Keeping Up with the Pace of Change

Frank Zielke, a member of the board of directors at ITSM Consulting (Photo: ITSM)
Frank Zielke, a member of the board of directors at ITSM Consulting (Photo: ITSM)

The situation is the same at DAX corporations, MDAX companies, and SMEs: Hot topics are confronting IT departments with a sticky challenge: change. These topics include cloud computing, which involves handling new relationships with providers; mobility, with its diverse smartphones and tablets; and in-memory technologies, which not only accelerate processes significantly but alter them as well. According to Frank Zielke, a member of the board of directors at ITSM Consulting, the process of change is being woefully neglected in many cases. Four out of five of his customers use SAP technology. The mistake they make is to pay too little attention to the interaction between SAP, networks, and servers.  Often, he says, it is SAP customers who are most reluctant to accept that

a change process is necessary in the first place. Their view is: “The modules take care of all that themselves.”

SAP. info: Mr. Zielke, it seems that businesses are underestimating the changes that become necessary when they embrace hot topics. What are the main mistakes they are making?

Frank Zielke: With hot topics in particular, it is not always clear from the start whether IT and the business actually have the same objectives in mind. Demand management is therefore essential: By that I mean that you need to establish which technologies are to be implemented and how the company can benefit from them.  You also need to lay down certain rules, such as clear guidelines relating to BYOD (bring your own device) programs for employees who want to bring their own devices to work and use them for business purposes.  Also, the support infrastructure must be available as soon as the new technology is in place. You can’t just go ahead and sign contracts with cloud providers if no-one has given any thought to the processes involved.  And, last but not least, hot topics must dovetail throughout the company. Just to return to the topic of cloud for a moment: if a CIO opts for a multi-provider concept, he or she must define new roles, review processes, involve data protection and data security personnel, and draw up service level agreements. That is not always done as neatly and tidily as you might expect.

You have a large number of customers in the public sector.  I’m astonished to hear that they also have such a careless approach to processes…

Naturally, skepticism about hot topics such as cloud services is much greater in this particular area.  As far as the private sector is concerned, it tends to be more prone to a lack of awareness about providing appropriate redundancies, anchoring permanent data availability as a key criterion in contracts, and asking very basic questions: Who is allowed to access the data?  Who is the provider for whom? Who manages the processes end to end? And the situation is the same whether you’re talking about a DAX corporation, an MDAX company, or any other kind of enterprise.

Next page: Change boards and awards to save money and motivate employees

You could conjecture that companies are simply not equal to the pace of change. Or do you have another explanation?

Yes, that may well be the case. Having said that, though, the important point is to recognize that change is imminent and to make appropriate resources available.  A change board consisting of representatives from the business and IT could deal with this topic.  Their task would be to think about how the technology can be implemented company-wide, to define roles and content, and to clarify security issues.

But the reality is different. What impact is this careless approach having on companies?

Well, you soon start to suffer losses if new systems go live late or not at all, and if data is unavailable because basic security issues were not clarified in advance.  In our experience, companies could have saved 50% of their final budget if they had set up a change board as soon as the project began.

So the change board is one of the tips that you pass on to companies …

Yes, and I also recommend advertising “change awards”, not only to ensure that the change processes get the attention they deserve, but also to reward the people who drove or were affected by the change for their efforts in coming to grips with it.

What’s in it for employees?

For each milestone reached, employees have points credited to their account. When they have collected a certain number of points, they are entitled to take extra vacation days.  That’s a great incentive.

Next page: Tips on how companies should proceed

Let’s return to your tips for a moment: How would you advise companies to proceed?

Before they begin thinking about change awards, it is vital for companies to ensure that they really do involve everyone in the change process.  That starts with informing the entire company about new IT systems or changes, both IT and the business, because they’re the ones who will actually work with the systems.  It is even better if you can actually get them actively involved in shaping the new processes.  You often hear of cases where the one hundred employees in IT know exactly what’s coming, but the service desk is the last to be informed. So, when questions start coming in from the workforce, support personnel can’t answer them. It is also vital to pay particular attention to security aspects: special mentors should be assigned to deal with this topic.

Even CIOs candidly admit that their projects didn’t fail because of the technology but because of the people involved – because of their inertia…

Particularly when it comes to defining processes according to ITIL (*IT Infrastructure Library), for example, there is enormous reluctance – both within and between teams. And there is a lack of overall understanding about how SAP interacts with other services. I often get wide-eyed looks when I ask about a company’s change processes. “Change processes?” they ask, “They’re all documented in SAP!”

That suggests that there is a great deal of trust – in SAP…

That’s the impression you get. I encounter these difficulties with change very frequently in the SAP environment. “That doesn’t affect us – it’s all defined in the modules. We don’t need to create additional processes,” is a comment I hear over and over again. That simply isn’t true.