Assessments are a tremendously effective way to take the pulse of your organization. When done well, they allow you to level-set, then continue to push the envelope and improve how your teams do work. Good ITSM assessments incorporate your organization’s goals and even provide a roadmap to help get you there from exactly where you are, making them a fantastic way to kick off a new initiative, or take a step back and evaluate an aging one.
A question we frequently hear regarding assessments is whether organizations should pay to bring in a third party to perform it, or simply assess themselves. While it may be less expensive to perform the assessment internally, there are a number of benefits you may be missing out on by doing so. Here, I’m going to run through a few of those benefits, as shared with us by our own assessment customers.
You get the unvarnished truth.
Every organization (every. single. one.) has some level of internal politics. If you perform your own assessment, those politics are guaranteed to come into play on some level – usually many. For starters, people often feel uncomfortable telling a peer, their boss, etc. the honest truth about how things are going. Real or perceived repercussions, or even allegiances to certain teams or departments, can color people’s answers to the point that the assessment results come out skewed. On the other hand, having an outsider ask those questions – someone who doesn’t know or isn’t invested in those internal politics – tends to unearth the real skinny on what’s happening inside an organization.
Similarly, when you perform an assessment yourself there will always be a little blindness to one or more weaknesses within the organization. Internal bias is incredibly difficult [read: impossible] to turn off. The weakness may even be you. Having an outsider assess your organization may bring some things to light that you need to improve within yourself or your team. While that may be uncomfortable, it’s necessary in order to grow and improve. An outsider can be the bad guy, and that’s okay. It’s all for the greater good of the organization. (Also, you won’t have to see them at the coffee bar every morning after the assessment is wrapped.)
Every time we do an assessment, seriously without exception, people (whether it be IT staff or customers) tell us how grateful they are for the opportunity to give their honest opinion and get everything off their chest. It’s cathartic to be able to talk to an unofficial office therapist. People are genuinely appreciative of being able to provide straightforward feedback to someone who actually listens and jots down what they’re saying. That’s not to say internal leadership doesn’t listen, only that we’re there specifically for that purpose during the interview portion of the assessment.
NOTE: We don’t put names to comments, and we make sure to tell everyone at the outset that their comments are confidential. We take our unofficial office therapist role seriously, folks.
You can see a weight being lifted from people when they get a chance to say everything aloud and not have to worry about who’s in the room or who might be offended by them saying something negative. If organizations don’t hear the good, the bad, and the ugly, you can’t get a true sense of how things are going and will not be able to address what’s just below the surface. Even if these issues are simply perceptions or opinions, they’re still important to know, because for that person or team, those perceptions are reality. If you’re falling down in the eyes of your customers, right or wrong, you need to know it so you can address it – even if that means you need to do a better job communicating with or educating your customers on a particular item.
“But, Erika,” you say, “doesn’t an outsider have their own bias?” To some extent, sure. But what an outsider can bring to the table is years of experience having seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in a bunch of different organizations. Thus, they’ll be able to tell you how your organization compares to others in the same industry, of similar size, or who have struggled with (and overcome) similar challenges. An experienced Assessor can give you actionable recommendations and build a roadmap that will help you address your specific challenges. They’ve been there, done that, and helped organizations solve problems. They arrive ready with new ideas and approaches that compliment and add to the conversation, and help the organization improve.
You don’t have to be both cops.
In every assessment, there are two roles. Good cop/bad cop, peanut butter/jelly, Hall/Oates, whatever you prefer to call them is fine. We go with Questioner and Implementer. So, what do each of these roles do?
You know that good, bad, and ugly I keep mentioning? The Questioner unearths, and through them reveals, the unvarnished truth to the organization. The Implementer takes those findings and recommendations, and works with the team to put everything in place. When you assess your own organization, you take on both of these roles and can end up confusing people as to what exactly it is you’re doing at any given time.
We highly recommend keeping Questioner and Implementer separate – even if that means having a different part of the company assess your department. There are things worth burning your political capital for. Taking on the Questioner role in an assessment isn’t one of them. When people view you, you want them to see you as the Implementer, not the Questioner. Or the peanut butter, for that matter.
You can get moving quickly.
An assessment takes time, something none of us have a lot of. To do an assessment correctly, it can take weeks of your time to set up and chase down surveys, schedule and sit through interviews, pull and analyze data from process documentation and tools, and then condense that metric ton of information into something succinct and practical. It takes a certain level of specialized expertise, developed over time, to be able to efficiently conduct an assessment and build out a comprehensive, step-by-step roadmap for an organization. That’s where an outsider – one that’s successfully done this very thing a bunch of times – can help. There’s a bit of science and art to creating something useful that you and your team can then run with. Outsourcing an assessment, ultimately, lets you focus on the million other priorities tugging at you and gives our “magical elves” the ability to create, deliver, and leave under a tree (if requested) something useful and actionable in a few short weeks.