According to a 2008 McKinsey & Company research study, they found that only about 30% of Change programs in organizations succeed and achieve their goals. Additional research by IBM in 2008 and in 2010 found similar statistics and more importantly, the IBM study found that 79% of CEOs anticipate even greater complexity ahead with more than half of them in doubt about their ability to manage it. These studies and metrics are about Organizational Change but think of them in terms of the impact it has on running an IT department within the larger enterprise. Will “fiefdoms” be broken down or established/reinforced? Will communication improve or worsen? Will all this need for “Change” and failure to achieve it create more confusion or less? Configuration Management seeks to provide insight to business outcomes and help with informed decision making along that same basis. How can Configuration Management initiatives succeed if they or their predecessor efforts don’t address reinforcing governance mechanisms, sharing/communicating a storyline to get core buy-in from everyone or ensuring that not only does everyone understand their role but more importantly, they understand it in terms of what it means to the broader objective that leadership has in mind.
Reinforcing Governance Mechanisms
Whether people like it or not, we all need boundaries and controls in order to have a functional society and when an IT society is no longer functional, it cannot make informed and efficient decisions. This leads to circumvention of the remaining governance or individual attempts to “do the right thing” in the absence of leadership direction and guidance. It is vitally important that the proper level of governance and controls are in place to reign in unauthorized and undocumented changes to the operational environment that are negatively impacting business outcomes. Configuration Management assists in both the proactive and reactive by enabling better insight into proposed changes to mitigate risks and outages as well as helping to identify potential harm by unauthorized changes that may have not yet caused an outage. Reactively, it enables faster restoration of service by providing an interconnected view of devices & services along with the associated historical Changes & Incidents. Although implementing and/or getting back to a more governed/controlled environment is challenging, you must understand that you cannot fix what you know nothing about. Without appropriate governance mechanisms, you simply won’t have the rules & guidelines to measure and document variance from and hence you will not be able to address your weaknesses.
Communicating for Buy-in
Every broad based initiative needs people to “buy-in” to it. If they don’t, you will fail. My suggestion is that if you don’t get buy-in, shoot for failing efficiently and quickly so as to not waste everyones time before you try a second (or third) time. Like it or not, you need to appeal to people at a human level to get them to want to do something. Money and threats will not do it alone. You need to communicate the value that they will receive from the Configuration Management effort or, be open about the fact that they may simply be more on the production of value rather than consumption of value side of the initiative at that point in time. When people know the objectives and understand the greater benefit to the organization, they are much more likely to not only participate but better yet, be active and eager participants because they understand their part in the goal and have bought into the mission. When people feel they aren’t part of forward progress, they become an even bigger drag on any potential of success.
You are part of leadership, regardless of level
As someone tasked with implementing Configuration Management you sit in a unique position. Odds are you have little staff and even less authority over the multitude of areas that your are dependent upon in order to succeed. People “follow leaders” and “work for managers”. Since you are unlikely to have “power” over everyone that needs to accomplish something in order for Configuration Management to succeed, you better learn how to become an exceptional leader regardless of your title or level. You need to get people to see your vision and want to follow your lead. Once you do that, they will want to do the right thing on their own without promise of monetary or organizational reward. You need to instill in them the pride and inner satisfaction that comes with accomplishing a common goal that benefits the enterprise. Maybe you think it’s a bit idealistic but with the McKinsey and IBM research showing 70% failure rates, what do you have to lose?
Organizations venturing into Configuration Management are also venturing into the world of Organizational Change, but unknowingly. When you don’t really know what you’re about to encounter, you are much more likely to fail and the research shows that failure is far too common. The need for Configuration Management efforts many times originate due to poor communication, “fiefdom” mentalities and/or shear disorganization across the IT Environment. These are many of the same characteristics targeted by Organizational Change efforts. This can only mean that as part of your Configuration Management effort, you too must address organizational governance, communication/buy-in and “leading a transformation” rather than trying to “mange a project”.
End Notes (reference sources):
McKinsey & Company
“The Inconvenient Truth About Change Management Why it isn’t working and what to do about it.”
“Capitalizing on Complexity Insights from the 2010 IBM Global CEO Study”