5/7/13

Evaluating IT


You could be forgiven for believing that I am anti-IT. I have written about the End of IT. I have called IT people names. I have generally been pessimistic about our ability or desire to change.  I stand firmly behind all of the things I have written, but I am absolutely not anti-IT. (Some of my best friends are in IT.) I am, however, terribly afraid that IT as it is currently practiced is becoming increasingly irrelevant to the business. Whatever business your company happens to be in.

To that end, I've been working on an IT evaluation exercise. The idea is to evaluate each of the services that an IT department provides and begin to have conversations around the specific value that those services bring to a firm or company. This is built on the premise that IT provides the most value when it is actively supporting the business rather than "keeping the lights on".  That is not to say that there is not value in keeping the lights on, just that in many cases there may be other less expensive, more reliable, and more secure ways to do that.

This exercise is intended to give context to the ongoing conversation about what IT should be doing and where IT should be investing its time and money. This is not guaranteed to provide any clear or easy answers to those questions. The example below is focused on Legal IT, but you could replace the word "Legal" with your industry of choice, and "Firm" with your company name and I think it would work for any IT department.

I would like to open-source this concept. By which I mean, I want someone else to try it out and let me know how it goes. Suggestions or recommendations are very much encouraged and welcome. 

Ryan

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All IT services fall into one of three categories: 
  1. Universal IT: Technology, infrastructure, or functionality that every Information Technology Department in every company in the world provides.
  2. Legal Specific IT: Technology services that are specific to Law Firms.
  3. Firm Specific IT: Technology services that provide a unique value to our firm and our attorneys.
Enter each category as a heading in a table and list each IT service as an entry beneath the appropriate heading (like below). 

Universal IT
Legal Specific IT
Firm Specific IT
1.
2.
3.
1.
2.
3.
1.
2.
3.

  1. Evaluate each service and articulate the specific value that the service provides to the firm.  If you cannot define the value provided, cross out the service.
  2. You want to try to move as many services as possible to the columns on the right. If you believe you can enhance the service in any way that would provide greater legal or firm specific value, then move it to the appropriate column, make note of the potential value add, and underline the service.
  3. Add any NEW services that would potentially provide legal or firm specific value and place an asterisk on either side.
  4. Circle any services that an outside vendor could potentially provide at an appropriate service level AND the entire Universal IT column.
  5. Draw a box around any service in the Legal Specific or Firm Specific columns that is not crossed out, underlined, asterisked, or circled.
Any services that are:
  • Crossed-out:  Just because IT cannot articulate the value to the firm does not mean the service provides no value.  Ask other departments, or attorneys, to articulate a particular service’s value to them. If no clear value can be determined, begin the End of Life process immediately.  There should not be many, if any, of these.
  • Circled: Begin looking for vendors to take these off your hands. A circled service should not be automatically “outsourced”, but it is probably a good candidate for the kind of service that can, and eventually will likely, be outsourced. Yes, I said to circle the entire Universal IT column. Not everything in this column will be a candidate for outsourcing, but if it's in this column, it should be considered.
  • Underlined or Asterisked: These are opportunities to increase the value that IT provides to the firm. Invest in R&D for these enhanced or additional services.
  • Boxed: These are the current services which provide the most unique value to the firm. Focus on these and continue to invest resources here.
Repeat this exercise every six months.

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