The Best Kept Secret of Well Run IT Departments: Workflow Automation and BPM

Does Your IT Department Feel Like it is not Well Run?

What you may not know about the best run IT Departments

In today’s fast paced corporate environments it can be a challenge for IT Managers to cope with all of the demands placed on them by the rest of the company business units.  Despite the image above, IT is no longer just about connecting hardware.  In fact, there is never a shortage of requests to build applications, solve software and business problems, and automate tasks.  Not to mention the fact that the IT Manager still has to do what he/she was actually hired to do, i.e. keep the networks and computers running free from viruses and vulnerabilities.

The best run IT Departments have a well kept secret, though.  While their counterparts in other organizations are running around like a chicken with its head cut-off, well run IT departments not only have their processes under control, but they also have the processes of the rest of the company under control.  Let me explain their secret.

Start internal and build outwards

IT departments have a lot of processes.  Help Desk and Incident management processes, Employee On-boarding and Access Control Processes, Asset Management, Cloud Provisioning Processes…these are just a few of the critical processes that most IT departments need to manage today.   IT Departments that are well run realize quickly that they cannot maintain these processes in a shared document repository that only gets looked at once a year around audit time.  The IT team needs something functional- not just a reference document that gets consulted every now and then.  Most IT Departments also tend to have the skills to “scratch their own itch.”
In other words IT departments, unlike sales and marketing departments, can usually create the software they need from scratch.  Now this is both a good and a bad thing.  Although they might have developers on staff that can develop internal workflow solutions to meet their needs, the department also needs to realize that this might be as much of a curse as it is a blessing.  It is tempting to just code application after application, but the well run IT departments know that this is not the answer.  Over time it is simply too difficult to maintain these internally built applications.  Oftentimes the original developer leaves the company or the application is built without a long term plan or road map.  So, if the IT department recognizes the need to automate its processes, but also recognizes that building its own application is probably not a good solution, then what is the answer?
Automate on a BPM Suite
The answer is to find a workflow and BPM Suite capable of automating the IT processes.   There are big benefits to putting all of these processes on a single workflow or BPM platform.  First, once you learn to automate one or two processes, automating the rest become much easier.  The learning curve accelerates.  Second, you don’t have to spend time doing true development.  Instead this time can be spent helping understand the requirements and actually implementing the processes.  Third, you don’t have to maintain the code.  Developers on your team can come and go, and the rest of the team will not be left trying to interpret their code.  Fourth, there is going to be an existing body of knowledge around the product, making it easier still to support and maintain.
Thinking Beyond the IT Department
So you want your IT Department to look and feel like this?
Well, here comes the real secret to the best run IT Departments.  These departments realize that by first scratching their own itch, they not only run better themselves, but they are also now ready to go out to the rest of the business and provide a true service.  Many companies now use the term “Shared Services” to describe the types of services that different business units require and that are usually performed by a centralized IT Area.  This IT Area is generally a Cost Center (although I recently ran into a company where it was a Profit Center!).  And these Shared Service Areas need to look for ways to solve disparate problems from different business units while still minimizing their own Spend.
Once again – this is another argument for a BPM platform.  By having a single platform on which to automate the workflows from other business areas, maintenance costs go down, learning and speed go up.  Even better instead of delivering a “we will build it for you on our workflow platform” service, IT departments can deliver a “we will train you and give you access to the tool so you can build your workflows.”
This, of course, is the Holy Grail.  Allowing your customers to “self-help” themselves leads to lower costs, faster delivery, better service, and more satisfied customers.  And, in summary, this is the true secret to the best run IT departments.
The best run IT departments realize that by solving their own process problems first, they will be developing the skills to be able to solve more of the unanswered demands of the other areas of the business.  And, by delivering it on an easy to use BPM platform, these IT Departments realize that they can off-load their work back onto the requester.  And ironically, by doing less work for the customer, the customer actually becomes happier.
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