The Right Way to Establish ITSM Accountability
Making specific leaders or teams responsible for particular ITSM metrics bridges the gap between understanding how to reduce incidents and making it actually happen.
Accountability clearly delineates what is expected and what will happen if those expectations are or are not met. “The foundation of establishing accountability is the principle of Behavior Must Equal Consequence,” writes the Center for Management & Organization Effectiveness. “When people do not believe that their behavior will result in a consequence, they are free to choose any behavior that feels good at the moment.”
Furthermore, when accountability is clear, lead roles and the employees that support them can become more aligned on their goals and have those goals reinforce a specific business requirement, unifying everyone’s vision of success.
IT teams can establish accountability in the following ways:
- Assess current IT challenges and how they relate to business needs not being met
- Define which ITSM metrics will be used to measure success
- Assign roles and accountability for meeting specific metric goals connected to IT challenges
- Set clear (and realistic) expectations, including rewards for success and consequences of failure
- Monitor applicable ITSM metrics and provide continual feedback to those accountable for them
Identify IT challenges connected to business requirements, and narrow scope to determine priority metrics
Every push to solve an IT challenge (or achieve a strategic vision for the future) should start with the business requirement connected to it. For instance, reducing incidents increases the amount of productivity within the organization thanks to fewer outages and lowers operating costs.
From this perspective, a broader IT challenge can be redefined as a specific business-facing problem. Then, a goal can be set with a corresponding metric to make measurable, objective progress towards improvement.
|IT Challenge||Questions to Ask||Defined Goal||Connected ITSM Metrics|
What incidents tend to create outages?
What services or applications are most affected?
|Reduce X incident type that leads to outages most often||MTBF|
What apps are mission critical for productivity?
What are their trends in major incidents that prevent their use?
|Reduce incidents for X application, or improve the MTTR for associated incidents||
Incidents over x days
MTTR for incidents with x application
|Improve Efficiency (costs)||What types of incidents or what assignment groups lead to the biggest costs?||Lower costs associated with use of outside service provider vendors for specific asset types||Money spent on vendor outsourcing|
Defining metrics not only lets individuals know what to measure and monitor, but also allows IT leaders to assign accountability for each facet of the larger business objective.
Establishing accountability in IT for priority metrics, and setting clear expectations/consequences
Identifying priority metrics and KPIs is not enough on its own. Someone must be given the role of being accountable for that metric. Ensure that the right person is being given responsibility, too. Sometimes, for example, the team with ownership of a specific IT domain is different from the response team, leading to a disconnect in priorities and visibility of the problem.
Anyone accountable for a metric must be able to claim ownership over their goal of improving it. This includes the autonomy needed to choose team members, suggest process modifications based on data feedback, and potentially even forge new processes.
“Governance enables the creation of a setting in which others can manage their tasks effectively,” writes one ITIL expert resource, meaning that individuals can only reasonably manage that which they have some control over.
In some cases, it may even be appropriate for IT project heads to define their own goals. As Entrepreneur observes: “When employees feel they’ve helped in setting the goals, a sense of buy-in results.”
Setting concrete expectations can be handled in a similar manner to an SLA. Those with ownership over the performance of a specific metric can be given a measurable standard to tie their progress to increasing a system’s MTBF by a certain percentage each quarter, for example. Most importantly, individuals must know what the consequences of either meeting their targets or missing them will be, with a greater emphasis on rewards than disincentives.
These arrangements can be revised in an agile fashion over time to adjust goals and accountability parameters in response to data and evolving business requirements.
Measure and respond to IT performance metrics to follow through with accountability
The primary goal of establishing accountability in IT is to lend clarity to business roles, including consequences. A lack of consequences muddies the waters.
Accordingly, progress on ITSM metrics requires continuous monitoring and response. This progress should be visible to senior leaders and their teams using data that is complete, relevant, organized, and up to date.
Teams should ideally reconvene monthly or weekly to proactively monitor their goal progress. If someone with an assigned role is not on track to meet their upcoming targets, they should develop a plan that can address the deficiency and put their team back on track. If targets were unrealistic or the person was doomed to fail because they had the wrong role or didn’t have true ownership of the business problem, roles and targets should be revised accordingly.
This process allows individuals to take ownership of project goals, follow through with those goals by tracking objective metrics, receive feedback on their ability to hit targets, and understand the consequences of success or failure. That is the true nature of accountability, which is, in the words of the Harvard Business Review, “not simply taking the blame when something goes wrong,” but rather, “about delivering on a commitment. It’s responsibility to an outcome, not just a set of tasks. It’s taking initiative with thoughtful, strategic follow-through.”
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