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The 4 Components of a Service-Focused Culture


Author: Alex Salicrup

I have made bold observations in my recent blogs about the need for a cultural shift to that of a service-driven culture. This is a culture with a strong focus on customer needs, customer services, and meeting deadlines. This type of culture also allows the IT organization to scale and adapt to changing business needs rather than rigidly following old strategies. Although a cultural shift like this might seem an insurmountable task, I’ve seen it occur—and faster than you might think.

Here are the four components of a strong service-focused culture, according to my experience with today’s successful IT organizations:

  1. Strategic vision: IT must have a strong strategic vision that is anchored to the broader business goals. Short-, near- and long-term success criteria should be clearly defined and routinely reviewed by the full spectrum of stakeholders.
  2. Vision translation: The executive and director-level managers still need to disseminate the strategic vision to IT staff but should work hand-in-hand with service owners. Together they present a far more efficient method for evangelizing the strategic vision and leading a service lifecycle management process that keeps functional groups focused on internal deliverables as well as the interdependent needs of other groups.
  3. Strategic framework: The service owner is a key role, but he is like an orchestra conductor—he needs to have the sheet music from which to direct the many individual musicians. The strategic framework is that sheet music. This framework should outline the operational readiness of IT and prioritize the work streams necessary to deliver on the IT strategy and services. This is also an opportunity to establish a roadmap to the desired service capability maturity level.
  4. Risk: IT organizations tend to mitigate most risk within their sphere of control. They are uneasy asking other business groups to mitigate risks, even though these groups may be better positioned to do so. It is a wasted opportunity to have a great service-driven strategy if the business areas that IT depends on can’t catch up. This is where a strategic vision that is tied to a business-wide strategy can help, by clarifying which business functions are best suited to assess specific risks and giving them an outline for doing so.

Of course, no single plan will cover every IT organization’s needs, but this will present a good place to start a conversation. When I’m called in to help an organization with establishing a service-driven strategy, I start by establishing the end-state vision with the executive representatives for the organization, and then assess the operational capabilities of the business to deliver on that vision. The assessment then allows the IT organization to create a strategic framework by which the areas of improvement can be prioritized and remediation can be executed. This process has proven to expedite the journey of organizations in reaching service-driven capabilities.

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Alex Salicrup is a business solutions architect for VMware Accelerate Advisory Services
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4 thoughts on “The 4 Components of a Service-Focused Culture

  1. Clarity

    I’d like a bit more clarity.

    For example, “Together they present a far more efficient method for evangelizing the strategic vision and leading a service lifecycle management process that keeps functional groups focused on internal deliverables as well as the interdependent needs of other groups.”

    Why is it a more efficient method? Because they are saying the same thing?

    Why does it lead to a service lifecycle management process? Esp when you are just starting to make huge changes — how can the average IT organization be thinking about a lifecycle when they are just trying to figure out how to start down the path of the vision that they need to implement.

    What is interdependent needs of other groups mean?

    1. Alex Salicrup

      Clarity,

      You ask very good questions that can lead me to answers in chapters. I will give you a summary of my answers. I wouldn’t necessarily agree that it says the same thing. It does communicate the same strategy, but it does so in ways that the different levels of executors can understand. There is a difference in how that is done between executive, managers and Individual contributors.

      The reality is that the 4 components when used effectively together communicate a unified message but in ways that can be understood at different levels. A strategic vision at the executive level translates differently as perceived deliverables than the same vision at the individual contributor level. As the vision goes down from executive to management to individuals it picks a different tone and a lot more of detail. In most cases, having the right focus on delivering on the vision is challenging if its not communicated in the right way to the different audiences within IT. Having a strategic framework that breaks the strategy into well defined work streams is key into making individual contributors and leaders understand how they deliver together and better map how they best deliver on the strategy.

      One of my experiences with IT teams delivering on strategy is that strategic scope creep is a real problem. As engineers, we want to address every risk, issue, and enhancement opportunity as they arise. We insert tasks into program plans that may not have the impact, priority or positive effect that we think they have. This can happen so often that it can have significant impact on delivering on time, budget or even on strategy. This is where Service Owners and a Service Lifecycle Management methodology are key to success. A service owner is the ultimate translator of the vision. He or she gives detail direction on what actions or deliverables have the most impact into delivering the strategy. They act as the orchestra conductor for the functional teams within IT. If a service owner is the orchestra conductor, then the Service Lyfecycle Management method is the sheet of music he conducts from. Service Lifecycle Management methodology is a way to organize the implementation of the strategic vision and keep the organization proactive against the evolution of the strategy throughout the life of the service. This means that it is constantly reviewing how adequate that service is against the future needs of consumers and future needs of an evolving strategy.

      In my recent experience, trying to implement major strategic changes like becoming a Cloud Service Provider absolutely need this type of structure to even start the process of delivering. May functional areas will try to interpret the strategy within their own cone of influence. Functional groups find it hard to interpret what the organization inter-dependencies are within functional groups and tend to have more strategic scope creep. It’s the equivalent of having the orchestra horn section interpret the sheet of music without knowing the timings of percussion and strings. It does not sound well. That is why they need a conductor and understand these principles I describe here.

      Thank you for your thoughtful questions. If you have further questions please contact us at Accelerate Advisory Services and we can continue our chat more interactively.

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