Many larger organisation with enterprise wide applications set up user groups to promote application usage, to help resolve system issues and to help plan future enhancements to the application. These groups, in my experience, do not deliver suitable business benefits and can either become a ‘talking shop’ or an excuse to berate the IT department/directorate consequently, the wider business does not see them as adding value.
In this blog post I expand on the nature of the problem and make suggestions for a better approach.
Reasons for these problems include:
- Specific focus on the application, not necessarily the process it supports
- Attendees tend to be power users who are keen to gain more from the system, but do not necessarily see the ‘bigger picture’
- Attendees who are power users tend to be less effective at representing the views of the majority of users
- Fixes and enhancements typically have an IT solution, so rely on application upgrades/new projects to deliver them
- Whilst awaiting application upgrades, interim actions may not be explored, which means risks may remain unmitigated
- Approval and delivery of projects can be difficult without clear cost/benefit cases
- A ‘them and us’ scenario develops with users and business owners on one side and IT/IM on the other
- As application fixes and enhancements can take time to deliver, action lists and minutes will tend to show actions being open for extended time periods with little apparent progress
- Typical attendees of such meetings have a heavy focus on detail, potentially driving away any colleagues who may have a more pragmatic approach
In summary, user groups of this type have long lists of actions that are not being completed, tend to result in a “them and us” attitude between IT and business users and often deliver little value.
So, how can these problems be avoided and how can system utilisation/effectiveness be improved?
Firstly, we need to recognise that an application should automate, and be integral to, one or more business processes. Secondly, we need to ensure that effective governance is in place for the process and the system that supports it. Finally, we need to ensure that any activities deliver business benefit continually and sustainably.
These are obvious and non-contentious points, but what is needed to deliver these in a business environment?
A few suggestions:
- Take the process as the key and establish process governance arrangements with suitable senior-level sponsorship
- Develop a clear remit for the governance arrangement which includes process, systems, data, people and interfaces to other activities
- Ensure that there are regular meetings with arrangements for discussing more important issues between meetings
- When issues/problems/opportunities are identified log them, agree priorities and agree immediate and longer term actions
- Ensure that the root causes of problems are identified prior to agreeing solutions
- Solutions may be short term process ‘tweaks’ with options for longer term system enhancements
- You may find that the short term improvements are both beneficial and sustainable and remove the need for these longer term enhancements – a clear demonstration of the group adding value
- Where disagreement or conflicts arise, the senior stakeholder should ensure effective arbitration and that discussion is on facts and not emotions
- Periodically review the running of the group and determine if changes in scope, frequency or attendance are required. It may be beneficial to merge different governance groups if the issues being covered are being resolved effectively
These are a few of my thoughts on improving process and system governance, however, there will certainly be other suggestions which can be added.
Which approaches to process and system governance have you managed to use in order to deliver business benefits??