business need for IT service (and that’s if we did it well).

IT is responding to or anticipating IT requirements, implementing IT processes, using IT resources and often measuring performance according to its own IT success criteria (and largely this doesn’t change in the latest releases and add-ons of the major methods). In doing this IT is more often than not failing the business.

So, in the grand scheme of things, do we address our shortfalls by buying more training in the same methods or do we redefine what we mean by service and set higher standards? Do we simply focus on responding to requirements or shape the business need and help to provide business solutions? Do we refine what will become a commodity or do we solve tomorrow’s business problems?

We may get some short term gain by investing in more of the same or by reviewing our implementation but fundamentally we need a new start. My research shows a strong correlation between success and closeness to the business (in everything from attitude and intent, to action and outcome). This means that instead of passively responding to IT requirements, IT must reposition itself to be an essential, relevant, and responsive part of the business. Instead of applying methods, we must implement a more broadly based, continuous assessment and improvement framework based on business needs. Because this is more challenging, we must also check for any service and skills gaps beyond the scope of SFIA. Finally, we must understand the future because business, service providers, and vendors who get it will be more successful than those that don’t.

David Miller is the owner and managing director at ITDYNAMICS and is a senior figure in business and IT having formerly held director roles at British Rail and at CSC UK. As MD of ITDYNAMICS he now works with organisations as a board level consultant orinterim managerto plan and manage business change. David is the author of Business-Focused IT and Service Excellence.