Supporting processes or organizational/business functions such as human resources (HR), IT, procurement, facilities, and legal are called “supporting” for a reason. They support a “main” process – usually the real business of business. This main process benefits from speed, agility, a short time to market, stability, and lack of (process) errors. In other words – the main process is in need of specific VALUE. And this value is derived from good IT, good employees, good facilities, and good partner contracts.

Are different business function processes really that different?

From a process perspective, there’s no need for any significant difference between (the management of) these supporting processes. This is because they are all processes: you add input into activities that lead to output. And you manage this while keeping the value your organization needs to deliver in mind. Plus, no matter the supporting process, ninety-five percent of your time is probably spent dealing with:

  1. Maintaining your process (e.g. IT monitoring, job appraisal meetings, and supplier contract reviews)
  2. Deviations from your process (solving IT disruptions, sickness and dismissal notices, and broken coffee machines). And
  3. Requests for altering the capacity within your process (a new workspace, a job vacancy, a new lease car, or a new supplier).

Yet I’m not convinced that organizations know that they can steer all of these supporting processes in a similar way.

Yes, I know that there are companies where IT and facilities share a point of contact or work with the same tool. And I also know that vendors of tools and platforms have been moving into each other’s domains for years, in order to serve various supporting processes. Where often the argument used is one of saving costs. But what about increasing value?

What about taking an outcome rather than discrete process approach?

Where are the examples of one process owner for issues or incidents, no matter whether these incidents are about IT disruptions, sickness notices, broken company cars, or faulty projectors? And why wouldn’t you use one uniform problem management process to structurally solve repeat IT disruptions and structurally decrease sick leave?

This way, you achieve more than “just” saving costs. You contribute by creating value through a better organizational and personal learning curve. Also, all the commitment to maintain, repair, and adjust these supporting processes comes from one perspective, which should provide the best chance of optimally using these processes to support the main process of an organization.

Increasing the Value of Non-IT Supporting Processes
And that brings me on to ambition.

What ambition do organizations have for optimally applying these supporting processes?

Many companies don’t get any further than the help/service desk operations or tool-sharing perspective. In which case, they won’t transcend cost savings to achieve greater value. As it’s only through taking a business- or value-thinking perspective that organizations get to the point where they can create extra value.

The table below will help when discussing this topic within your organization:

Ambitions for Integral Process Management

Value driven

 

Singular process management

Increasing value creation

Business driven

 

Tool uniformization

Simplifying value creation

Operations driven

Linking processes between domains

Simplifying domain-transcending requests and incidents

Tool driven

Share a tool

One tool with domain specific functionality

Contact driven

 

Share a point of contact

One (virtual) entrance


Finally, and you might have been thinking this while reading the above, many would call this enterprise service management
– the use of IT service management (ITSM) thinking, best practice, and technology in other lines of business (such as HR and facilities). But this is the point – by calling it this and taking a replication-based approach (to helping others to benefit from what IT departments hopefully do well), organizations are potentially aiming for and delivering a suboptimal solution.

A solution that might never go beyond basic service desk operations and tool use, a solution that might continue to be siloed, and a solution that fails to optimize the available business value.

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Michiel is a service management consultant working for Dutch IT service provider Conclusion. He tends to add creativity to boring topics, taking a generic approach to solve specific problems. He has worked as a team lead, project manager, coach, trainer and advisor to customers in all sectors and regions of the Dutch economy. One of his favorite oneliners is “A fool with a tool is still a fool” which also happens to be his Twitter handle. Michiel is a fan of story telling and tends to make (and keep) organizational performance measurable.
  • Jan van Bon

    Michiel – be sure that it’s possible to apply service management for any kind of service organization, or for any combination thereof. Not by using ITIL and making the same mistakes, but by using a methodical approach instead of a best practice approach. And it’s already available in the Netherlands, with the Unified Service Management method of the SURVUZ Foundation 😉