By Bill Pollock, Strategies for Growth
Building a strategic plan for services management is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle: First you need all the pieces, and then you have to fit them all together. However, there are several key questions that must be addressed before embarking on the services planning journey, including:
- What are our services management goals and objectives, and what are the time, resource, and cost parameters once we get started?
- Where do we stand now in terms of services management systems, policies, processes, and procedures?
- What are our customers' requirements for service delivery, both from us and from their other services providers?
- How well are we meeting our customers' present service and support needs and requirements, and how well will we be able to meet them in the future?
- What level of commitment will we need from top management before we can move forward with our services management initiative?
These are just a few of the questions that will need to be addressed within your organization in order to "alert" both management and all of the potential services management implementers as to the expected magnitude of the effort required. Some elements of service may be easy to define and articulate, while others may be more difficult to communicate. However, it will be extremely helpful to management to understand – from the outset – exactly where the organization stands with respect to the various tasks and activities required ahead as it begins to move toward system implementation.
It is primarily for these reasons that recognition (and a mandate) from the top is generally easier to "push" down through an organization than a "grassroots" groundswell is to "push" up from the trenches. As such, for most organizations, a "top-down" approach is generally more successful than a "bottom-up" approach.
The prerequisites for effective services management are few, but highly important. The five most important prerequisites are as follows:
1. Management Commitment
Management commitment must come from the top down and be supported at all levels within the organization in order for the services management initiative to be fully accepted. It must be a real commitment and not just lip service from senior management. The organization's commitment must be fully embraced by internal decision-makers and implementers alike, and must be openly communicated throughout the organization. It must be a two-way street and not merely an edict handed down by senior management.
2. A Plan For Services Management
The plan for services management must address each services element in terms of its specific goals and objectives. It must be dynamic and inclusive of all organizational and operational areas that would ultimately be impacted. It must be flexible and able to adapt to change should the situation warrant, and it must be embraced and accepted by all departments, managers, and staff personnel. Most importantly, it must include a means for monitoring ongoing progress, tracking results, and measuring performance over time.
3. Direction and Focus
The direction and focus of the overall effort must be targeted and not conducted on a scatter-shot basis. It must focus on goals that are both attainable and measurable. It must be actionable and not merely for show. It must be constantly revisited, readjusted, and refined, and it must be directly related to specific goals with specific results required.
4. Teamwork and Structure
All of the personnel involved in the overall effort must be organized in a manner where they can continually support one another throughout the implementation process. They must be willing and able to work together toward a common goal and have the ability to listen, to change, to compromise, and to move forward. All services management personnel must be both responsible and accountable and they must be in constant communications with their respective team partners. The entire services management team must be empowered to move forward.
5. Leadership and Training
The overall initiative must be managed by individuals who can take charge and lead. Personnel at all levels within the organization must be properly trained in the fundamentals of services management. The designated team leaders must have the authority as well as the responsibility to make things happen. It is important that they have the ability both to take direction and to direct. Most importantly, they must be included in the management decision-making process in order for their leadership roles to work. The services management leadership within the organization must be strong, well trained, and accountable.
An organization that best meets the prerequisites for effective services management is one that:
- Reflects full management and staff commitment throughout the organization;
- Has both an understanding of the need for services management and a plan for implementing it;
- Has direction and focus as to the goals, objectives, values, and benefits of services management;
- Has both a structure and an environment that foster quality improvement; and
- Provides the training and support that is required to empower its employees to get the job done.
Management commitment is what is required for getting started, and the plan for services management is what is needed for getting organized. Direction and focus assists in setting the appropriate targets, and teamwork and structure help to provide the proper environment for quality.
Finally, it is with leadership and training where all of the services management components are "pulled together" so that the organization can be successfully led through the implementation and rollout processes.
In assessing your organization's overall services management effort, it is important to remember that the strategic puzzle is only complete if all of the pieces are fit together in the proper placement. When any one piece of the puzzle is missing, the process is incomplete. Your organization may already have most of the puzzle pieces in place, but only through the adoption and utilization of a formal planning process will the services management puzzle ultimately be put together in an efficient and effective manner.
Bill Pollock is President & Principal Consulting Analyst at Strategies For GrowthSM (SFGSM), the independent research analyst and consulting firm he founded in 1992. Bill is a prolific author and speaker on all things service, and a long-time contributor to the industry’s leading trade publications and conferences. For more information, Bill may be reached at (610) 399-9717, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Bill’s blog is accessible at www.PollockOnService.com and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/SFGOnService.