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How to Identify Your Work in Progress in ITSM

Work in progress (WIP) is kind of like the “promise of value.” Eventually, that work will amount to something—but not yet. WIP has many applications in business, and they are growing in IT. In a post at his blog, Joe the IT Guy discusses the significance of WIP for IT service management.

Progress and Pauses

WIP is fine when it is actually being worked. WIP is bad when it allows for idle time or its presence actively wastes time, but knowing when WIP is causing such things in service management requires some investigation to identify. In the case of service-waiting time, Joe observes that there are both low-level waiting times and high-level waiting times.

The low-level end is truly low level: cases of people waiting 20ish seconds to hear back about something digitally. These are 20 seconds in the day lost sitting in silence since you expect an answer (relatively) immediately—as opposed to if you had expected an answer later in the day, which means you would have just moved to working on something else. By comparison, high-level waiting is more what one would expect: waiting overly long for a new thing to be implemented. This kind of waiting comes with strategic risks and opportunity costs.

Another sort of wasted time caused by WIP is what Joe refers to as “fretting time”—time spent wondering about and worrying over whether work will get done. This fretting may not destroy people’s ability to do work, but it will likely have a negative effect on the quality of work produced in that period.

It may come as little surprise that change management too plays a role in the presence of WIP in ITSM:

Probably, from an IT service management (ITSM) context, change management is in the front line when it comes to creating – and being placed to improve – everyday WIP. Change backlogs are WIP at their most blatant. They are the things we have agreed that we need and will add value, but are not getting done.

Dealing with WIP involves identifying it, and the damage it can cause (or to be honest, is already causing). Some WIP time is inevitable, but communicating why, and setting expectations, can make a big difference. Not least in helping customers and support staff get their planning right, based on accurate predictions of when things will be there.

When you are able to identify your WIP, you can decide if steps can be taken to reduce it. And if so, then it is your duty to educate people on how it can be accomplished.

For more thoughts, you can view the original post here:

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