The Balanced Improvement Matrix

Two weeks ago I presented to a customer how their IT improvement program can be improved by adopting principles from ITIL. I used this slide to illustrate another way to think about the issue.

Benefit-Change-MatrixClick to expand

Recipient of Benefits

The Y-axis who receives most of the immediate benefit of the activity. “Inside” refers to IT, either a component of IT or the entire department.

Outside refers to the outside stakeholders for IT services. Generally they fall into one of these groups:

  • Users: those who directly use the services. Generally the users also request the service.
  • Internal customers: those who request or authorize services on behalf of the users. Generally customers are the users, but sometimes they are distinct.
  • External customers: The ultimate customer who exchanges value with the organization.

Focus of Change

The focus or perspective of change describes where most of the change or improvement takes place. We are also describing this as within IT or out of IT.

The change or improvement may or may not be limited to the primary location. There are often spillover benefits for related stakeholders that are less immediate.

Examining the Quadrants

Inside-In

This quadrant describes change or improvement activities that are limited exclusively to IT. Some examples may include:

  • Code refactoring
  • Recabling
  • Process improvement
  • Service Asset and Configuration Management
  • Training

Inside-In activities may be thought of as “charging the batteries”.  External stakeholders will not see immediate benefits, but the benefits will accrue over time as the IT organization becomes more agile, flexible, efficient and effective.

Inside-Out

Inside-Out activities are those that modify the behavior of external stakeholders in order to maximize the capabilities of IT. Some examples may include Demand Management and Financial Management of IT Services, specifically charging for IT services in a way that encourages their efficient use.

Service Catalog Management and Service Portfolio Management also create activities in this quadrant, specifically those that describe prerequisites or costs to external stakeholders.

Outside-In

Outside-In activities are those that benefit external stakeholders by modifying the services or processes of IT. Service Level Management sits firmly in this area. The Service Improvement initiatives within CSI certainly fit here too. Alignment of IT with organizational strategy also reside predominantly in this quadrant.

Outside-Out

Does IT ever perform Outside-Out activities? With a few exceptions, yes, all IT organizations do.

Outside-Out efforts or improvement activities take place whenever IT acts as a consultant to the organization by bringing its unique capabilities and resources to business problems.

Some examples may include:

  • Strategic planning
  • Creating new lines of business
  • Due diligence of partnerships or acquisitions
  • Enterprise Risk Management and Business Continuity Planning

From an ITIL process perspective,  Outside-Out quadrant is best illustrated by Business Relationship Management (SS) and Supplier Management (SD), and some activities of Change Management (ST) and Knowledge Management (ST).

Optimizing the matrix

In no case did we ever claim that any one quadrant is better than another. IT departments of the last century received criticism for focusing too much on inward benefits and losing focus on the broader context in which IT operates. That situation was expensive, frustrating to users, and ultimately untenable.

IT organizations in this century must and do perform activities in all four quadrants. Neglecting any quadrant can lead to the following outcomes.

Benefit-Change-Neglect-MatrixClick to expand

Using frameworks such as ITIL, COBIT 5, or ISO/IEC 20000 to guide improvement initiatives can help IT organizations balance their efforts in all quadrants.

The Role of COBIT5 in IT Service Management

In Improvement in COBIT5 I discussed my preference for the Continual Improvement life cycle.

Recently I was fact-checking a post on ITIL (priorities in Incident Management) and I became curious about the guidance in COBIT5.

The relevant location is “DSS02.02 Record, classify and prioritize requests and incidents” in “DSS02 Manage Service Requests and Incidents”. Here is what is says:

3. Prioritise service requests and incidents based on SLA service definition of business impact and urgency.

Yes, that’s all it says. Clearly COBIT5 has some room for improvement.

COBIT5 is an excellent resource that compliments several frameworks, including ITIL, without being able to replace them. For the record, the COBIT5 framework says it serves as a “reference and framework to integrate multiple frameworks,” including ITIL. COBIT5 never claims it replaces other frameworks.

We shouldn’t expect to throw away ITIL books for a while. Damn! I was hoping to clear up some shelf space.

Improvement in COBIT 5

In a previous post I discussed starting your service or process improvements efforts with Continual Service Improvement (or just Improvement).

I prefer COBIT5, and the issue is ITIL. The good news is the Continual Service Improvement is the shortest of the five core books of ITIL 2011. CSI defines a 7 Step Improvement Process:

  1. Identify the strategy for improvement
  2. Define what you will measure
  3. Gather the data
  4. Process the data
  5. Analyze the information and data
  6. Present and use the information
  7. Implement improvement

This method, as the name suggests, is heavily focused on service and process improvement. It is infeasible in situations where there is no discernible process, a complete absence of metrics, and a lack of activity that could be captured for measurement and analysis. It is infeasible in most services and processes described in most organizations, due to this lack of maturity.

I find the COBIT5 method is more flexible. It also provides 7 steps, but it also views them from multiple standpoints, such as program management, change enablement, and the continuous improvement life cycle.

For example, the program management view consists of:

  1. Initiate program
  2. Define problems and opportunities
  3. Define road map
  4. Plan program
  5. Execute plan
  6. Realize benefits
  7. Review effectiveness

COBIT5 provides a framework that is more flexible and yet more concise, but still provides detailed guidance on implementation and improvement efforts in terms of a) roles and responsibilities, b) tasks, c) inputs and d) outputs among others.

Therefore I find the COBIT5 framework, particularly the COBIT5 Implementation guide, superior to the Continual Service Improvement book of ITIL 2011.

In addition COBIT5 provides a goals cascade that provides detailed guidance and mapping between organizational and IT-related goals and processes throughout the framework that may influence those goals. The goals cascade is useful guidance for improvement efforts, but alas it is the subject of another discussion.