Get ahead in business and create a fixture list to improve the quality of IT management reporting, says Colin Beveridge.
I think that we need a fixture list for the IT department. All it needs to be is a simple calendar of events, published and made freely available to our colleagues, which clearly shows how and when our IT activity will affect them.
The list should include other commercial, operational and administrative events, and it should be in sufficient detail that everyone can understand when they are expected to participate.
Sounds like such a simple idea, doesn’t it?
But I haven’t seen any organisation that has managed it so far. Even the best-organised businesses seem to muddle through without an accessible, enterprise-wide, time-based view of their project agenda.
Even those companies that have dozens of dedicated planners and resource managers struggle with the fairly simple concept of being able to drill-down through their business structure and being able to see a roadmap view for each functional layer.
Our planning information is invariably constrained by being bound to a programme/project perspective of activity and resource-related issues. This makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to assess the real impact of change on the overall context of an individual business unit.
No wonder then that we spend more and more of our precious management time co-ordinating complex change, resolving resource contention and smoothing over conflicts of interest. All of which increases our levels of risk exposure and creates unhealthy organisational hypertension.
All because we choose not to take a holistic view of our enterprise and doggedly persist with compartmentalising our IT management information into service and project silos. And as long as we persist with this blinkered approach we will continue to run the risk of being blind-sided regularly, sometimes catastrophically, by events that were not plotted on our radar screen.
And yet every IT manager needs to deal with changing situations and can only be effective with an accurate 360 degree view of “the bigger picture".
That is why I truly believe that a fixture list is a good business metaphor because although a sporting fixture list is always published well before the start of the season, it is always subject to subsequent modification as the season progresses.
Scheduled fixtures can be re-arranged, by mutual consent, either for convenience or as the result of exceptional circumstances; for example if a team is having a good run in a knock-out competition. But, most importantly, because all of the teams involved have their own published fixture lists it is easier to reshuffle matches and to make sure that everyone is aware of the changes by updating and republishing the fixture list.
The easiest way to set up a business fixture list is by using a spreadsheet of events, with pivot tables or filters for each business unit/team so that departmental and enterprise-wide fixture lists can be published from a single source.
If you really want to get the best value from the exercise, then you should also indicate the relative priority of each fixture and ensure that your fixture list is consistent with your risk register.
This approach has worked well for me in my interim management practice and has dramatically improved relationships between IT functions and other business units.
It has also helped me to improve the quality of IT management reporting by creating a business-focused framework for my monthly report, instead of mindlessly regurgitating meaningless availability statistics that nobody really cared about.
So the message is loud and clear: if you want to get ahead of the game, get a fixture list.
Colin Beveridge is an independent consultant and leading commentator on technology management issues. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org