Relationship Management is an ITIL Practice and one that we teach in our ITIL Foundations certification course. In class, I typically start our conversation with a broad question of “How well does your IT group manage your relationships?” The answers can vary, but most often I hear the words “good” followed by responses like “We can give them anything they ask for” or “We can usually help if they reach out”. The phrases are familiar enough that teams don’t think twice about saying it aloud, but I believe a deeper, widespread issue is contained in these statements.
In this day and age, technology is inseparably threaded through our products and services from inception to support. ITIL Foundation's Relationship Management practice advises us that because of this our IT groups have to stay in close alignment with business outcomes. We do this by clearly understanding the needs and drivers of all stakeholders. Most of the teams I get to work with BELIEVE they are doing just that, but the statements above are how they describe it. To their credit, if they have an open door and the ability for users to make requests, doesn’t it make sense that through those requests they would understand the needs? I would answer with a lighthearted but emphatic NO.
The problem with this approach is that the stakeholder has a clear view of the need they have, but the clear view of the best solution is often held by IT. So, when our IT teams just take the requests that come in (aka “order taking” or “being reactive”), the organization unknowingly settles for a less than optimal solution and is less likely to achieve their desired business outcomes. This is the reason our IT departments can’t operate as islands. Because tech is deeply threaded in our products and services, the tech team must be deeply threaded throughout the organization. By practicing good relationship management, IT is more in tune with the stakeholder’s needs/drivers. By understanding those needs/drivers, they are infinitely more able to contribute solutions (aka “make recommendations” or “be proactive”) that will drive the organization’s growth.
3 Things You Can Do To Take Steps Forward:
1. Attend department meetings of the business lines you support.
Your stakeholders don’t know what they don’t know. One of the best ways to proactively contribute is by being in the loop on the normal business conversations.
2. Conduct DILO's (Day in the Life Ofs) with different types of users you support.
Sometimes users are “unaware of the water they swim in” (people get used to things over time). As a great IT partner, you can spot pain points the business line might not even realize exist.
3. Analyze your incidents (things that are breaking)
Incident trends are often a clue to root cause issues within the business and the IT team has the macro-level visibility. Proactively matching these problems with solutions not only reduces incident workloads but moves the business forward.
ITIL Foundations is so integral to everything we do. If you want to see your organization succeed, ensure your IT team is taking the right steps to be proactive.
What are the main obstacles your group has faced in being proactive?
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