110.0 Organizational Definition

In many companies, the place to start evaluating the support function is through a formal organizational definition. Depending on the size of your company, the formal definition could be at the company, division, department, group, or team level. This process helps you think through and gain agreement on the fundamental nature of your organization and how the support function fits within it. This process is very valuable for new organizations. It is also valuable for an existing organization to sharpen its focus and validate the work that it is currently performing.

This information from the organizational definition is used to define a logical organization. Once this information is in place, you will actually start to bring in people to fill the various roles and responsibilities. At that point, you are building the physical organization.

The value of defining a logical organization is twofold.

  • You gain clarity and agreement on what you are doing and why. This definition should show the value that you provide to the business and why your organization exists to begin with. This information is communicated to external entities and your own staff.

  • The organization definition provides a framework to guide decision-making in the future. For instance, you would not want to undertake any projects that did not help achieve your organizational goals and objectives, major decisions can be evaluated based on whether they fit into your strategy and the way you deal with people can be evaluated against your organization principles.

Not all of this information is needed for all organizations. Review the definitions and see which ones are most appropriate for your group. The definitions are arranged from the high-level to the low-level. Sometimes you need to start at the top and go down one level at a time. Other times, you may have to jump around. For instance, perhaps there is a clear expectation for the clients, products, and services. Those could be defined first, and then move up to objectives, goals, etc.

It is also very helpful if there are other similar organization definitions from other parts of the company. For instance, if you are starting up a support department within a division, it is helpful to know what the division mission, vision, and goals are. If they exist, they can be used as input for the definition of the new support department. The mission, goals, objectives, etc. of the support group should align with similar definitions from higher organizational entities.

The following areas can be used to create a full logical organization for the support group.


The Mission Statement describes what the organization does, how it is done, and for whom. It is a very general statement, usually aligning the organization to the value it provides to the business. It should tie together the vision, strategy, goals, etc. that fall under it. At this point you are only describing what is formally or informally in place. If you do not have an organizational mission, note as such and continue.


The Vision Statement describes a state that the organization is striving to achieve in the future. It is very general, but it gives a sense of what the organization would be doing and how it would look if it were perfect and existed in a perfect world. At this point you are only describing what is formally or informally in place. If you do not have an organizational mission, note as such and continue.


There may be many ways to achieve your vision. A strategy is a high-level set of directives that articulate how the organization will achieve its mission and move toward its vision. A strategic plan provides guidance on the types of projects and activities that should be funded and executed over the next three to five years. Defining a strategy helps get the entire organization aligned in the same direction. At this point you are only describing what is formally or informally in place. If you do not have an organizational mission, note as such and continue.


Principles provide an organization with rules of behavior, and moral and ethical statements for how it will function. Usually, the principles describe how people within the organization will act, and how they will interact with other people inside and outside the group. They provide guidance on how to deal with people and teams, especially when you encounter problems. At this point you are only describing what is formally or informally in place. If you do not have an organizational mission, note as such and continue.

Internal Clients / Customers

These are the main internal groups that request and utilize the products and services your organization provides. While there may be many stakeholders (below), it is important to recognize who the clients are. They are the ones the support team should focus on. The support team should meet the client's support needs and help the client achieve their strategy, vision, mission, etc. If you do not have a description of your clients, develop a list of them as part of the Current State Assessment. Portfolio management is based on providing the most value to your clients and to the entire organization. You cannot proceed without understanding who your clients are.  For more information on clients, see section 123.0 Clients.

External Customers and Suppliers

Some organizations, like IT, work mostly with internal clients. Other organizations, like Sales, work directly with external customers and suppliers. Just as with internal customers, it is important to identify who your external customers are so that you can be clear as to the work that is of direct benefit to them. In many organizations, external customer needs are much more important than internal client needs. You also need to know who your suppliers are so that you understand when you are doing work that impacts them as well.    


These are the specific people or groups who have an interest or a partial stake in the products and services an organization provides. Internal stakeholders include management, other employees, administrators, etc. External stakeholders could include suppliers, investors, community groups and government organizations. Clients / customers are stakeholders as well. However, most stakeholders are not clients or customers. If you do not have a description of your stakeholders, develop a list of them as part of the Current State Assessment. Stakeholder needs must be taken into account when managing work as a portfolio. However, stakeholder needs are not as important as client needs. You cannot proceed without sorting out which people and organizations are clients and customers and which ones are stakeholders. . For much more information on stakeholders, see section 123.0 Clients.


Goals are high-level statements that provide the overall context for what the organization is trying to accomplish in the next one to three years. The achievement of goals helps the organization accomplish its mission and moves the organization closer to its vision. They should be written in a way that references business benefit in terms of cost, speed, and/or quality.


Objectives are specific statements describing what the organization is trying to achieve, usually with a one-year window. Objectives should be written at a low enough level that it is clear whether they have been achieved within the timeframe set. A well-worded objective will be Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound (SMART).

Products / Services

Products are tangible items that the organization produces. “Services” refer to work done for clients or stakeholders that does not result in the creation of tangible deliverables. Services provide value by fulfilling the needs of others through people contact and interaction. The support organization achieves its objectives through the creation of products and the delivery of services. Your organization may produce internal and interim work products. However, the term "product" refers to the final product delivered to a client or stakeholder. Likewise, there are many times that people within the support function help each other. However, the term "service" refers to the delivery of value to a client or stakeholder.

In general, the support organization produces very few deliverables. Your support group may produce deliverables, but when you do, you are typically performing in an enhancement, project, or management capacity. In fact, it might be argued that the support function actually produces no deliverables. However, SupportStep does not go that far and assumes that the support organization may produce some deliverables. In general, support services can include:

  • Responding to emergencies

  • Answering questions / assisting clients with the application

  • Cross training on production applications

  • Assisting with normal weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly processes (i.e. financial closeout)

  • Responding to environmental changes

  • Meeting that you attend related to support and business applications

  • Planning associated with support

  • Ongoing small administrative items such as time reporting and metrics capturing

  • Planning and executing disaster recovery exercises

  • Planning and executing records retention policies

(For more information on services, see the subsection 121.0 Support Activities section)

Products that may be produced by the support organization include:

  • Upgrading software and hardware outside of a project situation

  • Reporting status to the clients and to your management

  • Updating documentation

  • Reporting your time on your timekeeping application

  • Managing your software components using software change management tools

  • Fixing application errors

Roles, Responsibilities and Skills

These describe the types of people the organization needs to build the products and provide the services necessary to achieve its objectives.

  • Roles refer to a person or group that performs a certain set of activities. Roles are different that titles. Roles refer specifically to the work a person is performing at any given time. Titles refer to the specific designation of each employee that recognizes their skills, years of experience and where they fit in the organization chart. For instance, a person could be filling the role of a Support Analyst, but their title could be “Programmer Analyst II”. 

  • Responsibilities are the specific end results that a person in a role is expected to achieve.

  • Skills are the personal traits or internal knowledge that a person uses to perform the responsibilities within his or her role. There may be personal, business, technical, and professional skills required for a person to complete his/her responsibilities.

(For more information on services, see the 124.0 Team section)

Transitional Activities

Transitional activities are the specific activities and projects that are required to implement the physical organization. If the support organization is new, these activities describe the work required to build and staff the new support function.

If the organization already exists, these activities could be the work required to move from the current state to the one that is defined in the logical organization. This work is needed to transition, integrate, and stabilize the new (or existing) organization. The best way to understand these transitional activities is to spend the extra time to compare the future organization you just described (future state) with the support function as it exists today (current state). Then, determine what has to happen to transition the organization from the current to the future state (gap analysis). Once you determine what the gap is, you can identify activities that are required to close the gap.

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