Monday, July 1, 2013

How to Set Guiding Principles for an IT Organization?

Guiding IT principles let the organization know what to expect when dealing with IT.

Principles are statements of values. Things that define why one make a decision one way or another. These core decision values guide the behavior of individuals within an organization. Thus, guiding principles need to be defined as core decision values, "why we make decisions the way we do."

  1. Use guiding principles to provide greater clarification of mission/vision/strategy at a more detail level: Are the principles the statements of direction? Core decision values? Overall behavioral desires? Goals? Cultural attitudes? What is the purpose of these principles? That would help define their content. You will need a cascade of statements that link the overall vision/philosophy (common value-driven target) of the organization, value statements (used to monitor overall performance - how the vision is achieved), Mission/Charter Statements, Objectives, Strategies and Programs (Tactics). These are succinctly described as a common 'Business Planning Framework (BPF)' in the guide.  
  1. Core decision values - principles - should guide the decisions that a person makes on a day to day basis: Understanding the values used by senior leadership to make decisions, consistently applied by an organization, allows all within the organization to make decisions in the same fashion as these executives, and as a result, are broadly supported and are seldom misdirection. The BPF (Business Planning Framework) needs connecting to a Performance Management Framework (PMF) that instruments operations through a further cascade of key performance metrics, linking objectives to daily activities. The principle will guide the attitude to serve your customer (internal/external) and deliver value on time and on budget through always performing at your ethical and personal best. Attitude also includes being part of the solution and checking your ego at the door 
  1. Some questions to ask in developing guiding principles of IT organization:
    1) What is the IT role in your company? Are you there to just keep the light on, or is IT expected to actively take part in strategic and tactical decisions? In essence, are you focused on projects or infrastructure?
    2) Is IT Cost Center or Value Creator? Are you a low-cost internal service provider, or should you be looking for ways to spend a dollar to make three?
    3) What kind of people should be working in your IT group? Do you want techies, business folks, project-oriented people? What rough percentage of each?
    4) How is IT performance as an organization evaluated by the rest of the company? How will you measure success 
  1. Guiding principles let the organization know what to expect when dealing with IT: It serves as a yardstick by which to measure IT internally and externally and can spur some great discussions with fellow C-suite members and business unit management. Sample list from operation excellence perspective:
    • Drive Reduced Costs and Improved Services 
    • Deploy Packaged Apps – Do not Develop – retain business process knowledge expertise - Reduce apps portfolio 
    • Standardize/Consolidate Infrastructure with Key Partners 
    • Use what we Sell, and help Sell 
    • Drive High-Availability Goals: No Blunders 
    • Ensure Hardened Security and Disaster Recovery
    • Broaden Skills (hard and soft) across the workforce
    • Improve Business Alignment and IT Governance 
  1. The guiding principles should cover the customer, people, and quality from a holistic perspective: A sample list could be as below: 
  • Make sure your customer wins 
  • Communicate with your customers regularly
  • Make it easier to do business with us 
  • Respect the organization 
  • Build an organization that is profitable
  • Never compromise on quality 
  • Focus on execution and results when innovating ideas 
  • Always work together as a team
  • Find opportunities to praise your subordinates 
  • Learn something of value every day 
  1. There needs to be a pragmatic way of applying whatever principles to the problem in a consistent manner: Otherwise, it is a waste of effort to even state them. It’s not easy for a set of principles defined that can be applied holistically - their content contains natural conflict, and without a method of prioritizing and implementing them consistently, they become a source of contention. One has to articulate which principle is applicable in which situation? For instance, if a logical breakdown of IT within a business includes something like "shared technology" AND the prioritized principle driving decisions within the tier are "business voice: Prudent financial management", which, for this hypothetical case, implies "minimum diversity, maximum manageability, lowest life-cycle cost, then your decisions for this area, based on these values, would be consistent by all. 
The guiding principle is like the light tower, navigates IT in the right direction and speed up the organization to the well-planned destination. 


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