Ilta white paper high performance it- process and organizational maturity by dave cunningham 2007


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Ilta white paper high performance it- process and organizational maturity by dave cunningham 2007

  1. 1. High Performance IT ILTA White Paper on Using ITIL Practices and Maturity Models in Law Firm ITHigh Performance IT: Process and Organizational Maturity An IT Department’s value is not based on the technology it provides, but on the performance and value of its services. Today, more than ever, an IT department must look beyond being technology-savvy to being business- and practice-savvy. Much of the IT infrastructure is built on standardized technologies and hence, even though they remain complex, should be managed as commodities – for price and performance. It is the alignment of the IT applications and services built on this infrastructure with the practice, productivity, and management needs of the firm that creates the greatest value. Achieving this alignment is difficult. In this paper, I outline a perspective that looks at IT from two directions: IT Operations and IT Consulting. By understanding the different mix of priorities and management goals for these two areas, a firm should be able to better take action to adjust each to improve alignment. I use the term “operations” in a purposely broad manner to include everything about the network, servers, facilities, WAN, telecommunications, and aspects of the help desk. It likely consumes about 70% of your costs, staff, and attention. IT Consulting on the other hand, includes those aspects of IT that work to directly understand and improve the effectiveness of the departments and practices of the firm. Both parts of IT are mission critical. However, they are headed in two different directions.IT Operations You should be streamlining IT Operations. The sheer growth and complexity of technology infrastructure in law firms means that you won’t continue to scale your staffing and budget proportionate to the increasing demands of your business. If you do scale proportionately, then you will be paying for more resources and less efficiency than other streamlined organizations. Law firm IT personnel often work very hard to keep ahead of fire fighting mode, and important elements like business continuity, documentation, proactive monitoring, formal testing, and data management are left on the to-do lists. This results in perpetuating the situation and exponentially increases the effort necessary to manage the growing network. In most law firms, IT Operations acts on an “ASAP” basis, with the assumption that this approach provides the most flexible and responsive support environment and that this is necessary to match the dynamic “everybody is your boss” nature of law firms. While this approach has some advantages, our work with law firms reflectsPrepared for Baker Robbins & Company 1© 2007 BAKER ROBBINS & COMPANY
  2. 2. High Performance IT ILTA White Paper on Using ITIL Practices and Maturity Models in Law Firm IT that an ASAP approach decreases support levels in key areas and generally increases costs and risks. Unfortunately, when we interview lawyers, secretaries and the leaders of other departments in an ASAP environment, they often don’t share IT’s perception that support, fixes, or projects happen as soon as possible. While it may be a case of “you can’t please all of the people all of the time”, evidence reflects how much the expectations of providers of IT and users of IT can be mismatched. Clarifying expectations for service levels and the corresponding roles and processes allows IT Departments to meet these services expectations. These basic steps should cause a rather fundamental change in how IT work gets done. Service Level Agreements: The use of SLAs is a foremost sign of a mature IT organization. Following the adage that you can’t manage what you can’t measure, SLAs provide the clarification of what you are managing and they specify the measures. As the CIO of one law firm told me “It is hard to believe that IT departments are willing to operate without SLAs when they allow IT to specify the investments and staffing necessary to provide the expected level of service. They allow us to reflect the actual performance we can provide.” Two concerns about SLAs often stop their development before they begin. First, some fear that SLAs can lower service levels by setting minimum standards that IT will not bother to exceed, as in “I have another 12 minutes until I have to respond, so leave me alone.” Of course, poorly written SLAs could create such a situation. However, well developed law firm SLAs employ a combination of high standards, priorities, defined VIPs, subjective satisfaction measures and continuous improvement to push performance higher. Second, some fear that SLAs are too rigid for the flexible, custom-fit nature of a law firm. This requires a balance. In some ways, you may determine that certain policies, such as the downloading of unsupported software onto firm PCs, should be more rigid to mitigate risks and allow IT to maintain high service levels. However, a well written SLA itself does not have to be rigid. A guideline we incorporate is to make 80% of the work in meeting an SLA based on standardized, repeatable processes – while making 20% of the effort about “handling exceptions well”. A good starting point for SLAs is with User Support. Such an SLA defines Level 1, 2, and 3 support roles (if such designations are used); timing for problem responses and resolutions; escalations; coverage hours; scope of responsibilities; communications; and other criteria. Introduction of this SLA affects the entire IT organization and can introduce staff to more formally defined roles and processes. The other base SLAs generally center on infrastructure (network, WAN, storage) and core business applications such as e-mail, document management, financial system, HR system and litigation support. In more advanced situations, SLAs focus on project delivery, data management and particular events, such as the opening of a new office.Prepared for Baker Robbins & Company 2© 2007 BAKER ROBBINS & COMPANY
  3. 3. High Performance IT ILTA White Paper on Using ITIL Practices and Maturity Models in Law Firm IT System availability, recovery times, performance and maintenance windows cross each of these SLAs and should be incorporated accordingly. Roles and Processes: Traditionally IT is organized roughly along the lines of infrastructure, applications, support and project management. Many IT changes require resources and coordination across all of these areas. Law firms are tapping into the best practice guidance provided by the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) to define these broad processes. ITIL is not like the ISO standards in which a company becomes certified in its use, but is a set of guidelines that establish the de facto objectives, terms, processes, and roles for managing IT well. While ITIL has been guiding outsourcers and corporations for some time, few law firms have progressed further than manager-level training at this time. It is a necessary complement to the development of SLAs. In fact, if your firm develops SLAs but doesn’t reconsider its processes and roles, then it will likely only increase costs as IT staff levels grow instead of becoming more streamlined. ITIL defines over twenty processes ranging from the management of infrastructure to the approach IT takes in working with users and management. However, a law firm should not consider the goal to be an “ITIL implementation”. It should consider ITIL, along with guidance from other sources such as Project Management Institute and third party experts, as guidance and consider the program to be a “high performance” transition. The IT Service Management Forum (itSMF) is a non-profit organization that promotes best practices in managing IT services. They frame the stages of maturity by using Capability Maturity Models. These are a simple and effective method to rate a firm’s status and desired situation, such as this model focused on processes. Most often firm’s IT processes rate in one of the first three categories. At this stage in law firm IT, we recommend that firms plan to reach the “Managed” stage within 18 months of beginning a transition. The definition of service levels, processes and roles is to be done with the objective of creating an IT department that can handle change better (e.g., fewer incidents, more projects completed on time), mitigate risks (e.g., continuity planning or the dependency on that one IT guy that has the server configurations in his head), make informed decisions about outsourcing and address growth without adding staff at proportional rates.Prepared for Baker Robbins & Company 3© 2007 BAKER ROBBINS & COMPANY
  4. 4. High Performance IT ILTA White Paper on Using ITIL Practices and Maturity Models in Law Firm IT Some firms have very successfully turned to third parties for all or most of the basic IT operations services so that their internal staff could focus primarily on one-on-one support, training and the consulting services described below. It is increasingly common for larger firms to expand the role of third parties in this same vein. By streamlining the IT organization; however, you can be agnostic to outsourcing. That is the approach we find works the best for law firms – rather than assume outsourcing is right or wrong, by comparing internal service levels and costs to third parties, a firm can make informed decisions about outsourcing or know where to fine tune its internal services.IT Consulting IT Consulting, here meant in an internal sense rather than as an external consulting company, is where firms gain the most value once IT Operations are streamlined. As firms increasingly look to technology to help support and improve business processes, the IT Department’s role grows well beyond just installing and supporting software. IT Consulting is about introducing change across people, process, and technology and then working with IT Operations to incorporate these changes into everyday life. In considering internal consulting services, ask these questions: • Who communicates with lawyers and understands how technology affects them? • Who can help design the working practices for lawyer-facing applications, like records management, document management and new matter opening? • Who understands the data stored in each of the firm’s systems and works to ensure its accuracy, integrity and consistency across systems? • When leading IT projects, who is ensuring projects meet lawyer expectations in both impact and timing? • Who communicates with users on how technology changes will affect their role and working habits? • Who establishes the roadmap for how all the firm’s systems work together to help lawyers and secretaries get their jobs done with more effectiveness? An important element is that it doesn’t really matter if these roles are in the IT Department or another business department or even the legal practices. What must be in place are the processes and relationships so that if these skills are elsewhere, then IT personnel know of them and know how to effectively make them a part ofPrepared for Baker Robbins & Company 4© 2007 BAKER ROBBINS & COMPANY
  5. 5. High Performance IT ILTA White Paper on Using ITIL Practices and Maturity Models in Law Firm IT projects and changes that involve the IT Department. Likewise, having staff that report to IT but are embedded outside of IT can also be an effective model. To a large degree, the level of focus a firm has on the consulting aspects determines its overall organizational maturity, as reflected in the maturity model below. Each firm’s situation varies, but we look for law firm IT Departments to reach the “Customer Focus” level. While a “Business Focus” level may be a long term objective, few IT departments have consistently invested and operated at this level as it involves deep integration in the legal practices. Core areas of expertise in relation to consulting include planning, business analysis, application integration, architectures, data management and IT’s relationships with those outside of the department. Planning: In addition to managing the project queue, high performing IT departments participate in planning across the departments of the firm to establish a collective set of business objectives. More day-to-day, planning helps to review and evolve project priorities, service levels, capacity plans, and staffing gaps. Business Analysis and Application Integration: The ability to step outside the context of software and listen to how lawyers, secretaries and other firm departments do their jobs is one of the biggest factors in the relationship between IT and its constituency. At a minimum, this listening can be done in the interest of increasing “usability” of existing systems. Ultimately, business analyst skills work to fundamentally reconsider business processes such as new matter intake or financial reporting. Bringing these business processes to life by configuring an application or by integrating several applications is an aspect of an IT Department that has the most potential to reflect the department’s value to lawyers. Architectures and Data Management: Architectures provide a roadmap and master design for areas such as the firm’s electronic information, applications, network and even the user interface of the system. Having an architecture in each of these areas conveys that you are aware of the current situation (regardless of how many separate systems contain parts of the architecture), and that you have a master plan for bringing it all together.Prepared for Baker Robbins & Company 5© 2007 BAKER ROBBINS & COMPANY
  6. 6. High Performance IT ILTA White Paper on Using ITIL Practices and Maturity Models in Law Firm IT A midsize firm performed an internal audit on how many separate times an employee’s name appears in its IT systems. The answer was 27, and other firms assume that they may be no different. An information architecture, for example, would work toward minimizing this number to perhaps six occurrences and keeping these occurrences coordinated. The impact on user name additions and updates has a significant impact on streamlining IT operations and allows IT to have a higher SLA for user maintenance. Business Continuity Planning: In addition to the fault tolerance and system continuity planning in IT Operations, BCP includes the preparation for ensuring people and processes continue during incidents. These responsibilities may or may not lie within the IT Department, but comprehensive planning and testing cannot focus only on keeping the hardware and software running. IT Relationships: If IT’s relationship with users is primarily through the help desk, then it is unlikely to have sufficient insight and respect of users to carry forward on planning and business analysis. Responsibilities focus on interaction with secretaries, lawyers and other business departments in the firm. Direct client interaction is a bonus but often IT’s focus is on helping lawyers with their client communications. Since relationships can exist for IT at many levels, these responsibilities should also exist at many points, if not all points, across the department.IT Hesitations The changes discussed above are difficult. I have seen IT managers go through stages of denial and then acceptance. This is understandable, as discussions about measures and processes are not often second nature to IT professionals. These perceptions can be expected: Fear of Exposure: “By revealing our existing processes and service levels, we will be showing our warts. Firm management has the opportunity to scrutinize areas where we are not already following best practices.“ Commoditizing the Job; Bureaucracy: “Defining repeatable processes takes a challenging job and makes it more like a factory worker – follow the instructions and don’t think for yourself. There will be lots of paperwork and a dozen approvals to get anything done.” Outsourcing: “Streamlining my role allows you to outsource me. Benchmarking internal services against vendors will make us look bad since we do so many things that are special and custom to our firm.” Rather than address each concern individually here, I can share my experience that good IT staff see the most benefit from these transitions. Senior IT staff is often over-Prepared for Baker Robbins & Company 6© 2007 BAKER ROBBINS & COMPANY
  7. 7. High Performance IT ILTA White Paper on Using ITIL Practices and Maturity Models in Law Firm IT worked because they perform many responsibilities that only they can do well in the existing situation. The objective isn’t to commoditize everybody’s job but to make distinctions between tasks that should be made routine and those that require special expertise to handle exceptions well. The exposure of current practices may be a sensitive topic, but establishing a plan for improving the practices is what management will recognize the most. Overall, I have been impressed with the attitude and involvement level of IT staff going through such transitions once they are underway.Prepared for Baker Robbins & Company 7© 2007 BAKER ROBBINS & COMPANY
  8. 8. High Performance IT ILTA White Paper on Using ITIL Practices and Maturity Models in Law Firm ITInitial Steps The irony of moving toward these improvements is that IT staff is already too busy to change the way work is done today. There is no magic bullet, but it is critical to break down the changes into digestible parts that can provide incremental and immediate value. In many cases, the execution of changes is expected to free up more resources than it consumes which can allow a firm to lower costs and/or redeploy these resources in other areas. Create a Baseline: Every to-do list should start with “have a plan”. If you have a clear technology plan that defines the operating strategies, principles, priorities, and services of IT, then you are ahead of the game. For most firms, a baseline snapshot of the current environment is a practical starting point. If the initial focus is on streamlining Operations, then there is much progress that can be made without a strategic vision tied to the business. A baseline assessment should give you a picture of how well IT delivers each of its services currently, in terms of costs, staffing levels, risks, service levels, design and fit to user needs. By understanding this information by service, you can compare more apples-to-apples to third parties and ITIL best practices. Because IT surveys generally lack detail and comparability, we worked with a consortium of law firms in 2004 to establish a standard approach to categorizing and calculating this information. This allows a fair comparison firm-to- firm. If you are interested in learning more about how to incorporate these standards in your IT department, contact me as we are working to make the approach and the results of the past two years’ assessments more generally available to the market as an index. Develop SLAs: The drafting of service level agreements is a defining exercise for IT managers. It can challenge how managers review their team’s performance. It opens conversations about what users believe is important and how teams within IT communicate with each other. IT must determine what it is capable of measuring in order to know how well it is performing. Because SLAs will be new to IT, you will need to start with Service Level Requirements (SLRs) or Objectives (SLOs) that contain the same information but aren’t agreed (or perhaps even communicated) with the people they affect until IT is ready to do so. Establish Core IT Change Processes: The Information Technology Process Institute studies the common processes of high performing IT departments. It recommends the same order of priority that works for law firms focused initially on Operations streamlining. In summary, these processes include the areas of Release (planning, designing, building and configuring hardware and software), Control (managing changes, assets and configurations), and Resolution (managing incidents and problems). The key theme is investing upfront in processes that allow the organizations to spend as little as 5% of their time on unplanned activities.Prepared for Baker Robbins & Company 8© 2007 BAKER ROBBINS & COMPANY
  9. 9. High Performance IT ILTA White Paper on Using ITIL Practices and Maturity Models in Law Firm IT While it is ideal to work through these three initial steps in order, much can be done in each of these areas concurrently. The evolutions of IT management will continue. These steps to simplify operational effort, while applying service and process management to the entire organization, are signs of a natural maturing of IT in law firms. Fortunately, this maturity reflects that the role and value of IT is increasingly substantially. Dave Cunningham Managing Director Baker Robbins & CompanyPrepared for Baker Robbins & Company 9© 2007 BAKER ROBBINS & COMPANY