Monday, April 20, 2009

Process Interaction

Integrating a process with the rest of the organization so that it interacts correctly with stakeholders and projects is just as critical as the architecture of the process itself. In my last post, I had detailed some of the significant characteristics of the process’s structure. In this complementary post, I will conclude the explanation of the characteristics of a process by clarifying the interaction of a process with its environment.

As mentioned in the previous post, a process can be likened to a programming language function call. What is interesting to note is that in a typical organization, there will be multiple calls on the process for completion of a task. For example, Project 1, Project 2 and Project 3 might each require a change to be performed. They will each request the change management process to perform the change requests. Therefore, the change management process will have 3 separate instances of change management in progress simultaneously. This is why the existence of a process owner is necessary for each process. In the case of change management, the change manager will ensure that each of the three instances of the process complete satisfactorily.

The change manager will not necessarily be a subject matter expert on the content of the changes being made but will ensure that the steps to be performed as part of change management are dutifully acted out. The project manager or service manager (as ITIL prefers it) will be the one to take care of subject matter details regarding the changes. In a similar fashion, all the other processes will have a process owner to ensure that the process is adhered to correctly. The project/service owners will generally have their project’s benefit at heart and will be only too happy to sidestep parts of the process in order to speed up their task’s completion. To prevent this return to chaos and inefficiency, the process owner will tend to have to perform a “policing” role within his jurisdiction. The process owner will also be responsible for the setup and maintenance of tools and databases utilized by the process such as a change management database or a CMDB (configuration management database) utilized by configuration management.

Another important point to be noted is that a process may transpire in a one-time fashion or in a continuous fashion. For example, the availability management process at an internet service provider will continuously scan for failure in the service availability. This is an example of a process in its “continuous” incarnation. In spite of the continuous monitoring, the service being provided may fail and cause disruptions to the customer. In this case, availability management will interact with problem management and other processes to provide a solution. This would be a “one-time” example of the availability management process in action.

To sum all this up, let us consider the introduction of a new service in a high maturity organization utilizing well defined processes.

To begin with, a strategy for the new service will have to be defined. The execution of the Service Portfolio Management, Demand Management and Financial Management processes will be the appropriate starting processes to be executed. The results of these processes will provide an alignment of the new service to the value it creates for the customer, financial estimates and an understanding of the pattern of business activity that will help in determining the demand by the customer for the service. Repeated iterations of the processes may have to be run before final data is established.

After the strategizing is completed, the design of the service may be instigated. The Service Level Management, Service Catalogue Management, Availability Management, Capacity Management, Information Security Management and Service Continuity Management processes will be executed. These processes will utilize the outputs of the previous processes as their input and produce SLA, OLA, Service Design Packages, capacity, availability, security and continuity plans. As before, repeated iterations of these processes may need to be executed before final information and products are achieved. The service is typically fully designed and ready for deployment at this stage.

To transition the service to the customer environment, the Configuration Management and Release and Deployment Management process will be executed. Again multiple iterations of these processes may need to be executed before a final successful deployment is achieved.

Simultaneously, the Change Management process may be executed as needed right from the beginning of the strategizing in order to manage and record changes being made.

Once the customer is utilizing the service, Incident Management, Problem Management and Request Fulfillment processes will be invoked to maintain the service at the agreed upon levels for the customer. In the event of modifications to the design of the service being needed to be made, the strategy, design and transition processes may be re-executed to provide that change.

This simplified description of the sequence of process executions necessary to introduce a new service to the customer illustrates the methodology of the process-oriented approach. It may be observed that no individual steps were executed. Rather all required steps were part of well defined processes that were called when required. This is the paradigm shift from the old technique of executing steps when needed to the new way of calling a function when a task is required to be performed.

Therefore, for an organization to successfully implement a process oriented methodology, the design of the process as well as the setup of the process’s interaction must be carefully carried out. The sooner organizations make a shift to the new paradigm, the sooner they will enjoy the benefits of higher maturity and stability.

1 comment:

  1. Vivek,

    That is so true. I have experienced well defined processes failing to make a positive impact simply because of poor implementation with the rest of the company.
    I hope people start understanding the importance of both the structure and the implementation of processes.
    I'll be looking forward to your next posting.