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A guide for IT Ops: How to develop strategic goals

Christine Lamm Continuous Improvement Manager, AmerisourceBergen

When my company, a healthcare provider, set strategic goals for the business, our enterprise IT services organization needed to be aligned. After all, most business processes are enabled through IT.

But while our enterprise IT services organization knew what projects were in place for the business, we weren't sure how those projects aligned with IT's strategic goals or with those of the overall business. By applying Lean Six Sigma methodology, AmerisourceBergen eventually found a way forward.

Here's how we did it—and a few lessons we learned along the way.



Don't go by gut-feel goal-setting

Traditionally, strategic goal-setting had not been a formal process for our IT organization, and the online resources we found on the subject didn't help us much. Most articles recommended getting a bunch of people together in a room to brainstorm goals.

But this is goal-setting based on gut feel, and that may not actually deliver business value. If we keep creating goals with our gut feel and the goals are incorrect, then the customer will not perceive value.

But what does the term value mean to the business—and to us? We define it as any activity the customer is willing to pay for—including any change to a product, service, or information—that's done right the first time.

Note that you must realize all three parts of this definition or your customer will not see value in what you've done. If you keep creating goals off gut feel and those goals are incorrect, you won't deliver value.

[ Special Coverage: Focus on IT Service Management at Pink18 ]

So we recognized the need for a way to deliver better value to our business partners., and we understood what that meant. But where should we start?

By following the Lean Six Sigma methodology, we set goals and created a culture of continuous improvement. You can do it, too, by following these three steps.

1. Listen to your customer

The voice of the customer includes their expectations, preferences, and comments with regard to a product or service under discussion. It is any statement made by the customer about your product or service.

You can obtain the voice of your customer by identifying your audience, determining the data you need about them, and analyzing that data to gain greater insight into your customer's preferences. 

Identify your audience 

The voice of the customer may not be the only voice you need to consider. Think about the level in the organization that you are trying to reach or should include. Other perspectives to consider might be the:

  • Voice of the organization, which describes the expectations, preferences, and aversions of the customer's management and leadership
  • Voice of the process, which describes the current performance and capacity of the processes that support end-to-end lifecycles
  • Voice of the learning, which describes best practices, research, and advisory firms as well as input from strategic partners
  • Voice of the employee, which describes the roles, skill levels, and capabilities of the customer's employees

Determine data needs

Once you have identified your audience, you need to ask a few questions. Do you know if you are currently serving them well? What needs are going unfulfilled?

To answer these questions, create a survey or conduct interviews to collect the data. At AmerisourceBergen, we used surveys because we wanted the collected data to be anonymous and because there were too many participants to make in-person interviews practical. 

Once the data-collection mechanism has been decided, you need to formulate your questions and statements. You don’t need to start with a blank slate. Review any previous customer complaints, and use Murphy's Analysis to turn them into requirements. 

Murphy's Analysis is a brainstorming method that focuses on how a process is not working properly. You take the customer complaints and change them into a requirement.

You can also use best practices (e.g., ITIL) to formulate the questions you want to ask. 

After you collect the data, you need to determine sample sizes as well as confidence intervals (margin of error) techniques to determine whether you have enough data to represent your entire audience.

Analyze the data

Look at which questions scored the lowest and highest. And there may be other questions you should ask. There are Six Sigma tools you can use to help deliver business value. (During my Pink18 session, I will discuss tools you can use.)

2. Gain a deeper understanding

Don’t stop there. Surveys and interviews are great for providing direction, but not so good for providing answers. For that you need to:

  • Conduct more detailed interviews.
  • Collect metrics. 
  • Apply the Five Whys of Six Sigma.

3. Create your strategic goals

Use all the data collected from the voice of the customer and organization, additional interviews, metrics, and root-cause analysis to develop your strategic goals versus just brainstorming and hoping to achieve the customer's goal. You can use this process to create tactical goals as well.



Want to know more? During my Pink18 conference session, "Moving the Needle: How to Develop Strategic Goals Utilizing Voice of the Customer and Lean Six Sigma," I'll offer more tips about how to do each step listed above. I'll also touch on how to conduct effective surveys and use additional Lean Six Sigma tools when analyzing the data. The conference starts on February 18. 

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