A migration to the cloud is a significant decision in any organization. Akin to traditionally outsourcing a service, moving a service to the cloud has an operational impact that needs to be absorbed by the organization as a whole. As more organizations look for ways to do things more efficiently and as many others take the cloud plunge, it’s more important than ever for organizations to understand all of the processes that make the business function. Without that understanding, adequately integrating any service that is procured becomes tremendously difficult. Implementing a new service often means integrating with existing systems. That requires knowledge of process, systems and the communications traveling up and down the chain. However, the real work happens side-to-side. Processes shift responsibility as they move through their lifecycle.
The CIO chair
CIOs and IT departments are uniquely positioned either to lead or participate substantially in an organization’s efforts to modernize its business processes. Most processes and activities today are deeply linked to technology and have direct support of the IT group. Further, IT departments are generally involved whenever new systems are brought in due to the need to integrate these systems with the rest of the organization.
As such, CIOs and their staff members are well positioned to add significant value to organizations by leading process review and re-engineering efforts. Personally, I’ve led process review and revamping efforts, and it’s been among the more rewarding activities in my career.
Process re-engineering requires that participants think outside the confines of their own positions within the organization. They must be open to changes rather than automatically seeing them as a threat or personal criticism. I like to share three primary ideas with stakeholders who might be participating in such efforts:
- People do not own processes. The organization owns all processes.
- Positions are process “stewards”. The organization delegates responsibility for stewarding a process to a position (not a person).
- The people who hold one of these positions assume responsibility for this stewardship activity during their tenure. As a steward, it is this person’s responsibility to ensure that the process is carried out and, if possible, improved. “Leave it better than you found it” whenever possible.
I like to remove some of the focus from the people side of the equation for several reasons, including:
- Participants in a process review need to take an objective view of specific business activities. Considering oneself a “steward”, which implies a temporary responsibility granted by the organization, as opposed to an “owner”, which implies total control of the activity, can help people accomplish this goal.
- People have vested interests in what they do. This won’t ever change, and it shouldn’t, at least to a point. We want people to feel responsible and do their best. However, when all stakeholders for a process come together, we also need them to avoid becoming defensive.
- This review focuses on the process and the organization rather than a personality. These processes will continue even after the present custodian leaves the position or organization. Therefore, it’s important to build those processes around positions rather than personalities.
Remember, the goal here is to create processes that provide value to the organization. Such value might be the fact that the process supports one or more key organizational goals or provides top-notch customer service.
Action Item: Obviously, it’s impossible to change people’s worldviews overnight. If your organization has been siloed and insular, it will take time for people to become comfortable enough to break down the barrier. By starting with a discussion around changing the mindset for how processes should be viewed, you will provide participants in the process review with a powerful tool that helps them to abstract themselves a bit from the process and begin to look at the task more objectively than might otherwise be possible.