Why Is IT Process Design so Important?

9/12/19 3:54 PM / by Marc Meyer

Marc Meyer

Several laptops over a table of business people workingWhy well-designed processes don’t limit IT’s abilities, they enhance them

Thoughtfully-designed processes are an essential part of any successful enterprise – streamlining tasks and making sure resources are put to optimal use. But when it comes to IT, business processes are often viewed with suspicion – considered nothing more than bureaucratic controls that limit the creativity of tech professionals.

Here’s the thing: when implemented properly, IT processes can be an invaluable tool, molded from the knowledge and experience compiled over many years by a diverse assortment of professionals. They weed out what doesn’t work from daily actions and systematize the best practices.

Not only do well-defined processes create repeatable deliveries and consistent outcomes, they minimize the chance of mistakes. And because most of these processes are repeated so often, minor tweaks can lead to major improvements for the business.

The benefits of thoughtfully-designed IT processes

It’s an unfortunate reality of the business world: nearly 70 percent of IT projects fail to deliver expected business value. While the reasons are varied, a lack of well-defined processes sets the stage, leading to misalignment between the business and IT, lack of controls, an inability to properly manage risks and issues that arise, and inadequate planning and testing.

IT project failures cost the U.S. economy as much as $150 billion every year – and nearly 20 percent of large-scale projects go so badly that they threaten the existence of the company. Such poor results are especially alarming as massive digital transformation efforts gather traction at many organizations, attempting to use new, rapidly-evolving technologies to solve problems, create value, drive efficiencies, and lower costs.

IT business process design standardizes all the activities of an organization related to information technology, with a goal of achieving the highest levels of excellence. Processes can be formal or informal, but documented procedures with a well-tested set of steps generate the best results. Formal processes are especially important when there are legal or financial reasons to perform tasks a certain way.

IT business process design standardizes all the activities of an organization related to information technology, with a goal of achieving the highest levels of excellence. Processes can be formal or informal, but documented procedures with a well-tested set of steps generate the best results. Formal processes are especially important when there are legal or financial reasons to perform tasks a certain way.

In an industry plagued by higher turnover rates than any other, the absence of IT processes also compromises delivery. When critical knowledge is stored only in employees’ heads, projects can fall apart or suffer lengthy delays when a key employee leaves.

Well-designed IT processes effectively serve as a business continuity plan, reducing the time it takes to get new hires up to speed or existing employees to step in and seamlessly take over a project. When the right processes are in place, quality delivery is assured - even in critical or emergency situations and no matter who executes the actions.

Consider these 6 key reasons to have well-defined IT processes in place:

  • Easily identify tasks that are important to your organization’s greater business goals
  • Standardize a set of well-tested procedures for completing important and value-adding tasks
  • Drive efficiency
  • Minimize chaos in day-to-day business operations
  • Set approvals that ensure accountability and optimal use of resources
  • Streamline communication between people, departments, and functions

6 steps to creating agile, efficient IT processes

Of course, poor processes can create barriers to success. It’s essential to design IT processes with the business in mind, ensuring they support business goals and value. IT leaders also must learn to recognize the difference between an IT department that’s run optimally, and one that is broken.

Designing a process around “the way things have always been done” can simply formalize a clunky, antiquated way of work. Building processes that add layer upon layer of sticky, red tape is also a surefire way of killing morale and productivity within an IT department. As automation increases, putting too many IT processes in place can prevent business leaders from accessing the real-time reporting they need to make smart decisions as well.

IT leaders should take time to assess the best way for important tasks to be performed – and how that’s different from the way they are currently carried out. Describing how things are done provides the focus for making them better, leading to more successful outcomes.

Continuously improving and optimizing IT processes helps contribute to business growth and development. Here are six steps IT teams can take to create or improve well-modeled processes:

  1. Document the “old way.” Once you’ve determined what process you want to formalize or improve, document each step of how it’s currently done. Take time to explore each phase in detail; many processes also contain hidden sub-steps. Consult people who perform the task regularly to ensure you aren’t overlooking anything important..

  2. Analyze where problems arise. Dig into the problems that need to be fixed. Speak to the people impacted by the process and find out where they think it goes wrong and any suggestions they have for improving it. Where do customers or team members get frustrated? Which steps lead to bottlenecks? Where does quality go down and costs go up? Which step eats up the most time or causes the most delays? 

    It’s essential to trace the problem to its roots – if you only fix the symptoms, it’s only a matter of time until the problem crops up again. Consult with other teams in your organization about steps they have taken to deal with similar situations.

  3. Redesign the process. Now that you’ve zeroed in on the issues, it’s time to eliminate them. Here’s a word to the wise: involve the people who are directly involved at an early stage. Not only may their ideas reveal new approaches, but they are much less likely to resist changes if they feel part of the process. Conduct impact and risk analyses to spotlight potential risks and points of failure with your redesign. Once you are satisfied, document each step of the new process.

  4. Do your homework before you dive into implementation. Consider the steps you need to take to implement the new process, including guidance from colleagues in other departments such as human resources. Communicate how the new process will benefit the organization as a whole; you may even consider preparing a business case.

  5. Implement the process. Many times, improving an IT process involves changing existing systems, teams, or procedures. You may need to acquire new software, add new skills to the team, or organize training sessions. Rolling out a new process can be a project in itself, and it must be planned and managed carefully. Change is rarely easy and company cultures can be stagnant and resistant to new ideas. Allocate time for dealing with issues that pop up; even better, run a pilot first to smoke out potential issues.

  6. Keep an eye on its progress. Few implementations work flawlessly from the start. After it’s rolled out, it’s wise to closely monitor the new process to make sure it’s performing to expectations. Check in with the people who are directly involved over the next few months to see how they think it’s working and what frustrations they may be experiencing. This way, you can fix minor issues as they occur before they evolve into major problems.

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An exceptional IT consultant can help create IT processes that set your business up for success

When IT processes work well, they can dramatically enhance efficiency and productivity. But when they are poor, they can lead to employee and customer frustrations, project delays, and business losses. A qualified IT consultant can help IT departments design and implement processes that don’t add layers of bureaucracy, but set the business up for success.

 

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Marc Meyer

Written by

Marc Meyer

Senior Content Strategist