Roxanne Showell, Principal Consultant at Roxwell Consulting Ltd, discusses how embracing service transition management can help organisations build resilience and cope with unexpected events.
The digital landscape is ever-evolving. Against this backdrop, operational resilience defines an organisation’s ability to sustain its product and service delivery despite disruptive events. As the tempo of business accelerates, organisations are inextricably bound to information technology services to fulfil their customer and regulatory commitments. Maintaining operational resilience is beneficial and fundamental to organisations’ long-term survival and growth.
Intrinsic to these digital machines are great service transition managers, who can act as pivotal cogs orchestrating changes to IT services that bolster and safeguard operational resilience. Like canaries in a coal mine, great transition managers can operate as frontline defence against unrealised risks that project management could not conceive of or our operational colleagues have no time to consider, as such risks have yet to be their primary concern.
Transition managers meticulously scrutinise each project phase, using their skills, knowledge and experience to identify lurking dangers other disciplines can't or won't see. Their vigilant stewardship can facilitate the seamless operation of an organisation’s IT services through changes. They play an indispensable role in fortifying and enhancing the operational resilience of an enterprise, which is often at risk of ‘black swan events’ that only a transition manager would worry about, cementing their value in the rapidly evolving digital business sphere.
The unique expertise of service transition managers
Service transition managers bring unique skills and expertise to the table. They conduct the orchestra of IT services, managing risks, promoting interdepartmental harmony, giving strategic cues and relentlessly driving towards betterment.
Have a chat with any member of your transition team and you'll find them equipped with a wide spectrum of skills and experiences. A great service transition manager will have a diverse background, and a strong team will have been there and done that, from wrangling VMS systems to extinguishing major incidents to carving lines of code. Until one fateful morning, they woke up infused with a sense that someone earlier in the process had made a misstep — or worse still, been negligent — sending disruptive ripples into their workday, and a sense of duty to stop that happening. This zeal for nipping issues in the bud led them down the transition path; they are your projects' secret weapon and an essential piece of your operational resilience strategy.
Service transition managers possess an uncanny ability to bolster operational resilience by sniffing out risks associated with change. Their diverse backgrounds give them a built-in BS detector for overenthusiastic project projections, spotting suboptimal designs and foreseeing resilience issues a mile off. This foresight demands a deep comprehension of the organisation's people, processes and technology.
The transition manager isn't always popular. But they're like the all-seeing oracle, always happy to drop an ‘I told you so’ when their forecasts come true. Keeping their eyes on long-term operational resilience when others are sprinting towards the immediate goal, they command the respect (albeit sometimes grudging) of various teams across the organisation and ensure that alterations to IT services align with the organisation's overarching business strategy, guaranteeing that the services keep servicing, come hell or high water.
Legislative changes and operational resilience
Recent legislative shifts have catapulted operational resilience into the limelight. The EU's directive on operational resilience for financial institutions, and the UK financial conduct authority's (FCA) policy paper on the same subject mandate organisations to ensure their services continue despite disruptive events. These regulations underscore the need for robust IT systems and well-planned contingencies to navigate disruptions.
Enter the transition managers — the invaluable coxswain in this regulatory storm. They remain laser-focused on the long-term impacts of decisions often made in the short-sighted euphoria of quick wins.
Measuring their effectiveness can be as tricky as carrying water in a sieve (after all, you can't quantify what didn't transpire), but that doesn't mean the value of transition should be overlooked. Regulatory compliance should be considered a catalyst for proactive investment in transition management. The potential dividends are attractive: increased operational efficiency through streamlined services and processes, reduced downtime thanks to superior design decisions focusing on non-functional requirements (NFRs), and improved customer satisfaction via more stable, efficient services. Not to mention, it keeps the regulatory hounds at bay, safeguarding your business’ coffers.
Project teams may take the glory, but transition managers quietly savour the satisfaction of a job well done and a potential disaster averted. After all, accolades are fleeting, but the smooth, uninterrupted hum of a well-oiled IT machine? Now, that's music to the transition manager's ears.
The high cost of low investment
Have you ever had the dreadful experience of seeing your company's name splashed across headlines for all the wrong reasons? Unfortunately, that was the grim reality for companies like RBS, TSB, Ticketmaster, and British Airways, each learning a painful lesson about the significance of operational resilience.
In 2014, RBS opted to outsource its IT services, resulting in an outage disrupting millions of customers over several days. The substantial reputational damage aside, it was a financial drain and a painful reminder of the need for comprehensive oversight in such operations — precisely the role a capable transition manager could have played.
Then there was TSB's misfortune in 2018 when a migration to a new IT platform failed spectacularly. The incident triggered a hefty £1.9 million fine from the FCA. But that wasn't the end of it. The CIO of TSB was personally fined £81,620 for not ensuring adequate management and supervision during the IT migration. Consider the difference a meticulous transition manager could have made in protecting the company and its CIO.
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Ticketmaster's 2018 debacle with a data breach due to a botched software update, and British Airways' costly data breach due to security flaws in their website, add to this anthology of business nightmares. These examples emphasize the importance of investing in IT changes and transitions as they are crucial strategic decisions that can impact the company's financial health.
It's vital to understand that the fines inflicted on these companies represent the tip of the iceberg. Hidden costs, such as revenue loss and internal expenses, contribute to the impact, repair, and subsequent investment to prevent such incidents in the future. Moreover, the effect on staff morale and endless crisis meetings also contribute to the actual cost of these fiascos.
Given the heavy financial impacts, investment in service transition management is vital. This relatively small, often capitalisable cost can save millions and protect your business from unnecessary disruptions when implemented correctly, ensuring your organisation's name is synonymous with operational excellence rather than costly, headline-making disasters.
Operational resilience is crucial in today's fast-paced business environment. Service transition managers are vital in managing IT service changes to enhance operational resilience. They act as early warning systems, helping organisations prevent costly disruptions from unplanned downtime, outages, and security failures.
Recent legislative changes have highlighted the importance of operational resilience. Service transition managers can help organisations comply with these regulations by ensuring that changes to IT services are managed to enhance rather than undermine operational resilience.
Real-world examples demonstrate the importance of proactively identifying and mitigating risks to ensure operational resilience and the critical role that service transition managers play in managing changes to IT services.
By investing in service transition management and ensuring that changes to IT services are managed to enhance operational resilience, organisations can ensure that their IT services continue to operate effectively in the face of disruptive events.