Categories: Insights

Petra Heine-Brach


Business priorities tend to be somewhat more dynamic in nature than targets and KPIs, which are classically written into IT contracts. Certainly, one can increase the flexibility of contracts by stipulating the possibility to change the weighting of penalised KPIs, to delete or add KPIs. However, this is usually associated with contract change procedures and has its limits.

While penalties may provide a motivation for the service provider’s account director and contract manager (as they can affect their variable salary components), they are of a far more abstract nature for the rest of the IT service provider’s staff.
So how can I motivate my IT service providers to set the right priorities without having to tinker with the contract and work with penalties?

In my experience, two things are the keys to success:

  1. A Continuous Service Improvement (CSI) programme that aims essentially (if not exclusively) to evolve the IT service to keep up with emerging business requirements.
  2. Transparency: One should never underestimate the competitive streak of people. No one wants to be worse than the competition or even bring up the rear in the rankings.

So let’s take a closer look at 1): CSI programmes are included in most contracts I have seen during my long IT career. Most of the time, they even have budgets allocated to them. Unfortunately, I have seen it often enough that they are misused to ensure that the service provider (finally…) delivers what is contractually owed. But this is not improvement, it is plugging holes!

To achieve real improvements in terms of business, it is important to:

  • Regularly talk to the business about their priorities and their needs regarding IT services,
  • Derive clear development goals for the IT services from this, and
  • Breaking these down into measurable improvement targets for each IT service provider (or even individual teams) that are achievable in a relatively short term, as well as
  • To define targets that complement the contractually agreed KPIs and to which individual employees of the service providers can concretely contribute.

I also advise a sequence of bi-weekly or monthly improvement “sprints” with a limited number of realistic goals. This ensures that tangible results are accomplished quickly and that everyone involved feels a sense of achievement and stays motivated.

The icing on the cake would of course be if the individual employees (especially of the IT service providers) were additionally motivated to make a contribution through a corresponding reward and recognition scheme.

Now, I am turning to the second key to success – transparency:

Think of implementing a dashboard that compares the performance of your IT service providers (regardless of their scope of services) and making it available to all of them, too.

You are now wondering how this is supposed to work and how to compare a data centre service provider with a workplace service provider? This is where your ITIL processes come into play. While traditional KPIs measure the outcome of the process execution (e.g. how many incidents did the IT service provider solve within the given time) and depend on the nature of the service, you could measure the quality of the execution of the processes (including their individual steps).

This has several advantages:

  • You can identify the causes of KPI failures at an early stage (and, if necessary, counteract them with suitable corrective measures (following my above logic, I am not calling them “improvements”).
  • Since all service providers should follow the same processes, you can make them comparable with each other.
  • Business priorities often focus on individual steps within the process execution.

Now you say: That doesn’t exist – and it is not easy to implement. That’s right! With one caveat: Not yet! Over the past year, Process Squad has been working with the Fraunhofer FIT Institute to develop an IT Process Scoring solution (which even takes into account changes in business priorities over time). My colleague Hendrik will introduce you to our new concept very soon.

This article concludes our small series on creating successful IT partnerships. I hope there were some helpful suggestions for you – and as always: Please share your thoughts and leave your feedback.

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