Key Items for Your IT Assessment Checklist

While the weatherman might not agree, spring has sprung and with it, the inevitable look behind that door that has been shut for months… the one where “I’ll deal with that later” has gone to hide!

For those of us in IT, spring cleaning must go far beyond a hardware and software review. A proper assessment is a three step process that begins with a look at your current state, looks at where you want to go in the future, and then identifies the potholes in that road to success.

Ready for spring cleaning? Start here.

Current State Assessment

The goal of this phase is to compile a complete set of information relating to the current “AS-IS” status of the Information Technology department and must include a review of the business vision, goals, and plans.  The compilation process should also include:

  • Identification, collection and analysis of all current IT documentation
  • Creation of any required artifacts not initially available from current IT documentation
  • Interview of IT staff resources
  • Interview of IT customers, key stakeholders, business owners, and vendors

This review process must be comprehensive enough to enable a solid baseline in order to build an accurate roadmap that includes all recommended improvements with associated benefits/ROI.  Think people, process, and technology… in that order.

  • People
    • Organization Structure
    • Job Titles and Job Descriptions
    • Goals and Objectives
    • Performance reviews
    • Skills – type and quantities
    • Communications channels
    • Engagement level of staff – “Line of Sight” to department goals
    • Relationship to customers – liaison activities, reputation, forums
    • Training / skills growth
  • Process
    • Project portfolio – all active and planned projects
    • Project Management
    • Governance – intake, review, prioritization, approval, tracking, ROI
    • Service Outages – escalation, communication, root cause analysis
    • RFP process – Vendor management
    • Time tracking
    • Core service SLAs – documentation, tracking, reporting
    • Meetings – Purpose, Timing, Management
    • Asset Management
    • IT financial management – CAPEX, OPEX
  • Technology
    • Hardware architecture diagram
    • Network architecture diagram
    • Data architecture diagram
    • Applications architecture diagram
    • End User computing – hardware, software, data
    • Complete inventory of all applications, including business owner(s), version, user counts
    • Complete inventory of all active vendors, including contracts, SLA performance

Future State Assessment

The goal of this phase is to build the information technology capabilities that will be required to support the business vision, strategies and goals.  It should also include an opportunity analysis that will highlight the potential for IT to create competitive differentiators for the business including new product or service offerings to existing or new market channels.

The “Future-State” review should examine each of the elements identified in the “AS-IS” assessment.  Building a Future State for the IT department involves a number of internal and external analytics and comparisons to establish specific level of products and services.  Focus on:

  • Establishing clarity of Business Vision (BV)
  • Comparing and contrasting BV against competitors
  • Identify IT staff required to support the BV – skills, configuration, amounts
  • Identify IT processes required to support the BV
    • Governance based on key business metrics
    • Level of SLAs
  • Identify IT technologies required to support the BV
    • Life cycle of technology
  • Evaluate current vendors ability to support IT future state
  • Identify core IT services versus – strategic services that need to be internally managed by IT
  • Identify best practices benchmarks for IT
  • Establish SLA metrics and scores required to support BV

Key questions answered during this phase are focused on Business and IT vision alignment.  Ask these questions:

  • Is the business vision clearly understood by IT leadership?
  • What IT services should remain internally managed by IT and what could be outsourced?
  • Are business metrics established that enable an effective governance management model?
  • Do cultural barriers exist that will increase risks regarding the change process?
  • Do the vendor partners have the ability to support the IT vision – quality, breadth, financial?
  • Do opportunities exist to expedite improvements to lower costs, improve service, or both?
  • Does a clear view of the current business “pain points” exist?
  • What is the level of IT’s understanding of the business model, process, products, and services?
  • In what areas are key competitors ahead of the business?

The creation of the future state view of the IT department capabilities and services is an interactive process that needs to include business partners, IT staff, vendor, and various best practice resources (industry groups, rating agencies such as Gartner).  During this process it is critical to keep all IT resources informed about the objective, process, and on-going status.

GAP Analysis / Roadmap

After completing the “Current State” and “Future State” assessments, the next phase of the methodology involves comparing each of the components and clearly identifying the gap that exists between each assessment.  Each gap identified will involve a change to a combination of the people, processes, and technology within the IT department.  If the gap involves an outsourced service, the changes required could include contractual modifications or entire vendor transition.

Several critical questions are analyzed during this phase of the process.  These include:

  • Does each gap identified have a proposed resolution – people, process, and/or technology solution?
  • Does each solution have a defined ROI or business metric impact?
  • What pace of change is the organization’s culture able to sustain?
  • Does a Governance model exist to support decision making cycle time requirements?
  • Are “low hanging fruit” solutions identified to gain quick business returns, build momentum, and increase IT staff engagement?
  • What are the key dependencies of the changes being proposed?
  • Are any technology solutions being proposed “early stage” in terms of maturity?
  • What opportunities exist to increase IT’s business focus and decrease IT’s technical focus?

Critical success factors in this phase involve clearly identifying the gaps, solutions, ROI, dependencies, and risks involved with implementing proposed changes.  A clear linkage to the Business Vision is essential and the pace of change needs to be in complete alignment with the IT and organizational ability to adopt.

With high-level milestones, dependencies, ROIs, IT/Business owners, and a best-practice governance model for effective decision making, you’ll be left with the clarity that only a thorough spring cleaning can accomplish. This three phase assessment process should produce the asphalt necessary to fill in the potholes left behind by the freeze and thaw on that long road to success.