County/municipal IT customer service and the RACI model

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Because Mother Nature is so stingy when she doles out the gene for common sense, frameworks and standards for IT governance had to be invented.

An example

Recently, I heard about an incident in which a municipal IT director was planning and executing significant changes to a department’s critical infrastructure without informing the customer — the department personnel. After being confronted, he insisted that he wasn’t required to inform the stakeholders because it was routine and he didn’t need departmental approval. Huh! To make matters worse, the changes involved significant risks that were far beyond the understanding of that IT director and his staff.

This behavior is appalling on many levels, but it is representative of the service provided by many municipal IT managers who believe IT is a dictatorial, rather than collaborative, profession. A few of the things this scenario tells us about the organization include the following:

1. The organization isn’t using a framework for IT governance and IT Service Management (ITSM).

2. Executive oversight of IT is inadequate.

3. The organization lacks a risk management program with change-control policies and procedures.

I will address the first two items below, and we can address item No. 3 in a subsequent article, so don’t forget to check back.

Sacred cows and your executive legacy

Municipal IT operations tend to be monopolies, and the customer service they provide is all too often in keeping with what one would expect from any monopoly. There is no good reason for this state of affairs, and you can fix it with relative ease. Enabling deplorable IT services doesn’t have to be one of your executive legacies.

Municipal IT often operates on a charge-back model, where customers (internal departments) are forced pay a flat annual fee or an hourly rate for IT services. The customers are unable to pursue competitive services from external vendors that may provide considerably better quality at a significantly lower cost. In the bubble of government IT, market forces never apply the pressure required to initiate change, and the IT department remains a sacred cow trapped in outmoded thinking and ancient processes.

Solutions, tools and techniques

In previous articles[i], I have discussed several management tools, techniques and processes that will significantly improve IT performance and customer service in your organization. Here, I will add one more concept: the RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed) model.

The RACI model is an excellent tool for clarifying roles and responsibilities within a process. Using RACI can increase transparency and address the lack of oversight, so that all the players clearly understand their roles in the grand scheme. Let’s take a look at an example of how it might be used to identify appropriate roles for the operation and maintenance of a county clerk’s software application.

Although your matrix may be different, what won’t be different is that multiple stakeholders are involved. If there are a significant number of public users of the system, such as attorneys and title researchers, you might want to add them to the matrix as well.

While the RACI model is an important component of frameworks and standards such as COBIT, ITIL and ISO 20000, undertaking a full implementation of any of these programs isn’t necessary to make significant performance improvements to your IT operations and customer service.

Don’t count on common sense as a reliable management tool; use IT governance instead.

For further reading

“How to Design a Successful RACI Project Plan,” by Bob Kantor, CIO.com, May 22, 2012

[i] “Improving IT Customer Service with Service Level Agreements (SLA),” by Jeffrey Morgan, e-volve Information Technology Services

“What Is the Biggest Threat to Internal IT Departments?” by Jeffrey Morgan, CIO.com, Oct. 3, 2016

“High Crimes and Misdemeanors of CIOs,” by Jeffrey Morgan, CIO.com, Oct. 17, 2016

“Improving IT Customer Service, Part 2: Using a PSA System,” by Jeffrey Morgan, e-volve Information Technology Services

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