The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.
I spent my early years in Europe, where travel by train was the most efficient form of transportation. I loved the excursions where we bypassed the Autobahn, moving swiftly across the landscape of Germany and surrounding countries.
Returning often as an adult, I became increasingly aware of the differences in how trains were run by country. Even my kids quickly learned that German and Swiss trains were always on time, while the French trains were often delayed or just plain cancelled. We crossed our fingers whenever we had to jump a train for France.
I asked some Swiss operators why the French trains had such a dismal reputation. They blamed it on the culture — their processes were not as sharp as those of other countries.
December 2010, I had a rude awakening that my internal operations, or “trains,” were more French than they were German. I detailed some of the lessons learned in this post. I realized that our culture, unattended, had drifted. We had no logical processes that were detailed except in the minds of one or two key individuals. Not good.
Around 2 a.m that fateful day, one of my team convinced me it was time for a major change and that we needed uber focus on process. Convince me … Nothing! I was desperate!
Since then, I’ve learned that the majority of IT organizations across all industries don’t have formal process plans. Based on historical success or experience, they operate without intention. Some do extremely well with this non-method; others don’t.
We operated well without a plan for years. But given the complexity in this increasingly digital healthcare world, the risk became too great to operate whimsically. We chose the ITIL framework. I’m not endorsing ITIL, but it is the framework we selected for IT service management.
As a result, we’ve seen significant improvements in our operations. Like most frameworks, ITIL isn’t just about operations, but it is the area we chose to focus on initially.
We started with a gap assessment. Yep, we had holes in our processes, and we knew it. Our train tracks were not always true.
We started to close those gaps, reassess, find more holes, and filled them. We were tenacious. It became one of our top priorities.
Three years later, we won a major industry award for the impact of our ITIL journey. Again, it is just an external validation of what was taking place internally. A complete transformation of our operations. This train is going places, reliably!
This is the video that was shown prior to my employer winning this prestigious award conferred by Pink Elephant.
If you find yourself with operations that are more akin to the French trains than German ones, here are some steps you can take to transform your operations:
- Lead this personally so everyone knows how important this initiative is.
- Hire someone, redirect a current position if you must, to have someone focus 100 percent on your framework.
- Have an external review of all IT service management processes.
- Pick highest risk areas and focus relentlessly.
- Require IT service management certification as a condition of employment (I was in the first class).
- Require advanced certification of all your leadership.
- Everyone takes our classes, including administrative support.
- As momentum grows, add staff as needed to enable transformation, even if it means repurposing existing staff.
- Make your maturity level goals part of your key performance indicators to ensure everyone has skin in the game.
- Invest in an appropriate number of staff to become experts.
- Annual external assessments to review progress to KPI.
- Never lose the focus or determination, talk about it often.
Not everyone will be on board. You will experience pushback from your own team. That is part of leadership. Have the vision and execute. Listen to your team and adjust accordingly, but never lose sight on the need to drive this until IT service management is just a part of the culture and folklore.
Our results on our operational areas of focus:
Area Baseline, Year 1, Year 2
- Service Desk – 2.5, 3.28, 4.04
- Incident Management – 2.0, 3.07, 3.79
- Problem Management – 1.5, 3.13, 3.63
- Change Management – 1.25, 3.10, 3.34
- Configuration Management – 1.0, 3.10, 3.07
- Knowledge Management – 1.0, 3.18, 3.69
We met our KPI by meeting a 3 or greater CMMI level of maturity. We now push towards 4 or greater and have expanded our areas of focus.
An example of how this translates into transformation is our rate of unplanned changes (Emergency and Urgent) has been reduced by over 40 percent. We now have a vibrant service catalog. Ninety-four percent of all team is ITILv3 Foundation certified and 95 percent IT leaders have at least one advanced certification. We now have nine ITILv3 Experts.
But the best part is how our focus on running our trains efficiently and effectively has impacted business and clinical performance. I am unable to share our metrics at this point, but the reason we won the Pink Elephant had everything to do with ensuring the reliability of our systems to enable superior business and clinical outcomes. Simply put, we save lives.
Perhaps your trains run well and IT service management is not an issue for your organization. Bravo. I know this was not the case for us. Today our customers can trust that our trains won’t be delayed or cancelled. All aboard….
Ed Marx is a CIO currently working for a large integrated health system. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. Add a comment by clicking the link at the bottom of this post. You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook and you can follow him via Twitter — user name marxists.