In the ITIL model of IT Service Management the Business Perspective (BP) describes interactions and touch-points between Business Departments and IT. It is generally comprised of a group of people that serve as liaisons between the business and IT, and with titles like Business Partners, Account Managers, Business Consultants. The people on the BP team understand the business, share their view with regard to the demands on IT, know their goals and future direction, and work to have new products and services in place when the business needs them.
A regular criticism of ITIL is that the focus on ongoing services doesn't provide much guidance for operations that undergo frequent change. These are exactly the characteristics of the Telecoms and SaaS industries where IT infrastructure doesn't simply support ongoing business operations, rather the set of Network and IT services as exposed to end customers is the ongoing business. Our consultants would argue that with effective implementation of Change Management processes the Operations become more robust to change, however there is little in the Library to guide the impact of such changes on the business. In addition the ITIL Financial Management processes are focused on cost of Service Delivery, for a Telco or SaaS provider the ROI on a change initiative is a superior mechanism for assigning priority and budget and so the ITIL Financial Management component must be aligned with corporate Capital Investment criteria.
The role of the BP team in such organizations is more dynamic and requires not only an alignment with the requirements of different business departments but also the analytical skills to evaluate business cases. In order to facilitate efficient planning, the road-maps of both business departments and technical stakeholders must be communicated and aligned. Different areas of the business will compete at a corporate level for a fixed set of IT and budgetary resources, and while additional budget can often be found for a compelling initiative, IT often finds itself unable to respond in the short-term to the level of demands. However, once road-maps are committed-to in advance, the demand-planning activities in IT can work to optimize the availability of resources.
A tier-1 cellular operator wanted to ensure better utilization of IT resources and better financial justification for initiatives being developed. The operator had recently transitioned to a Managed Service for operation of their billing and customer care systems and wished to ensure greater alignment between the supplier's road-map and that of their business departments. Previous interaction between business departments and IT had often been mediated by individual engineers - champions - who were known and trusted to implement required changes quickly, there was little control or coordination of changes and the proliferation of expedient but unplanned and difficult-to-maintain technical work-arounds had lead to a brittle BSS / OSS architecture. Following the implementation of a new BSS and as part of the transition to Managed Services Miso was retained to design and implement a new Business Partner organization.
Business Relationship Management
A Business Partner team was reformed with individuals assigned as the IT account managers for different business departments. Regular meeting were scheduled with the SVP and VP level executives of the business departments to capture new requirements, escalate Service Management issues, and give feedback on ongoing IT projects and future technical changes that might represent an opportunity for the business department. The BPs became the new champions for each business department.
A rigorous business, technical, and financial evaluation was performed on every new initiative introduced by business departments to the change management process. A generic initiative scorecard was designed and then tailored by including department-specific KPIs taken from the existing balanced scorecards. Having been trained in the creation of business case development and the application of NPV and IIR scores as criteria for investment decision-making, the BPs drove the completion of the score card for each initiative. All initiatives were then compared in an executive forum using a combination of NPV to evaluate financial value and strategic consideration of the other substantial benefits. This forum makes the final determination of the initiatives that will be assigned to a particular BSS release.
Having outsourced most of the IT Service Management activities along with the design and build phases of Application Management, direct communication between the key outsourcing supplier and the business departments extended through a number of different formal and informal channels. The BP team assumed a key role in controlling the content of communication relating to road-map items and the delivery of business-focused SLAs, ensuring that the key stakeholders in IT were not circumvented from agreements made between business and supplier, but also that genuine operational meeting could continue without IT stakeholders "bruising the banana".
Liaison and Communication
The BP team actively communicated the substance of all proposed initiatives across the business, at times notifying a stakeholder that an initiative arising from another part of the business was likely to impact their particular department. This required knowledge of the success factors for each department and was invaluable for building confidence in the new IT structures and processes.
Planning and Development
As part of their process improvement responsibilities the BP team initiated the creation of a Service Catalog. The key driver for this was to convert certain types of change requests that came regularly from the business to service requests - in ITIL terms they could be delivered more efficiently as Service Support items than Application Management items. The service catalog initiative then became the focus for continuous improvement and refinement of the Managed Service processes that the customer had opted to outsource.
The relationship between business and IT leadership has vastly improved, becoming more managed and collaborative. Though initially business were concerned about losing direct relationships with their engineering champions, the creation of an IT team explicitly aligned to their individual departments is considered to be of even greater value. The introduction of initiative scorecards and the development of business cases with NPV calculations for all new initiatives has been particularly successful both in terms of creating an alignment of priorities between different parts of the business and by clarifying the decision making process on the approval of initiatives. It is no longer the case that he who shouts loudest gets their project approved.
The realigned IT organization is now able to consistently and effectively meet the reset expectations of business. Further organizational developments will include the integration of the scorecards into corporate portfolio management for tracking of realized benefits.