Again and again, we’ve all heard the message, “simplicity is key.” Catchy acronyms like K.I.S.S. are engrained in our minds and cited as the cornerstone of many best practices. But how often do we truly apply the principle of simplicity to our own IT implementations? Do we consistently question whether adding complexity to a situation is necessary and acceptable given the problem we’re trying to solve?
Simplicity starts with an understanding of the big picture
Achieving simplicity in every implementation begins with a straightforward understanding of your own IT organization. That means having a common understanding of the big picture. Only once you understand how your team fits within the greater context of your overall business can you deliver true simplicity.
Where do you start? I encourage clients to begin with a functional overview – a set of three foundational documents that provide a basic, big-picture summary of your IT organization. These will help you form a clear picture of your department in terms of money, scope and time, creating a foundation to build from.
Here are the three key documents:
Budget – A basic financial overview of the total IT budget, broken down into simple, high-level categories that are meaningful to your organization (e.g., Run budget, Change budget, etc.)
Architecture – A simple, one-page diagram of your systems architecture, outlining the systems and components that support your entire customer lifecycle from contract sign to customer support, including how they interrelate
Change portfolio – A one-page view of your current change portfolio, identifying any dependencies between initiatives and relative priorities, and reasonable target delivery dates
These pieces should be uncomplicated and written in simple language that’s easy to digest. It’s essential that they can be quickly understood by people at all levels of the organization.
As a communication baseline for internal and external interactions, these documents equip all stakeholders with the same information from which to develop a shared understanding of IT concerns. By capturing the basic structure of IT operations, they help everyone in IT and the rest of the organization understand the challenges and make more-informed decisions.
Simplicity enables better communication
Let’s just say it. We have a tendency to overcomplicate IT-related conversations. Details that may be very important to the technical specialists on an implementation team often only serve to confuse our business counterparts. Knowing, for example, that a billing system is technically four systems is essential to system and change management, but only distracts from a business-driven conversation about adding a line item to the customer bill.
That’s why having a small, standard set of documents to guide these conversations can simplify collaborations between IT and other departments. Unless everyone involved can understand the basic IT context, implementation will remain convoluted.
Conversations involving IT can be difficult for a couple of reasons:
Complex systems architecture – The complexity of your technology landscape can easily overwhelm conversations with business partners. Investing in tools that aid understanding – such as the creation of a business architecture diagram or capabilities architecture planning– can make a big difference when pursuing alignment across the organization.
De-centralized organizational structure – No matter how your organization is structured, a high-level, centralized view of your IT landscape makes it easier for cross-functional groups to communicate more effectively, understand what’s going on across the organization and see how their group fits into the overall picture.
Your foundational documents – budget, architecture and change portfolio – ease these complications. By putting all the same information in everyone’s hands, they enable more meaningful conversations across the board. These documents uncomplicate the IT landscape, presenting it in a simplified way to get everyone on the same page.
They also bridge the gaps between IT and other teams – executive, finance, business, etc. – by highlighting links and overlaps in the work each is doing. By demonstrating how a change to a financial process or an approval for a new system impacts existing IT resources or infrastructure, these documents help others in the organization understand how their efforts impact IT day to day, and vice versa.
And the better these conversations become, the more teams understand about each other and their deliverables, the better the end product will be.
How cShell can help
Every organization can effectively communicate the value of their IT organization in just three simple pages. And that foundation can help you extend a core of simplicity into everything you do.
With cShell’s Valuing IT offering, we can help you understand how to simplify the top-level view of your IT organization. Using our proven, real-world templates as a guide, we will help you create your own set of foundational documents to establish your customized, baseline view of IT. We will help you extract the key information to create an effective communication plan tailored to your specific organizational needs.
In addition, we can evaluate your existing delivery methodology to uplift your process and ensure the integrity of your foundation over time without adding overhead.
Let us help you rediscover the power of simplicity.