By Jeff Robinson, Kepner-Tregoe

Puzzle piece that says secret ingredientEveryone knows that a “secret ingredient” can turn an otherwise “ho-hum” recipe into a crowd favorite. Companies continue to invest significant resources in IT year after year because they acknowledge the potential to improve employee productivity and make business processes more efficient.  Unfortunately, the returns they often experience on these investments often fail to meet expectations.  This is partly because technology isn't fail-proof and doesn't last forever - it breaks, requires care and feeding, and must continuously evolve to meet the changing needs of the organization.  What if there was a “secret ingredient” that could help companies increase the value from their IT investments?  There is – Problem Solving skills!

As the role of technology within companies expands from an employee enabler to an embedded part of core business processes, the impact of technology failures can be catastrophic.  Diagnosing issues when they occur quickly, restoring service, identifying underlying cause(s) and implementing preventative solutions to avoid recurrence is critical to ensure both the preservation of value from IT investments and the continuity of business operations. 

Companies also need to understand that they don’t receive value when IT systems are implemented - they receive value through the operation and use of IT systems to support business activities.   Ironically, most IT organizations focus staff training and process improvement efforts on the creation and changing of systems, not on the activities that take place when systems are operated.  Most IT organizations are staffed with skilled professionals, rich in technical expertise but lacking the Problem Solving skills needed to operate and support critical IT investments at the level that modern companies demand.  

Without solid Problem Solving skills in the organization, each system failure is treated as something new with staff figuring out “how to ride a bike” while they are in a hurry to get somewhere.  The result is a high stress / chaotic environment often involving a lot of head-scratching and guessing and after frustration begins to build, some sort of “reboot” is undertaken to try and restore service to users.  Amid the chaos, it is not uncommon for critical data to be lost or destroyed that is needed later for analyzing the root cause of why the failure occurred and identify actions that can be taken to prevent a similar failure from happening again.

The same Problem Solving skills used to respond to failures can be applied to usability issues as well.  As organizations evolve, the behaviors of users and the automation needs of business processes change.  These changes in the business often result in diminishing value of the IT systems used to support the operations.  By applying Problem Solving skills to identify, diagnose, mitigate impact, and apply corrective changes quickly, IT systems can be more adaptive to business change – resulting in an extension of the expected useful life of the organization’s technology assets and IT investments.

A robust and consistently applied Problem Solving methodology just may be the “secret ingredient” to help organizations maximize the value of their IT investments by breaking the cycle of "fire-fighting" behavior and replacing it with a culture of "continuous improvement".  By utilizing a structured approach to Problem Solving, the time to resolve failures and address changing business needs can be significantly reduced (because staff know their role and are prepared to respond) and the recurrence of issues can be avoided through a focus on information gathering and prevention. 

Kepner-Tregoe (KT) provides a suite of tools that give IT professionals the ability to solve the most pressing issues with speed, clarity and confidence. Founded in 1958 and based on ground-breaking research on how people think, solve problems and make decisions KT offers a suite of tools that help individuals and organization reach and often exceed their goals.

 

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