“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” That’s what the swashbuckling character Inigo Montoya says in the 1987 cult movie The Princess Bride, in response to the villainous Vizzini’s repeated and incongruous exclamations of “Inconceivable!” While comically captivating, Inigo’s observation holds a potential lesson for executives struggling to implement standardized and consistent processes in a complex, multi-vendor environment. Namely: words have meaning, and it’s inherently risky to assume that all people understand words in the same way. Consider a standard hierarchy of vendor management. The operational governance layer at the base of the pyramid comprises day-to-day activities related to service delivery – identifying, tracking and closing incidents and problems, responding to and implementing change requests, resolving problems and collecting and reporting data. A seamless, end-to-end, outcome-based delivery model requires that all of the myriad providers involved in the chain of service delivery are on the same page when performing these activities. The good news is that the ITIL framework provides needed guidance for a common understanding around the daily activities of incident, change and problem management. And service providers without exception adhere to ITIL guidelines. That said, ITIL describes what has to be done, but not how. That subtle distinction leaves the tiniest bit of wiggle room for interpretation. Indeed, different vendors have different flavors of how they log, track, report and resolve an incident or handle a change. It’s not that one flavor is better than another, it’s simply that they’re different. Therein lies the problem: If repeated and multiplied thousands of times a day across multiple providers and multiple processes and activities, these slight differences can undermine the underlying foundation of operational governance, as well as compromise the strategic layers of management higher up the pyramid. To avoid this scenario, client organizations must take ownership of achieving a truly standardized understanding of operational governance processes and ensure that all providers involved in service delivery are truly on the same page. This responsibility goes beyond checking off an “adhere to ITIL” box. Rather, clients must apply the discipline needed to identify the nuanced differences of how Provider A manages an incident versus Provider B, and clearly define the standards to be followed. Revealing and reconciling these subtleties of language can be an arduous and painful process – but it can yield significant benefits in terms of true outcome-based service delivery, plug-and-play capability and provider collaboration. Written by David England, Director, Alsbridge.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: In December 2016 Alsbridge was acquired by Information Services Group (ISG). To avoid confusion and for the purposes of historical integrity, Outsource has kept all references to Alsbridge in place, on all content published prior to the date of acquisition.] Alsbridge is a management consulting firm that helps companies improve operations, reduce costs and optimize service provider relationships. With over 300 consultants globally, Alsbridge has worked with over 40% of the Fortune 500 and currently advises over 200 clients a year on over $11b in spend. We apply operational data and market insight to help clients align sourcing strategies to business requirements, negotiate contracts at fair market prices and improve governance and vendor management. Services comprise Sourcing Advisory, Network, Transformation and Cloud, IT Asset Management, Benchmarking, Vendor Management and Governance and Intelligent Process Automation Advisory. Contact us to learn more.