3.3. Aligning with Business Objectives
Another good, early consideration when you're working to establish a process program is to align the initiative up front with the organization's business objectives. This may seem obvious, maybe even a given, yet it's one that can be easily overlooked. There can be a number of reasons for this. Often the champions that are striving to create the program simply assume that any process will further the business goals. Likewise, management may assume that the team chartered with program development is naturally keyed into the strategic business objectives.
But for an improvement program to be successful, it must not only fit the organization well, it must serve the organization well. It should be designed so that it finds its natural place in the order of the business. To do that, you should work with management to consciously tie the program to the company's business objectives.
And to do that, it's helpful to understand where the organization stands in terms of its strategic and tactical performance goals. You can use this positioning to derive the high-level process needs of the organization and then shape an approach to address these needs. Two activities are helpful here:
3.3.1. Elicit the Business Objectives of the Organization
Most successful process improvement programs share at least one thing in common: their processes are aligned with the business objectives of the organization. Business objectivesexplicit, conscientiously designed, and carefully articulatedare a key component to how any organization operates. Business objectives define the organization. Your IT shop (whether it's a group, a department, or a division) exists with a specific purpose. It has a defined job, and the outcome of that job should promote the goals of the IT organization as a whole. The business objectives encapsulate this purpose. These business objectives then should serve as the foundation of the process program you create.[*]
Usually management owns the business objectives. And so it's a good idea as you set off on this initiative to work with management to collect and document the business objectives that your program can help promote. Study the objectives. Analyze them. Once you know what is important to the organization, you'll be better positioned to create a relevant process program.
Look at these examples of business objectives:
These sample objectives can deliver tips that will help you shape an effective program. First, they tell you that management is concerned about on-time delivery. So maybe your program should set into place some tools to support on-time delivery. Network uptime is also important, with a goal of 97 percent. So, maybe your program could include some measurement and reporting techniques to monitor uptime. And management would like to see project activity increase. So maybe your program could include a set of project management components designed to better control project activities.
Understanding the business objectives will take you a long way toward shaping a sound process program. And if you are able to show over time that your process program really is addressing management priorities, then management will probably provide the support you need to see the program continue and grow.
(On the other hand, I have been in situations where management hasn't taken time to document or think through its business objectives. If you find yourself in this situation, if the objectives are not readily available, then work with management, even in a casual way, to determine what the program should accomplish from a business perspective. Treat these as the beginning objectives and incorporate them into your plans.)
3.3.2. Map Process Goals to the Objectives
The operational activities you'll formalize in the process program should be constructed to further the goals of the enterprise at large. And so the objectives defined for your groupand reflected in the design of your process programshould be shaped to support those of the enterprise. That's why it's important to use the objectives you identified earlier as a basis to build the process program. You will be able to show that you have a successful process program in place when you are able to show that it both furthers the goals of your group and furthers the overall mission of the enterprise.
At this point, your initiative should be working against a commonly shared description of the business mission of your organization. It is now positioned to reflect what contributions your group is expected to make to the enterprise, and it can tie these expectations to the progress the enterprise hopes to achieve. The strength of this linking activity is that it establishes a common description. The word "common" here is important. Once you have set it into place, everyone in your organization should be able to acknowledge it, accept it at face value, and share the same understanding of it. You should now have a solid base on which to build your program.