I mentioned earlier in this blog series that not many organizations are able to avoid “the adoption chasm.” Even after initial service virtualization (SV) success, organizational progress on the SV journey can stall or regress as organizations undertake efforts to create scale and operationalize. As successes occur, organizations inevitably add governance and process-oriented tasks. High-performing teams are often asked to document more thoroughly. Status reports and deadlines receive more scrutiny. Teams are expected to follow a new set of good practices, and post-its listing tasks proliferate on Kanban boards. The list of expectations and commitments grows, which translates to longer task lists for team members. Leaders tend to generate reports and measure project success based on completion of outputs.
Please understand: I am not discounting the importance of identifying, managing and reporting on SV project commitments. I am proposing that we avoid quantifying SV value in these terms.
Keep Your Teams Focused on Outcomes
Distinguishing between outputs and outcomes may seem like semantics to some and be nebulous to others. A colleague of mine uses this analogy to distinguish the two:
If you wanted to improve your fitness (an outcome), you might purchase fitness gear, join a health club and schedule workouts (all outputs), but these outputs alone would not improve your fitness. On the other hand, if you engage a personal trainer, he or she would ask clarifying questions to define “fitness.” Do you want to improve strength and stamina? Do you want to get closer to your target body mass index? Are you interested in improving heart health and/or reducing cholesterol levels? Answers to these questions help the trainer design a regimen that helps you achieve your desired outcome—improving your fitness. Similarly, the trainer measures your achievements based on your desired outcome, not the number of stations you visit in each workout.
We must understand and communicate the business outcome(s) that SV helps us achieve. Organizations that successfully identify and measure SV’s production against business outcomes will have greater success than those reporting on outputs. We increase the level of stakeholder buy-in when we communicate how SV is helping the business achieve its desired outcomes. The graphic further illustrates outputs versus outcomes:
Look to Metrics for Help
Measuring outcomes can be difficult because it requires connecting SV with business-relevant data. IT teams should rely on their business counterparts to identify simple, trackable metrics that gauge value. However, the metrics must be more impactful than simply the number of virtual services delivered or the number of times a virtual service is used.
Key concepts to think about when defining metrics are:
- Do not substantiate the value of SV only once. Do it for every SV project.
- Express metrics as they relate to outcomes. You may have to answer the question “Why are we doing this?” many times to identify the outcome the business is seeking.
- Use metrics to incentivize and/or create healthy competition among development teams.
- As part of your decision-making process, measure the potential value of a virtualization against the cost of building the virtualization; SV may be prohibitively expensive in some circumstances.
Develop SV Project Selection Criteria
Selecting the wrong projects can affect team morale and diminish SV ROI. Organizations can avoid many problems by establishing clear SV project selection criteria and adjusting them as needed. Consider these criteria:
- A well-articulated business problem or challenge
- Stakeholder sponsorship and commitment
- The existence of before-and-after metrics for developing value statements
- A good understanding of complexity and data dependencies
- Availability of skills and project team willingess to support SV
SV adoption and transformation are personally significant for people involved in these projects. The above tactics can help teams focus on delivering long-term success.
My next blog will peek into federation and communities of practice. Your comments and questions are always welcome.