DIY Process Assessment Planning – Problem Definition, Scope, and Stakeholder Analysis

In the previous post, we talked about some potential information resources you can use to set up an internal ITSM process assessment effort. In this post, we will discuss some of the planning considerations that should be taken into account.

Problem Definition (Purpose and Opportunity)

It is always important to answer the question of “Why Bother?” In order for an assessment to produce meaningful results, it needs to address one or more business problems at hand. Document what are the drivers for conducting the assessment. Document why it is important to address the drivers now. Clearly identify what the organization or the sponsor intends to do with the assessment results. Once the purposes have been articulated with the agreement and support from the sponsor, the assessment team can use them as part of future communications to the stakeholders and participants.

Scope (Process and Organization)

The scope usually comes in two aspects, process scope and organization scope. An assessment can cover one or more ITSM processes, and the assessment purposes defined in the previous section should help to guide the scope definition.

The organization scope also needs to be defined for the assessment. Ideally an ITSM assessment should cover the entire IT organization but that may or may not be needed depending on the business problem you are trying to solve. Defining the organization boundary for the assessment can also be tricky partly because people and political considerations inevitably get involved. It is possible that the assessment will cover only a portion of the organization where the sponsor has more control over, infrastructure operations vs. application development as an example. When that happens, it is important to define clearly just how applicable the assessment’s scope is organizationally. That way, the assessment results will not be misinterpreted, and the follow-up action plans can be appropriately planned and executed.

For the process scope, the assessment should focus on assessing a process’ end-to-end effectiveness, or customer experience from the business perspective. It is quite possible that an overall assessment for a particular process will yield a score that may be different than what an individual team or organization expects. When that happens, it is important that the assessment can provide data to back up its finding or to explain the difference in expectation.

Also, don’t lose sight of the following. One reason to conduct assessment is to baseline what your organization is currently doing. Take advantage of the assessment opportunity to document the baseline performance of your processes, even for those which have had very little formal implementation or performance record.

Analysis of Stakeholders and Participants

Identifying and understanding the interactions stakeholders may have with the assessment is a critical aspect of the assessment planning. The stakeholders or participants of the assessment project can include a number of individuals such as the process owners, the IT staff, senior IT management team, key suppliers, and business customers. There are a number ways of mapping and understanding the stakeholders’ impact to the project. For most assessment projects, I would suggest thinking about the following factors. Customize the list further if your organization requires it.

  1. The stakeholder’s view of the assessment effort: Some participants feel strongly about the assessment for whatever reasons, and some feel less so. Try to gain a better understanding of the participants’ views towards the assessment.
  2. The stakeholder’s power to influence the assessment: Understand what role a participant will play in the assessment and how much influence they may have over the direction and execution of the project.
  3. The stakeholder’s work or responsibility impacted by the assessment: The assessment will have variable degree of impact to the participants’ work or functional areas. Take this factor, along with the view and influence considerations, you can gauge what impact a stakeholder may have on your project more effectively.
  4. The stakeholder’s need for communication or training: Understand and map out the communication strategy based on the information or reporting needs of the stakeholders. Some stakeholders will require periodic updates (say weekly) from the assessment team. Some participants may require more frequent or less frequent communication. Also understand whether the participants will require some form of awareness training or education prior to the actual start of the assessment activities.

At the next post, we will discuss the additional planning factors such as the assessment model, the schedule and deliverables, as well as the risks and constraints.

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