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The Manager’s Top 5 Rules for a good Process (and why bother with them!)

 

 

By Dr. Don Page, ITSM Strategic Director, Marval

 

I am not sure why this subject is challenging, but for some it just is. Process defines how we should work, we follow process for almost everything we do: learning to drive, obtaining a bank loan, obtaining a passport, going to the cinema, boiling an egg or baking a cake - and in our case for handling requests for service, raising an incident, solving a problem, making a change etc. If we don’t follow processes we would spend time figuring out "how to do things" pretty much on the fly.

Good process does not slow you up or eat up valuable resources, and is certainly not a waste of time. Imagine you have just started your own business with a number of new staff. Some may be skilled, others may not. What is essential is that you have a consistent and repeatable approach to enable them to grow and do things faster, more efficiently and more cost effectively.

As managers, it is often a challenge to get the staff resources we need, and when we do get the resource, we want them to be productive and of value to the organisation as quickly as possible. So for me following process is a no brainer.

Process is simply a structured method of automating the ‘repeatable’ aspects and activities of your job, so it’s embedded in your working culture and frees up the talent of your skilled staff, minimising and controlling risk. Good process will help standardise the delivery of IT support services and improve operational efficiency, effectiveness and control. It will also improve management of your IT Infrastructure, assets and services, better positioning the organisation to attain/maintain standards and instil quality.

 

Top 5 Rules for a good process

We often hear the same common excuses for not adopting good processes: “it’s too complex to be documented, I can’t see the value or it’s too time-consuming, I don’t need to follow processes, I know how to do it anyway.” This position is a real risk to your business; that person may not be here tomorrow or on holiday. Anything that is done more than once, or by multiple people, should be documented, if for no other reason than consistency.

So, here are my top five rules to design and establish a good process:

1.          Keep it simple and linear wherever possible

2.          Focus on critical business services

3.          Ensure the process adds value to ensure successful outcomes

4.          Document your processes

5.          If the process is not working, improve or change it

 

Document the process

People very often consider themselves to be too busy to document their processes unless it is mandated by clients or industry regulations (e.g. government/finance sector/emergency services). However, once a process is documented, it can be monitored, managed and improved. Running processes without process documentation is like running programmes without the source code. It works as long as it works, but who can fix it when it doesn't work? Who can even determine what went wrong?

If your processes are written down, you can more easily and quickly train both new and existing employees. This will expose flaws in how you do things. You will be able to identify bottlenecks and inconsistencies that you didn't realise were there.

 

Responsibilities and activities of a Process Owner

The process owner promotes and provides leadership for the process, is responsible for and owns the process and documentation, being accountable to management for the design, execution, and improvement of the process and overall communication, performance and results and outcomes of the process. The process owner must ensure the process conforms to any regulatory requirements and co-ordinate and implement process improvement suggestions. Any suggested improvement should be recorded and classified as a “Service Improvement” (which is useful for reporting and audit purposes), documented and reviewed.

Regular updates, quality checks and audit reports concerning the performance of the process to report back to the process owner are essential, both successes and areas of non-conformance. Colleagues’ support and feedback is also essential.

 

Process support roles (may or may not be the same person depending on the size and structure of the organisation)

·               Process Author/Owner – documents and updates the process and supporting policy, ensuring documents are released for different versions, controlled and looked after, and collates relevant metrics and service reports for customers and internal managers. The process author should also be the interface for other processes and third-party organisations.

·               Process Manager – is responsible for the day-to-day operation (e.g. change manager) and the production of the required management and performance reports.

·               Process Executor (DOER) – is responsible for following and executing the required process and related procedures, and for suggesting areas for improvement by providing constructive feedback to the process Author/Owner.

·               Internal Auditor – is responsible for performing internal quality checks, audits and reporting non-conformances to the process Author/Owner.

 

 

Summary

Good process is common sense defining how we are supposed to work. Even if you already use ITIL, ISO/IEC 20000, SIAM, DevOps, Agile, Six Sigma, IT4IT or are reviewing VeriSM, you need good processes to ensure your operations add value, remain functional, reasonable and, most importantly, consistent and fit for purpose.

If a process is not working, don’t complain or ignore it, just change it! Good process saves time and helps increase profits and reduce risk. Good process is scalable. After all, it’s how we are required to work.

If we don’t have good process we are left with poor alternatives –memory and dependence on individuals- both of which can fail spectacularly.

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