05 December, 2006

IT Processes, Business Processes, who is coordinating what?

More and more IT departments refer to IT Governance, Best Practices, quality and processes. To run efficiently an IT shops, processes are supposed to help companies to excel. The disctinction between best practices and processes is not so clear but let’s assume that this is complimentary. Processes are either standardized; refer to existing frameworks such as ITIL, Six Sigma, eTOM and other best practices.

An IT Process is also a Business Process. It has only an “IT Flavour”.

Looking at the Business side, Business Process Reegineering (BPR) and now Business Process Management (BPM) are activities which also look at improving how a Business works. Some companies develop a target Business Architecture describing the product and/or service strategy, and the organizational, functional, process, event, information, and geographic aspects of the business environment.

Very often, based on my experience, and observations, IT processes do not have a process owner. If there are owners, sometimes they are siloed. As an example, the ITIL Incident Management process owner does not work in harmony with the ITIL Availability Management process owner, etc. Sometimes, politics, company’s mindset, or personnel agendas, prevent to do a consistent job.

On the Business side, it happens also that processes are siloed and not cross-functional. The integration between IT Processes and Business Processes is even not considered despite the fact that all Business Processes should be linked to IT Processes. The processes and activities of a Line of Business have Incidents, Problems, issues with availability etc…

The first step would be to have for the IT department a Service Manager (e.g. ITIL) to coordinate all the processes related to IT Service Management. On a parallel, the Business should also have owners for their processes.

Recently I was looking at some documentation related to the SAP ESA (Enterprise Service Oriented Architecture) and found a very interesting comment from Shai Agassi, member of the SAP Executive Board and president of the SAP Product and Technology Group (PTG). He claimed that “Chief Information Officer” function is morphing into two distinctive roles: the Chief Process Innovation Officer (CPIO), and the Chief IT Officer (CITO, to coin a new acronym). In this new model, the CPIO is in charge of innovative business processes and continuous process integration.”

All processes have definetly to be coordinated, IT or not in a consistent way. As improving processes allows to bring innovation, this new role (Chief Process Innovation Officer), would allow companies to create new synergies, between the Business and IT, considering the CPIO as a partner of LOBs, in charge of processes deisgns with the business’ network. That position would require new skills to be developed as part of the IT organization. Such a role would be the best way to create an harmony for IT/Business processes.


Antonio Valle said...

Hello Serge. This has been a very interesting post, but I have to say that I disagree with the sentence where you said

The integration between IT Processes and Business Processes is even not considered despite the fact that all Business Processes should be linked to IT Processes.

I think that all Business Processes should be linked to IT Services that are managed by IT Processes...

Do you agree?

Serge Thorn said...

Hi Antonio,
Interesting comment. If I understand correctly is that you consider that Business processe should be linked to IT Services, and not IT Processes.

In fact I'm not sure of that. I was thinking of a new post related to the link between Business Processes and IT Services. I have had huge debates with some internal and external colleagues related to: Is a Service part of a Business Process or is a Service once to many Business processes.

That will be my next posting..:-)

This is why I intentionally "linked to IT processes" as an IT process...is also a Business Process.

Many thanks again for your comments. More to come on Services/Processes...as already said..


Antonio Valle said...

Hummm... may be you are right (I will wait until your next post!) but I don't feel comfortable with that idea.

In fact, when you said

Is a Service part of a Business Process or is a Service once to many Business processes.

I think it doesn't matter if it is a 1:N or a M:N relationship, it just depends on your point of view: if you look "top-down", a BP will rely on zero or more IT services (well, those reliyin on zero IT Services don't matter right now) and if you look "bottom-up" then an IT Service will support one or more BP (if it does not support any BP, then probably it is a waste of money for the company?)


PS:: Of course, any process in an Organization can be considered a "business process", because the entire organization makes the business (again, a process that do not contributes to the business in any way, may be is not needed), but I think that when we talk about BP we are talking about those processes directly related to business, and probably IT Processes can be considered infrastructural processes (of course, if your company is not an IT services provider. I'm talking about internal IT)

Serge Thorn said...

Hi again,
something needs to be clarified first. In this exchange, IT services are ITSM Services and not SOA services. There is often a confusion on that one (see my previous post on Service Catalog).

I do not perceive as obvious the link between Business Processes and IT services despite the fact you say this is a point of view.

If the "Business" is into a Business Architecture program, or BPM initiative, they will start considering an "as is situation" for their processes. After some debates..they will go for a "target architecture" and deliver a gap analysis.

Business Processes are alignments of tasks and activities. Some of them being SOA based, manual actions or integrating any sort of legacy systems.

As you write, this is a "Customer view". The internal IT department has its ITSM Service Catalog and I would claim that the mapping is not so easy as some IT Services are 1:n Business Processes.

On the other side the IT Department proposes IT Services which may contain as already written 1:n Business processes. This is the IT View. There again, the mapping is not obvious.

For that complexity, I intentionally linked Business Processes to IT Processes and not IT Services. As an example, an "order to cash" process would be linkde to SLM, Change Management, Incident, etc..

Hope that makes sense.

Best Regards


Antonio Valle said...

Hi Serge:

This post is becoming more and more interesting :-)

When you say

"For that complexity, I intentionally linked Business Processes to IT Processes and not IT Services. As an example, an "order to cash" process would be linkde to SLM, Change Management, Incident, etc.."

I think that some of the activities of the "order to cash" BP are executed using IT Services, and this is why I say that the business process is supported by IT Services. In this context, for me it is clear that the "Incident" or the "Change Management" as IT Processes are directly related to IT Services.

But, may be, you are thinking more business focused than me and you are thinking that the "Change Management" process is related not to the IT Service itself, but related to the change in the business process? (this is an abstraction of ITIL processes to the business level!)


PS:: May be now I'm going to show my deep ignorance, but... ¿Why do you introduce the SOA concept in your last answer? As far as I understand, SOA is not related to processes, its more a "way to build things based on webservices" (or am I so worng that this is really a silly question?)

Serge Thorn said...

Let me first suggest that you read the post: What is a Service? http://sergethorn.blogspot.com/2006/08/what-is-service.html

This will clarify I hope my replies. There are two types of Services: the ITSM Services and the SOA Services or Web services or…IT Services in a “SOA” mode. A Business Process which is automated is generally speaking running on a BPMs (BPM suite) using technologies such as BPEL, XML, etc.. Processes are orchestrated and execute components usually SOA based when existing, often through an ESB. A BPEL engine or a BPMs support the company’s business process integrating SOA to BPM.

Now, the ITSM Services is something different and should not be associated to the “other Services”, at least not in the same way. Also have a look at the Service Catalog post which also covers the topic.

But, Business Processes have also a relation to ITSM Services. As already written, it is not always clear what is the mapping. My view on this is that a Business Process runs activities, and these activities belong to ITSM Services. As an example, the Order to cash process couls have several activities running on different platforms/products, but each product/platform could be an ITSM Service. Once again it relies on the way you define an ITSM Service….

So..if you say that Business Processes is supported by IT services, this is correct as long as you are refering to web services (SOA).

What you wrote is exactly what I meant…ITIL processes related to the business level.

SOA should absolutey refer to Business Processes if possible to deliver agility and flexibility. This is one way of using SOA among others (composite applications, portal, B2B, etc are others .). Web services is only a way to create a modular component, re-usable and loosely coupled.

As you see, there are lots of confusion these days between ITSM and SOA, Services definition, etc.. This is why I have posted many entries on the subject in my blog.

Happy to discuss with anyone!

Best Regards


Antonio Valle said...

Hello Serge:

Today I've seen an interesting discussion in the Troy's Blog and it remembered me this conversation. May be you are interested in joining us there :-)



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