Lack of Named Owners Amounts to Enterprise Waste
One of the biggest ways to ensure confusion, inefficiency and massive amounts of wasted time and money is to not have clear ownership for those things that are important for getting work done.
For an employee who has questions that need to be answered quickly or who needs to get certain dependencies fulfilled in order to get work done, there is no greater frustration than wasting time and money trying to find the people who can help them. And for leaders who will be held accountable for Initiatives and Projects, there is no more certain way to guarantee schedule and budget slips than to not provide your workers with a quick route to the people they need in order to help them get work done.
Summary: If ownership is not clear, finding that person who knows how to answer your questions or help fulfill your dependencies always amounts to wasted time and wasted money.
Best Practice: Assign Owners to Counter Waste
Solving the problem means connecting the people who need to get work done with the people who can help them get work done, as effectively and efficiently as possible. However, doing so means that you’ll have to commit to assigning and maintaining owners at, both, the aggregated inventory level and at the individual instance level…
Addressing Ownership at the Aggregated Inventory Level
- Create an ongoing Enterprise Inventory Management (EIM) program [and give the program an Owner]: This means that one person will be set up to own and be accountable for the problem of enterprise-wide Inventory Management (for example, your Chief Architect).
- Identify all inventories that you will track as part of your EIM program: Examples of important inventories include Technologies, Technical Assets, Services and Data Categories. For a far more complete list of inventories, you can start with the Enterprise Inventory Control Grid and modify it to suit your needs.
- Assign accountable owners to each and every inventory in the EIM program: Doing so ensures that there are owners for categorical areas of the enterprise that others can turn to. It’s okay and very normal to have one person own more than one inventory. Be sure to include not just people as owners but also organizations. And, where possible, ensure that there are backup or secondary owners to reduce risk, in the even the primary owner leaves or is unavailable.
- Set clear expectations for what inventory ownership means: Establish clear responsibilities for Inventory Ownership that revolve around collecting, managing and sharing inventory data. Also, tie these expectations to their compensation.
- Empower inventory owners to collect and manage their inventories: Setting expectations is meaningless if you don’t empower the people doing the work.
- Publish all of the above to a single enterprise-wide Digital Library: All inventories should be published to one common enterprise-wide knowledge repository, called the Digital Library (see example of Digital Library). This ensures that people performing work can go to one place to find their answers. Doing this automatically creates an enterprise-wide “Yellow Pages”-like solution that efficiently routes people with demand to people with supply.
Addressing Ownership at the Individual Instance Level
It’s not enough to just assign owners at the categorical level of inventories (e.g. an owner for Technical Assets or an owner for Services). It’s also important to assign and establish ownership at the individual instance level, too.
- For every Inventory set, assign a owner for each instance within that set: For example, just like you have clear owners for the full inventory of Technical Assets and Services, you need to clearly establish owners for every individual Technical Asset and every individual Service, respectively. It’s okay and very normal to have one person own many instances. Just like with aggregate inventories, be sure to include not just people as owners but also organizations. And, where possible, ensure that there are backup or secondary owners to reduce risk, in the even the primary owner leaves or is unavailable.
- Establish consistent instance ownership expectations: This means you’ll make it clear as to how individual instance owners will create, manage, and publish information about their individual instances. NOTE: This is a great way to establish consistent enterprise-wide reporting.
- Empower inventory instance owners to do their work: This may be different for every inventory instance type. For example, empowering Service Owners may be different than empowering Asset Owners.
- Publish all of the above to a single enterprise-wide Digital Library: All inventory instances should be published their respective full inventory sets and, along with those inventory sets, should be published to one common enterprise-wide knowledge repository, called the Digital Library (see example of Digital Library). Just like in the case of full inventory sets, publishing to the Digital Library ensures that people performing work can go to one place to find their answers. Again, doing this automatically creates an enterprise-wide “Yellow Pages”-like solution that efficiently routes people with demand to people with supply.
The Clear Benefits of Assigning Owners
While there are many benefits to assigning and maintaining clear owners for inventories and instances within them, here are some of the most important benefits…
More Consistent Operations
Ensuring the above helps make operations across inventory sets (and within them) more consistent. For example, assigning owners to all Services means you can establish clear expectations for all owners across all Services. This raises, both, the probability of success and the probability of higher quality of outcomes.
Lower Operational Costs
When you achieve consistency across all inventory instances and can ensure that workers can get to the owners of every inventory instance and every inventory set, you instantly eliminate waste. Workers know what they have to do, when they have to do it, where they need to go to get it down, how they will do it, etc. Eliminating wasted time means eliminating wasted money and there is no greater waste in an organization than improperly used time.
More Efficient and Effective Individual Workers
Knowing who to contact in order to help answer questions or to immediately help with work makes a worker far more efficient. He or she can spend less time trying to find help and more time performing work. NOTE: The above best practices also apply to faster on-boarding of new employees and consultants. Having clear ownership allows new staff to spend less time learning about the enterprise and the things within it because they have a clear and documented path (via your Digital Library) to who can help them.
Higher Probability of Initiative and Project Success
If your workers know who to go to for help with answering questions and getting work done, they and you have a much higher probability for success when it comes to getting bigger Initiatives and Projects done. Project planning will spend less time trying to figure out who will help perform work and what the available resources are because clear owners will be able to help with doing so. Impact analysis will be quicker and more accurate because accountable owners will be able to quickly answer impact questions about their areas. Work will be more efficient because assigned owners will know what they’re accountable for doing, sooner. Project Managers will be more successful because they know who, when, how, where, and why to go to accountable owners.
Better Impact Analysis and Incident Response
Knowing who to go to helps quickly address knowing operational dependencies. This means that trying to understand the impacts of change or who to go to in a time of distress is far clearer and far more efficient. How many times has an application or system gone down and your incident responders didn’t know who to contact about the outage? Clearly published ownership helps avoid this problem.
Better Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
Having clear and accountable ownership, with clear expectations for how they will manage their aggregated inventories or inventory instances also means much better levels of TCO. You can better ensure that owners track and report their costs. If you’re a leader, this is a very important business, since you are always the named accountable owner to your business.
Publish, Publish, Publish
All of the above suggestions are meaningless if you don’t publish and maintain the data for broad enterprise-wide consumption. For this reason, build your Digital Library and keep it fresh, at all times. It is, by far, the most critical management and leadership tool you can put in place for your staff.