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Promise, Practice, People and Performance- Four Key Components of IT Branding (Branding IT Organizations Part 4)

IT branding is the process of building and improving the IT brand identity. This identity is shared by employees and groups that control the way they interact with each other, with stakeholders and with internal customers. It is a powerful tool in transforming the IT group into people who perform calculated, yet seemingly spontaneous, service delivery in the best interests of its internal customers. 

This is part four of my series on IT branding. We have covered several perspectives on IT branding in the first three articles of this series. Part 1 talked about branding in general and how IT branding is linked to the Process Culture Maturity. In part two, the concept of IT branding was defined and how it was related to IT team culture. Part three talked about high quality IT service delivery as the best brand identity. 

This post will delve more into the subject of IT branding, understand its key components and examine how it shapes the IT organization. The four key components of the IT brand, the four Ps — Promise, Practice, People and Performance, will be defined. These can be seen in the diagram below: 

Promise 

One establishes the IT brand by building trust in a promise about what the company does, what it stands for, what its vision is, and what added business value it can provide the internal customers and stakeholders. This is represented through the established IT vision and mission statement, customer value proposition and service offers. This promise must be developed by IT top management and its sponsors through extensive analysis of internal and external environment, interviews, and research. The Promise component of the IT branding process is achieved through vital scoping, visioning and strategic planning.   

Practice 

After writing the organization’s promise, the next step is to build the engine that will enable service delivery. This is the IT Practice – comprised of IT operating model, mode of service delivery and various other methodologies. It ensures that IT teams achieve optimum results and performance. It will define the discipline in which IT systems, operations, projects and evolution will be managed. However, this discipline should not be constrained to a particular use of a vendor’s product; rather, it should focus on providing a framework to structure IT related activities and the interaction of IT personnel with business customers and users. 

People 

The most important element of the IT brand is the People component. Everyone in IT must be in sync. For new team members, this is achieved through an adequate on-boarding process. For existing employees, ongoing organizational development and engagement initiatives will work. Communication is critical in this aspect. Top management must fully engage employees. It starts by communicating the Promise (IT mission and vision, strategy) and Practice (IT operating model and methodologies).  Each team member must know his role and value in the overall service delivery system. It is important to note that the internal perception of the IT brand are affected by the IT team members’ behavior, and that one must therefore shape the IT team culture in ways that encourage IT brand-committed actions on the part of all IT employees. 

Performance 

As discussed in part three of my articles on IT branding—what is central to IT branding is the relentless pursuit of quality IT services. Organizations build its IT brand by living up to its promise. IT teams strengthen its IT brand by relentlessly improving its IT brand promise. The surest way to do this is improving performance. IT managers must define key performance indicators to monitor performance against objectives. Measuring the success of IT branding initiatives is challenging; however, it is essential that every effort be made to measure results versus targets set forth. 

A Final Note: 

One’s perception of the IT service is often reduced to a phone conversation with a helpdesk service agent. IT branding depends on each and every individual working in the IT organization—the “People”—from the top, the CIO to middle IT managers then to the frontline helpdesk service agents. It is important that all IT personnel are in sync because the service brand is all about them. It is strengthened by the established “Promise” and “Practices” that enables IT organization to deliver with high “Performance”.

Achieving the Highest Level of Process Culture Maturity

Last August 13, I published an article entitled “Accelerating Process Culture” which talked about the four different levels of process culture maturity in a company. There are two underlying criteria used to qualify the different levels of process culture maturity– level executive management involvement and level of business process integration. 

When executives exhibit a strong commitment to the process and technology evolution of the company, they always bring everyone on board. Executive management has the authority to push company-wide change as well as fund processes and IT initiatives. They are responsible for aligning the company’s structure to the business integration strategy; therefore, they enable the organization to advance to a higher process culture maturity. Let’s revisit the four levels of process culture maturity:

  • Level 1: Individual heroes – dependence on individuals or a few company experts
  • Level 2: Diverse Approach – initiatives per department but lacking in integration
  • Level 3: Model Integration – business and IT align and model integration is achieved
  • Level 4: Process Culture – executive passionately participates in process initiatives

 Process Maturity Levels

This time, let’s examine closely the highest level of process maturity—The Process Culture. The final step of process culture maturity is when the organization achieves a high level of model integration by leveraging the consistent involvement of executive management as sponsors and facilitators of change.

There are three factors that determine the right approach towards process culture maturity.  Let’s call it the “SIB factors”. S stands for senior management involvement, I for innovation and B for business model integration.

Senior managers and managers alike are the critical success factors in your organization’s process culture journey. They lead the way in building process culture and defining the operating model. Innovation in information technology is also a key component. Successful companies nowadays rely on an integrated set of electronic business processes, tools, information, and technologies. With proper support and funding, an IT organization should be able to provide the right platform and technology in which to build the foundation.

The next thing that the company needs to do is to make sure that they select the right business process model from among the many tested disciplines and existing operating models. The underlying logic here is that a company’s business model is limited by the environment. In other words, it depends on several factors, such as the industry it operates, the products and services it sells, its size and geographical diversity. Using all these factors, you determine the level of business process standardization and the level of integration of the company’s different businesses — with profitability and competitiveness requirements in mind. Shared services, outsourcing, diversification, standardization, model replication are some of the most prevalent business models multinational companies have implemented. 

The real question is: how close are you and your company to getting to the highest level of process culture? This is a guide on how to assess the level of process culture maturity of an organization. Again, the examples are outlined using the “SIB factors”. Observe the following points and evaluate how your company is doing right now.

Senior management involvement

  • Top executives participate in the IT and Processes evolution committee.
  • Requires thoroughly analyzed business cases and encourages measurement of acquired benefits.
  • Pushes for post-implementation audit to evaluate project output and acquire lessons learned.
  • Encourages collaboration across business lines and functional teams.
  • Funds IT and Process initiatives and actively support training in the use of IT.

Innovation:

  • Exhibits a strong sense of innovation, feelings of shared interest to continue to improve and be ahead of competitors
  • Holds regular management briefings on the impact of new technology developments and process innovations in the industry.
  • Establishes a consolidated IT operation that manages a standard IT platform to sustain day-to-day support functions to business areas.
  • Encourages use of IT in the business. Users possess a feeling of empowerment and confidence in the effectiveness and reliability of the processes and systems. 
  • Strives to leverage new technology, platform and methodology with sufficient effort in research and development in the area of processes and IT. 

Business Integration:

  • Defines a clear vision of model integration and process standardization.
  • Uses a best-in-class enterprise resource planning software to run an integrated set of business processes
  • Promotes implementation of end-to-end processes to ensure the efficient flow of activities and effective allocation of decision rights and accountabilities.
  • Captures business information in one area and shares it to another business area. Possesses the willingness to share and use information to measure and improve key performance.
  • Maximizes reuse of business processes and platform across different business lines.

Achieving a high level of process culture maturity presents a host of challenges to an organization. The SIB factors provide a structured framework where initiatives can be drawn and strategies derived. This will propel your company forward through its process culture maturity journey.  Achieving the highest level of process culture maturity requires strong executive sponsorship and IT leadership in order to support the company through a change process. When achieved, the company is in a good position to leverage IT for profitable growth and gain competitive advantage in a global market that knows no boundaries. This leap begins with you and your company’s senior managers.

Accelerating Process Culture

It seems like distant past when big companies rely on individual heroes to facilitate process initiatives. They are long-service employees who became the experts of how things and processes work in the company. They are always consulted because of their inherent authority– business owners and managers listen to them. Think about them as company elders and gurus whom we seek advice from when things go wrong and consulted whenever changes are planned.  

When a company relies and is solely dependent on its individual heroes for change and process enhancement, it is on its 1st level of process culture maturity.

Process Maturity Levels

The second stage of process culture maturity is the Diverse Approach.  This is when the company starts to utilize standard methods and best practices to drive process design and innovation. Oftentimes at this stage, different areas in the organization implore varying approaches and therefore, less synergy is achieved. Standard operating procedures (SOP) start to shape in each department and documentation becomes an integral part of process implementation. In many cases, at this point, IT and business approaches tend to clash and technology becomes the focus of project implementation.

Companies move up to the Model Integration stage when it builds more synergies throughout the organization. Very successful multinational companies such as P&G, CEMEX, and ING DIRECT take advantage of Model Integration by consolidating functions and developing its shared services. P&G, for example, has established Global Business Services (GBS) — a shared service organization that provides the company a platform for continuous global growth while maintaining values of innovation, service, customer responsiveness and business efficiency. Companies at this level adapt a consolidated method to design and implement business models using standard processes and tools. The project team discipline ultimately improves as management breaks silos and approaches process and technology implementation equally.  The common tendency is for companies to establish global standards and to consolidate both IT infrastructure and human resources, thereby reducing cost of operations.

The final step to Process Culture Maturity occurs when innovation and change in business practices through process understanding are consistently promoted within the company. When executives passionately embrace process thinking, they are able to promote innovation more confidently when implementing new technologies.

Many organizations have gone a long way from the days when company individual heroes were the sole initiators of change and process innovation.  Yet it’s difficult to predict what comes next — as technology evolves, industries consolidate, and Web 2.0 quickly becoming the new platform.

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