Friday, 15 July 2011 00:02

Optimise your personal IT value chain


You may not have considered it, but much of IT - from ad-hoc help-desk support to large-scale projects - follows a similar value chain. Understanding your value chain is a first step to enhancing your own productivity and performance.



Let me take the sense of 'buzz word'-iness out of this: a 'value chain' is how an individual or a department or a business adds value by the work it performs. Resellers may speak of their 'value add', meaning what they've done to a raw product to justify the mark-up they charge.

You might not think of yourself or your IT department as performing a value-added service but if you are an up-and-coming IT professional, or even a new IT Manager or CIO, I want you to take up a new way of thinking.

I'm not advocating magical 'positive thinking' by any means. This is strictly a pragmatic and realistic viewpoint about what a corporate IT department should be.

In fact, let me blunt: if your IT department is there purely 'to keep the lights on' or 'to make e-mail work' and measure your success in terms of whether files are backed up or not then you are not actually doing anything special.

In reality, the provision of basic computing services like these is so fundamental to modern business that it is just plain expected of any IT team. If you cite these items as an achievement or a strategic focus then your department is misguided and is misaligned with the objectives of the rest of the business. If your IT team only provide these functions then it may as well be outsourced, because these functions have become a commodity.

Let me tell you my view of a contemporary IT department's function.




Instead, in my opinion, the right goal of an in-house IT dept is to enable optimal corporate productivity, leading to strong commercial performance and competitive advantages.

When setting projects, setting budgets, considering new technologies the CIO must be looking at the company's goals and directions as well as questioning just how does each decision help empower staff to even greater productivity.

With this in mind, what is your value chain? How do you approach the tasks you perform? You may not know because your approach is entirely intuitive, honed by years of experience.

I have considered this question in depth and presented here is my view of the typical IT value chain, broken down such that it encompasses a typical help-desk scenario through to large-scale complex and expensive projects.


The IT value chain

Depending on the matter at hand, some of these steps may be more or less detailed and clearly a qualification must be made between a 'simple' task and one which is not simple.

I would like you to consider this value chain and contemplate your own scenarios and establish whether they fit. If not, what modifications do you need to visualise your own personal value chain?

This is important, because I want you to have one - not for the mere purpose of being able to say you have a value chain, but because now we are going to optimise it. Here is the chance to increase your productivity in massive ways.




Somewhere in your value chain, unless both you and the people you deal with are extremely talented, things are undoubtedly getting bogged down.

The initial analysis of a problem may be time consuming, for instance, for many reasons. Possibly you are untrained in a specific system that you must support. Perhaps your organisation has too much paperwork and has inefficient processes for logging support requests or for giving life to prospective projects. Perhaps your users are themself lacking the ability to coherently articulate the problems they face.

Alternatively, perhaps your delivery is the weakest point. Or the buy-in from key stakeholders is missing, meaning projects don't come to life, funding doesn't eventuate and users don't adopt the new innovations you deliver.

Whatever the case, you will appreciate that the throughput of your value chain is constrained by its weakest point. How much would it boost your productivity if your users accurately explained the precise issues they face or even had the technical know-how to resolve simple problems of their own? Or, how much would it boost your productivity if you had the ability to passionately and intelligently convey your intentions in a way that inspired others to see the same benefits and results and to invest in your projects?

Whatever the case, you must study your value chain. Run scenarios through your mind. Determine where your weakest point is and focus on resolving the barriers and obstructions at that point. Problems at other points can wait even if they come to mind readily because they are not your weakest point. Resolving those at this time will not increase your throughput. Be determined and focused.

Eventually, you will crack it. Your weakest point of the value chain will be strengthened. Your productivity soars and recognition and accolades will follow. What next?

Well, do it again. What's your weakest point now? Again, it's blocking your throughput. Fix it. Repeat, and repeat again, and never stop repeating.

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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