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Governance: Management? Leadership? Culture!!

Posted by on March 10, 2015 in ITIL
Show true leadership in your ITSM projects One of the most quoted words in use in tech management and marketing these days is ‘governance’. What do we actually mean by this and why is it such a big and ongoing topic?

Governance refers to "all processes of governing, whether undertaken by a government, market or network, whether over a family, tribe, formal or informal organization or territory and whether through laws, norms, power or language” (Wikipedia)

Governance is the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority necessary to manage a nation’s affairs (OED)

We get that fact that it’s about overseeing and running and managing. In fact, it’s basically running the show.
So is governance just another word for management? In some ways this could be true and often the term governance is used both separately and interchangeably from management, particularly when referring to processes and IT Service Management (ITSM) functions. For example: “the Problem Management process had no governance”, “there is a lack of governance around the implementation of the new ITSM tool”, or “our IT organisation suffers from a lack of governance”. Some words are frequently used in a nebulous way as a means of sounding intelligent or interesting but actually avoiding the issue, like “we need better governance here” when we mean “management isn’t doing its job” or “this process has no governance”’, meaning “no one is owning or managing the process”: Whatever the taxonomy, there are often issues around the management and policing of processes, tasks, and general areas of work delivery that need to be clarified and reinforced to all concerned. Let’s take a look at governance, management, and leadership…and ultimately how this defines culture.

Governance

This is the over-arching (executive) system that is in place in an organisation to manage and maintain quality, standards, compliance, security, and ultimately successful delivery of services. It requires a number of coordinated components – people, roles, responsibilities, guidelines, means of reporting, means of decision-making, transparency, and auditability. For all of these there is no excuse for ignorance – they are expected and must be understood and delivered by those with executive responsibility. In a limited company this is the legal responsibility of directors who may face serious consequences if they do not dispatch their duties in relation to the interests of the organisation and its shareholders. All directors and executives of all types of organisations are bound to follow and execute good governance of their organisation and its best interests. If not, they face not only the wrath of stakeholders (customers, employees, debtors), but also their justice system. The reason for mentioning this in some detail here is that IT is no longer a fringe activity that company directors can brush off and feign ignorance of. Now, IT is the business and they need to understand their responsibilities associated with it. The flip side is the need for IT to have more elevation in terms of positioning within organisations – direct access to board level discussion, not just a commodity team that reports to the Finance Director (who may or may not have any interest or understanding of it). For IT, ISO 38500 is a simple and really useful standard that all C-level/directors/executives should own and understand. It’s only a few pages and written in non-IT terms – it’s also a simple and really effective checklist for the things that they are responsible for in relation to IT. Every director/executive should own a copy. For ITSM, governance is often used in a number of ways – not only referring to the need to define processes, procedures, and accountabilities, but also for the controls, checks, and measures in place to ensure that these are being followed. So governance is about people, ensuring that other people are doing what they are supposed to, as well as taking clear action and steps to follow up if they are not. Often the first part gets done (not always well, but it happens), however  it’s the second part that fails, either due to lack of good governance in the organization or due to weak management. And so, sloppy culture is born…

Management

If it’s the job of the executive to set and control the way an organisation is run, then it’s the job of the management team to execute it. Simple? Well of course this depends on whether the organisation has a governance structure in the first place, and then the extent to which this is applied and communicated. Some clear key points are needed:
  • Clear guidance on the governance expected from management
  • Simple guidelines for how to select and promote managers
  • Clear policies and budgeted plans on management training
  • Clarity around management governance – i.e. who checks up on what they are doing?
In ITSM terms, if there is not a clear and strong culture around good governance across an organization, it will be difficult to make end-to-end processes work successfully. This is the crux and real critical success factor for most ITSM projects, i.e. the strength or weakness of corporate culture and the willingness or otherwise of middle management to challenge and contravene it. This is the reason, frankly, that most ITSM implementations are still centered around incident management, support and Service Desk operations – it’s been too difficult politically to go further. For example, it would be difficult to make some basic processes work across an organisation if managers know that it will not be supported by their peers or even by their (peers) management. Weak corporate governance will be the biggest challenge for the project. Some managers will have the skills and attributes to take this on but many will not, and those not interested can hide behind this culture. There is also the problem with ITSM/ITIL that when we say Incident/Problem/Change Management, we mean manager, and so everyone thinks that there is someone responsible somewhere for doing this, when of course this should be a global, shared responsibility.

Leadership

Leadership is another often used word these days, particularly in the context of personal skills. In other words, anyone and everyone can and should show leadership, regardless of their role or position. Leadership is not just about being a manager, it’s about taking personal responsibility and leading by example. Leadership can mean the Service Desk analyst who takes personal ownership of an incident and goes the extra mile with the customer to ensure that the issue is resolved, perhaps beyond the stated SLA. This could also be someone who digs in and stops a change happening at a CAB because they believe this will impact the customer experience or up-time, even if some of the IT management folks are insisting that this should go ahead. These and other examples can show great initiative, passion, and care for the customer and the service provided. They require some courage, and in some cases the need to challenge authority and process. By definition, they happen regularly in orgnaisations with good governance and management, but only sporadically, if at all, in those with poor management, governance, and culture.

Culture

So culture is actually the tone and rules set by the executive (consciously or not) and the degree that this is then implemented and maintained by the management. It’s no coincidence that in organizations with a clear, positive, and transparent governance and management, the culture needs less rules and micro-management to enforce it. Leadership should be encouraged from all people in an organisation but this depends heavily on the prevailing culture already in place. Clearly the process of changing culture is not a simple or speedy one, which depends on commitment and real leadership from those who can influence governance and management alike, as well as inspire others to show leadership qualities. In ITSM, for too long we have seen culture change as a project line or checkbox that needs to be added to our plan but often isn’t fully defined or understood, yet ultimately this will determine success. So with an impartial appreciation of the current maturity levels of governance, both management and culture in your organization will help you to set realistic and tangible plans for your ITSM project – that in itself shows true leadership! Image credit

Like this article? You may also like: The Service Desk and Relationship Management: All You Need Is Love

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Hospital IT Heroes

Posted by on March 3, 2015 in Service Desk

ITSM/service desk solution in hospital healthcare

Over the last few weeks I had the opportunity to speak with several customers in various industries about the exciting and quirky ways that they’re using SysAid’s ITSM solution in the field. I’m truly amazed at the myriad of ways in which they have implemented their service desks – from Australian emergency services to Italian fashion designers; from elite U.S. universities to Irish hospital networks.

I was fortunate enough to talk with Andrina O’Neill (pictured above), Senior Systems & UC Engineer/Service Desk Supervisor at St. Patrick’s Mental Health Services – Ireland’s largest independent provider of mental health services for adults and adolescents. Andrina is based at the organization’s main campus – St. Patrick’s University Hospital (associated with Trinity College). She is the pioneer IT professional who was brought into the hospital six years ago to assist in revamping the existing ineffective service desk in order to provide better quality IT services. Coming from a background of IT in the corporate sector, Andrina experienced a professional and mental shift upon entering this not-for-profit hospital environment.


I asked Andrina what it’s like to switch working environments, what challenges she faced in reconstructing the IT processes across multiple centers, how the hospital is making use of the service desk, and what she believes she’s achieved so far.

What was it like to move from the corporate sector into a charity-based healthcare organization?

When I started working at St. Patrick’s Mental Health Services, I was forced to change my whole mindset from being focused solely on making a profit to focusing on the wellbeing of hospital service users. At the core, St. Patrick’s is a charity which employs 600-800 staff including consultants, therapists, nurses, administration and support staff who are located across the country and actively rely on their service desk daily for the logging of IT-related incidents and requests, to ensure they’re providing professional care to mental health patients. For me, it’s an ongoing challenge to understand the clinical team’s thinking and needs, because unlike the end users in my previous corporate working environments, the clinical team’s focus is to provide the best care for the patient sitting in front of them.

Why did the hospital bring you onboard? What sort of IT services existed at the time?

St. Patrick’s has an excellent nationwide reputation for providing mental health services, but six years ago the management team acknowledged that its existing IT service desk (an outsourced 3rd party phone service) was failing to respond to the needs of hospital personnel. The service users, mostly clinical and administration staff, whilst competent with computers had a limited understanding of the IT jargon used by the external service provider. The service provider had zero understanding of the patients’ or clinical teams’ needs, which caused significant problems. The internal staff were never provided with a confirmation that their call had been processed, and the prioritization of requests was random, with no problem management in place. It was a disaster time-wise. There was frustration across all departments. The hospital decided to replace the service provider with an in-house IT department, of which I was one of the first recruits.

You paint a picture of a ‘Tower of Babel’ scenario that required a total rethinking of process and culture. How did you approach this momentous task?

My greatest challenge was to tackle the organization-wide frustration of staff whose IT issues had been frequently misunderstood or left unresolved. Their poor experience of the previously outsourced service left them with little confidence that things could change.  I needed to establish a completely new process across all departments involving new technology, training, and at a deeper level, restore the staff’s trust in service request management.

Firstly, it was crucial that the terminology on the end-user portal be easily recognizable to clinical and administrative staff in order to ensure a smooth transfer of data and requests. The problem I faced was that most service desks I evaluated were extremely rigid, and couldn’t be configured to serve our specific hospital needs, such as the use of medical terminology. This is why we adopted SysAid because it was so easy to configure to our needs, and we got it up and running within a couple of days. Of course, it was a change for the end users, but it allowed us to streamline incident management and make the process so much less time-consuming for the nurses and staff. Their requests were finally being logged and were instantly trackable through automatically-generated emails, which gave them a renewed sense of security.

What was the scope of the new service desk implementation? How difficult was it to introduce new technology to staff who aren’t so tech-savvy?

We implemented the new service desk across all hospital departments. Thankfully the task of re-educating the staff was a breeze because the platform was so user friendly that our end users could get onboard immediately. It was without a shadow of a doubt far more efficient for staff and it included reporting, which was essential for ensuring effective service for their patients.

What were some of the specific pain points and what processes have you implemented to respond to these?

The hospital relies on a complex share-drive system and privacy of patient data is of utmost importance. In the past, we were wasting a lot of time on new hospital employees – determining which drives, folders, and mailing lists should be made accessible to them. Although the heads of departments had defined file-sharing rules, in practice, new employees often required access to additional folders. These changes cost our team enormous time – up to 5 follow-up calls per new recruit. SysAid’s ITIL modules have enabled us to identify huge volumes of such incidents and resolve them much more quickly by recording and managing incidents and requests separately. It allows the hospital to focus on serving patients, instead of wasting time on administration. From an organizational perspective, the service desk is critical for saving time: we’re continually reducing the number of incoming tickets. Our team would be lost without this platform for problem management.

What about your remote ‘Dean Clinics’ for outpatients; how do you cope with managing IT processes for off-site centers?

Supporting off-site centers is a constant challenge for the IT Department. The main bugbear is the inherent sense of isolation felt by staff at these 5 remote sites. Our Dean Clinics are an integral part of the mental health services we provide, each staffed by specialist multidisciplinary teams who provide appointment-based outpatient services.  Due to the volume of appointments (there were over 12,000 visits last year), the clinical and administrative staff stationed there are under a lot of pressure to provide efficient and comprehensive services for the patients standing in front of them, so their technology and network connections must be reliable at all times. We were receiving many complaints from frustrated staff saying certain services weren’t functioning as they should be. With SysAid’s reporting capability, we were able to identify common issues across the clinics and implement comprehensive solutions, such as improving training for off-site staff and improving WAN connections between the main campus and the clinics.

Have your process improvements been appreciated by staff outside of the IT department?

The heads of departments definitely acknowledge tangible improvements to the service they receive. In fact the Chief Pharmacist for the organization, Amanda Fitzpatrick, was so inspired by how easy it was to use SysAid’s end-user portal that she recently approached me to find out if SysAid would be suitable for streamlining the clinical request processes within the pharmacy. For me, this was treading in uncharted waters as I’d only used SysAid for IT service management. We conducted a brainstorming session and it quickly became apparent to me that SysAid, when customized and tailored to the pharmacy's requirements, could be the solution Amanda was looking for. Amanda supervises a growing team of 16 pharmacy staff, who until recently were using Microsoft Access to record medication-related queries received from doctors and nurses. These ‘end users’ would either ask in person, call or email the pharmacy. This meant that the query needed to be manually entered, and only one permitted admin had access to the software.  Request logs were often delayed or not recorded at all. Also, it was a very laborious process to enter the data; it wasted hours of pharmacy time each week.

How did you go about adapting the service desk for non-IT processes?

There is a major drive for the pharmacy department to report activity levels and resources more effectively in order to improve efficiency, so Amanda’s manager gave her full backing to find more efficient software for their needs. We worked together with some help from SysAid’s Professional Services team to customize our platform: we configured the categories and labels with terminology that’s familiar to the pharmacists so they’re not scratching their heads thinking “What does that category mean?” We’re even using SysAid for a special project that enables clinical staff to log and monitor medication queries, which are automatically printed onto customized stickers for patient files. And for the purpose of working more efficiently, all of the pharmacy’s clinical incidents are now categorized, so it’s become much easier for Amanda to identify recurring incidents; she’s actually implementing problem management without even knowing it!

After hearing Andrina’s story, I decided to catch up with Amanda – the driving force behind this special project. Amanda started working at St. Patrick’s University Hospital pharmacy 15 years ago and is very committed to the cause of mental health and providing an effective service for patients. I asked her what value SysAid brought to her team and activities.

What sort of value does the service desk provide for the pharmacy?

Amanda: St. Patrick’s is a university hospital, so knowledge and continued learning are fundamentally part of the organization. It’s been my personal challenge to centralize requests and archive the learning from our clinical cases and queries relating to medication. SysAid allows us to retain good information on our activity levels. It provides a rich source of information allowing junior staff to learn from more senior staff and enabling pharmacists to learn and share evidence-based knowledge.

The service desk enables us to do multiple jobs at the same time. Firstly, my team can record their activity in real time and print their recommendations into each patient’s chart. Secondly, it has enabled us to centralize a log of our activities which allows me to oversee and supervise all clinical pharmacy activities. The automated reports have made all data accessible at the click of a button, and we’re now able to track where requests are coming from, types of requests, how long we’re taking to deal with them, and how effective our solutions are. My whole team finds it a far more effective system for tracking our activities.

All of these benefits can improve patient safety. For instance, where a query is received about medication use in pregnancy, the pharmacist will undertake a literature review and prepare a report. SysAid’s internal communications system combined with our new customized printouts allow us to provide the information to the relevant members of the team securely and confidentially. Cases such as these are saved in the knowledge base and provide a starting point for similar queries in the future. When such a query arises again, we can apply the service desk’s ‘duplicate service request’ function to capture and resolve these queries more efficiently. Staff can also learn from previous reports and save time.

Finally, I asked Andrina how she feels about her managerial IT decisions and achievements over the last 6 years.

We’ve come a long way in streamlining the hospital’s internal processes and our teams have grown considerably. Both the IT and pharmacy teams would be lost without the platform. From an IT perspective, SysAid is crucial for our organization. From a clinical perspective, it means improved patient safety. The value of implementing efficient processes for the hospital has been clear and even our facilities department have queried if they too can implement SysAid as they’ve heard how useful it’s been for the pharmacy department and how configurable the end-user portal was in terms of specific terminology and needs.

We’re always looking at better ways to manage our IT requests. Our latest development is that we’ve recently started to roll out ITIL via the service desk, and we can already see tangible benefits in terms of being able to resolve and track requests and incidents separately, which yet again saves us time.

Like this article? You may also like:
How Can You Create an SLA that Helps to Delight Your Customers?

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Defining Metrics for the Service Desk

Posted by on March 3, 2015 in ITIL
Defining Metrics for the Service Desk I have written a number of blogs about metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) recently, each focussing on a different area of IT service management. These blogs were very popular — this is clearly an area where lots of people are looking for help. Here are some links in case you’ve missed any of them. One response I got to the earlier blogs was “What about the service desk?” so here are my thoughts on how you could set about defining metrics for your service desk.

Principles to Think about When You Are Defining Metrics and KPIs

In previous blogs I explained how important it is to define your own metrics, not just copy the list of KPIs from an ITIL book, or this blog. Every organization is different and the examples in a book or a blog are just there to help you think about possibilities, not to be used unchanged. You also need to keep reviewing your KPIs, as the things you care about will change over time and KPIs that worked well for you in the past may no longer be relevant. Remember the “K” in KPI stands for key, so you should focus on key things that are important to you; you should not measure and report every number you can. You also need a clear understanding of your objectives, and the Critical Success Factors (CSFs) that are needed to achieve those objectives. Every KPI should support one or more of these objectives or CSFs. Reports and discussions with your customers should be structured around the objectives and CSFs, not the KPIs. The “I” in KPI stands for indicator. This is because a KPI is not proof that you have achieved your objective, it is just an indicator to help you and your customers understand trends and issues.

Objectives and CSFs for the Service Desk

So what is the service desk for? What are the things that you really care about? Here are some ideas of things that organizations might want to include as objectives or CSFs for a service desk.
  • We make it easy for users to contact IT to request help, ask questions, or provide feedback
  • We communicate well with our users, keeping them informed, and meeting their expectations
  • We resolve user incidents quickly and efficiently
  • We fulfill user service requests quickly and efficiently
  • We achieve high levels of customer satisfaction
These are just examples of some things that you might have as objectives and CSFs for your service desk. Please don’t just copy them - you should sit down with your customers and define your own - but this list might help you to get started. I’ve used the phrase “objectives or CSFs” to cover these high level requirements. We could have endless debates about the difference between these two terms but it isn’t really important. Just make sure you identify the things that you care about. Ideally you should end up with between 3 and 6 objectives or CSFs. If you have more than this then your reports will be too long and not sufficiently focussed.

Service Desk KPIs

Here are some examples of KPIs that could be used to measure the objectives and CSFs that we listed above.
  • We make it easy for users to contact IT to request help, ask questions, or provide feedback
    • All user interactions can be initiated via phone or web-based form (Yes/No)
    • Percentage of phone calls to service desk answered within 30 seconds
    • Percentage of phone calls to service desk abandoned before they are answered
    • Result for survey question “How easy is it to contact IT when you need to?” on annual customer satisfaction survey
  • We communicate well with our users, keeping them informed, and meeting their expectations
    • Percentage of incidents where user contacted the service desk to ask for an update
    • Percentage of incidents that were reopened by the user after being closed by the service desk
  • We resolve user incidents quickly and efficiently
    • Percentage of incidents resolved within agreed SLA targets
    • Percentage of incidents resolved using web-based self-help
    • Percentage of incidents resolved during the initial customer contact
  • We fulfill user service requests quickly and efficiently
    • Percentage of service requests fulfilled within agreed SLA targets
    • Percentage of service requests fulfilled using automation with no manual steps from IT staff
  • We achieve high levels of customer satisfaction
    • Percentage of users giving a score of 4 or 5 on post-incident satisfaction survey
    • Increased satisfaction with service desk on annual customer satisfaction survey
These example KPIs are based on the objectives and CSFs for the service desk. They shouldn’t be confused with more detailed KPIs that you might be using to measure your incident management process. You may also need some additional internal KPIs to measure how efficiently you use your service desk resources, but these are unlikely to be of interest to your customers.

Conclusion

You can’t define KPIs for your service desk unless you have agreed what you are trying to achieve. You need to sit down with your customers and agree what the service desk is for, and what they care about. This will enable you to define objectives and CSFs. You can then define a small number of KPIs that will help you to demonstrate how well you are performing. When you report to your customers, you should discuss the objectives and CSFs. You can use the KPIs to illustrate trends and to support your opinions, but be sure to discuss achievements against the higher-level requirements with customers, and most importantly — listen to how they perceive your performance.

Like this article? You may also like: Defining Metrics for Incident Management.

Please share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook where we are always listening.
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Information Technology: What Business Are You In?

Posted by on February 24, 2015 in Service Desk
Information technology, service desk, help desk - what's your business? Think Nike is in the athletic shoes and apparel business? Not on your life.

“Nike sells shoes but it’s not in the shoe-selling business. It’s in the business of selling emotion and aspiration. Nike sells achievement, Nike sells perseverance and Nike sells Victory.“ (Brandstories.net)

If you ask most IT people what business they're in, their answer will invariably focus on “technology”.  But are we actually in the technology business, or something more fundamental (like enabling business outcomes)?

Fatal Attraction

If you asked White Star Line in 1910 what business they were in, they would say the transatlantic shipping business. It was an industry engaged in a fierce competition for bigger and faster ships – deeply reflecting their focus on shipping (with a lesser focus on moving people). Every organization must answer The First Question of Innovation: What Business Are You Really In? Both in its design and its operation, White Star Line’s Titanic was intended to demonstrate dominance and superiority in the competition for bigger and faster ships — a focus that turned out to be both misguided and fatal. Had they foreseen the arrival of air travel and its wholesale takeover of transatlantic shipping, they may have made other choices and still be in business today.

That's Entertainment

Harvard Business School lecturer Theodore Levitt coined the phrase Marketing Myopia to describe the failure of organizations in defining their mission too narrowly. Had Hollywood stuck to its roots in celluloid film technology, it would have been kicked to the curb in the coming domination of television and digital entertainment. But Hollywood knows its business well: Entertainment (not film!)

Risky Business

IT Service Management is about enabling business outcomes. This is our business. We are very strong  in the use of technology, but our business is enhancing business performance and removing barriers. The measure of our performance is the degree to which we enable business to achieving their goals. Steve Jobs stands out as perhaps the best example of a geeky technologist turned visionary leader. He didn't see technology as an end in itself, but was gifted with the ability to see what technology could enable. Too often we spend more time debating the merits of one operating system versus another, than trying to understand what our customers need servers to do. Have you ever reported 100% server uptime when the customer was dead in the water? Imagine how your customers feel when you report network round trip times are “well within SLA range”, when they are experiencing significant “network delays”. It's not that technology components and their efficient operation aren't important. They are the very foundation upon which business services are based. But, just as Hollywood isn't in the film business, IT isn't in the technology business. IT is in the business of enabling business outcomes.

Dances with Wolves

In order to help the business achieve its goals, we have to know and understand them. Get in their space; walk a mile (or two) in their shoes. It never ceases to amaze me how little we seem to know about the workings of the businesses we serve. We need to get out there and engage our customers. If we leave Relationship Management exclusively to those with the title, we're excusing ourselves from our very reason for existing. Get invited to business staff meeting. Listen to their plans and challenges. Understand their struggles and concerns.

You Can't Handle the Truth

As you engage your customers, ask the tough questions. But, be ready to hear the truth, in all its splendor.
  • What is the biggest challenge you face?
  • What's changed in the last year in your business, and what changes do you see in the year ahead?
  • What IT services do you use the most and what do they do for you?
  • What IT services to you use the least, and why?
  • What would you like to see more of from IT (and less?)
  • Can you show me how you use your IT services?
  • If IT and technology weren't a barrier, what would you do differently?
  • What technologies are your competitors using?
IT Service Management aims to maximize business value from IT, enabling the achievement of business goals. In our business, we use technology, but our real business is enabling business outcomes. Focus more on what business outcomes can be enabled by technology and less on the technology itself.  Get to know your customers in their native habitat, and measure your success by the outcomes you enable. What business are you in?

Like this article? You may also like: The Service Desk and Relationship Management: All You Need Is Love.

Please share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook where we are always listening.
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10 Best Practice Tips for IT Transformation

Posted by on February 18, 2015 in ITIL
IT transformation in ITSM We talk a lot about transformation in IT. That the changing IT landscape is causing us to evaluate and ultimately adopt new technologies. Or at the other end of the spectrum, that business transformation is driving the need for new, and more, IT services to support new business and new business models. 2014 was definitely a year filled with “digital business” talk, with the associated opportunity (for either glory or failure) available to corporate IT organizations. At a high level, most corporate IT organizations are up-to-speed with the need for both IT transformation per se, and that business transformation is also driving the need for IT transformation. But IT transformation is ultimately organizational change – changing the people and process as well as the technology. And when we start to talk about organizational change within the IT organization, it can start to seem scary, or scarier, given that the people part of the ITIL-espoused “people, process, product, and partners” (formerly people, process, and technology) can be a significant barrier to change. At best, it’s a banana skin waiting to be slipped on.

10 Tips for IT Transformation

So what can you do to better traverse the common barriers to IT transformation (and to avoid any potential banana skins)? My good friend Ken Gonzalez gave some sound advice, and a few laughs, on this topic in his recent session at the Pink Elephant Conference in Las Vegas. My 10 tips are strongly influenced by Ken’s content. So think about the following 10 points:
  1. IT transformational change rarely follows the plan.  So stop thinking that, and acting as though, it will – and be prepared to go off-plan as needed. Shift happens (do you see what I did there?)
  2. Look beyond the end (IT transformation) to focus on the means. Pay particular attention to leadership, communication, and accomplishment.
  3. Ensure that you understand the service provider (IT) and customer (the business) relationships. It’s difficult to change things when you don’t properly understand the service delivery environment and status quo.
  4. Understand management imperatives. It might sound obvious, but change and IT transformation don’t happen in a vacuum. Ensure that the proposed IT transformation sits well with the existing management imperatives or expect a bumpy, and potentially short, ride.
  5. Collaboration won’t happen by itself; it needs to be worked at.Whether it’s intra or inter-team collaboration, getting people in the same room to discuss a common goal is not necessarily collaboration. Look out for pointy fingers versus open palms. People can push and pull but it needs to be in the same direction.
  6. Be aware of cultural barriers, especially inappropriate behavior. To quote Ken: “Culture is more insidious than politics.” It’s often the unsaid rather than what’s said that will hurt your IT transformation program.
  7. Ensure that you truly understand what culture is. I like Ken’s definition: “The overriding view and the corresponding forces which permeate a group.” And remember that while many cultural issues can be predicted and planned for, there will of course be some that can’t be – and I refer you back to my first point.
  8. Check your IT organization’s strategic and operational mindset. Is IT merely responsible for building and managing the IT infrastructure and applications? Or is it responsible for enabling business results and proactively managing customer experiences? Both the former and the latter will dramatically affect not only the ability to transform but also the quality of the outcome. It will also most likely affect the long term viability of the IT organization.
  9. Understand that with transformation “correction is inevitable and improvement is mandatory.” And with this, it's fine to concentrate on your strengths (as a corporate service provider) but you also need to address your weaknesses.
  10. Remember that informing does not replace actual communication.It ties in with the earlier collaboration point, and the old adage that “a message sent is not necessarily a message received.”
It’s also worth remembering that not all change is IT transformation. And if you look at #ocw2015 on Twitter you’ll see many of Ken’s Pink15 slides and additional points captured within the timeline. Pink ITSM Conference, Las Vegas Finally, I’d love to hear your personal advice on IT transformation. What works and what doesn’t? What did Ken and I miss?

Like this article? You may also like: 15 ITSM Tips for 2015.

Please share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook where we are always listening.
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Pearls of ITSM Wisdom from SysAid’s Competitors

Posted by on February 12, 2015 in Service Desk
ITSM and service desk pearls of wisdom There’s no law that says different IT service management (ITSM) solution vendors can’t play well together. In fact some of my favorite people work for the competition, or used to. Last year I spoke with some lovely ITSM people, gainfully employed by SysAid’s competitors: I’m beginning to think that undertaking a blog interview with yours truly might be the ITSM vendor kiss of death.
In any case, all of these guys (note to self – I must interview some ladies in 2015) gave their personal answers to questions such as:
  • What do you think is the most important element missing from traditional ITSM? And why?
  • What do you think is the biggest mistake that people can make in ITSM, and how can it be avoided?
  • What one piece of practical advice would you give to somebody working on the Service Desk?
  • What one piece of practical advice would you give to the CIO of a company with regards to ITSM?
  • If you could change one thing about the ITSM industry as a whole, what would it be and why?
  • What do you think the ITSM trend to watch will be in the next 12 months? And why?
  • Where do you see the ITSM industry in 10 years’ time?
  • Finally, what would be your 5 tips for success in ITSM?
I also asked them who their ITSM hero was. But I couldn’t include that question as they all pointed to me. It isn’t easy being an intergalactic ITSM superstar [Editor: Joe, I think you might be being less than honest about this question].

Some ITSM Pearls of Wisdom

If you don’t have the time, or the appetite, to read everything Patrick, John, Ashok, Stephen and Arvind (the ITSM One Direction?) said, here are some of their ITSM pearls of wisdom. Patrick:
  • Traditional ITSM mentions the four “P’s” – People, Process, Partners, and Products, but I think the most essential “P” often gets missed, and that is “Perspective”…  There’s too much focus on the services we provide, and not enough on the outcomes they deliver to customers.
  • We are all customers and know what service should feel like. At work, when we’re the service provider, why do we forget so quickly?
  • Focusing on ‘cost reduction and efficient delivery of IT services’ will prevent existing value from being destroyed, but won’t create new value.
John:
  • The most important element missing from traditional ITSM is the same thing missing from many IT trends in general; the lack of focus on the customer (the right customer) and lack of focus on business fundamentals.
  • The biggest mistake in ITSM is in thinking that “implementing” a framework automatically results in “magic value.”
  • Reduce the focus on dogmatic certifications for people and technologies and focus energies on increasing and certifying business skills.
Ashok:
  • The main mistake that organizations make is not properly documenting their requirements.
  • My advice to the CIO of a company is to understand that automation in ITSM operations is important.
  • The ITSM Industry should invest more in the development of people and process maturity models.
Stephen:
  • “IT is not about the IT” but about what the IT brings, in terms of business outcomes, to the organizations that employ it.
  • The biggest mistake that people can make in ITSM? Thinking of ITIL (and in many ways ITSM) as just a small group of processes (incident, problem, and change management) rather than a new mind-set around delivering IT as a service.
  • Ask service desk agents to treat their customers as they themselves would like to be treated.
Arvind:
  • The first and foremost thing needed for successful ITSM is some ‘reality’. One thing to remember in ITSM is ‘knowing is not doing’. For instance, you can read a lot about swimming, but knowing how to swim is the reality.
  • ITSM is not about implementing the processes based on the guidelines. There is no bible for ITSM. It’s about implementing what works for you.
  • ITIL/ITSM certification should not be about completing the course, but to observe and learn from the experience of others, what works and what doesn’t in real life situations, what will fit into your IT environment and what will not, and then to go about implementing the processes.
  • Of course they say a lot more in the original blogs. Check them out if you have the time. In addition, I’ve also put all of their top tips into the office blender to create a Top 10 ITSM success tips list.
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ITSM Basics: A Simple Introduction to Incident Management

Posted by on January 27, 2015 in ITIL
ITSM Basics: A Simple Introduction to Incident Management Don’t tell anyone but for some reason I can post to the SysAid blog now... and to start I want to provide a simple introduction to incident management. Humble is what I do best. Oh, and I’d better be on my best behavior. So I’ll quickly cover:
  • What incident management is
  • Major incidents and service requests
  • The objectives of incident management
  • The “incident lifecycle”
  • The benefits of incident management
If you read my blog, then you know I refer to ITIL quite a bit (you might think too much) but you can quite easily use your own self-created process and activities or look to alternative sources of advice such as ISO/IEC 20000, ISACA’s COBIT, USMBOK, or Microsoft’s MOF.

Where Incident Management Fits In

To set the scene, corporate IT organizations need to consistently provide:
  • Uninterrupted IT and business services
  • A level of service that meets customer needs at an acceptable cost
  • Speedy resumption of service when IT issues or failures occur, particularly when these issues adversely affect business operations
Incident management can help with all three, but will support the latter point for the most part. Incident management helps to keep business services available and employees productive. And most IT shops already do some form of incident management – though they might call it IT support, help desk, ticketing, service desk, or something else. Put simply, incident management is the process or set of activities used to identify, understand, and then fix IT-related (but business impacting) issues, whether it be:
  • A faulty laptop
  • Email delivery issues, or
  • A lack of access to the corporate network, a business application, or the internet, for example

Incident Management Definition

ITIL, the IT service management (ITSM) best-practice framework formally known as the IT Infrastructure Library, uses the term “incident management” to describe the handling of such IT issues from identification through to resolution. With the objective of incident management being: “To restore normal service operation as quickly as possible with minimum disruption to the business.” This is where the IT issue requiring attention (“Any event that disrupts, or could disrupt, an IT service and/or business operations”) is termed an incident. According to industry surveys, incident management is consistently reported as being undertaken by approximately 95% of organizations. And this process or set of activities is commonly supported by fit-for-purpose technology, i.e. a service desk, IT help desk, or ITSM solution.

Separating Out Major Incidents and Service Requests

ITIL separates out the severely business-impacting incidents as “major incidents.” These highly disruptive incidents – such as an online sales system or the corporate HQ’s internet service being down – are often treated as emergencies with significant IT resources applied to ensure a speedy resolution and the resumption of business operations as soon as possible. Some organizations will operate a separate major incident management process. If you would like to read more on this, Rob England, aka the IT Skeptic,has written a great blog on major incident management. At the other extreme are service requests, which are non-incident-related calls to, or contacts with, the IT service/help desk. And, as the name suggests, these are requests for new or changed IT services such as:
  • A request for new hardware or software
  • An access request: for an application or shared drive
  • Information on a particular IT service, e.g. what does application X do and should I have access?
  • “How to” information, e.g. how do I access my emails while out of the office?
It’s important to treat incidents and service requests separately due the relative urgency of an IT issue versus the need for a new IT service.

Incident Management Objectives

ITIL defines the objectives of the incident management process as:
  • “Ensuring that standardized methods and procedures are used for efficient and prompt response, analysis, documentation, ongoing management and reporting of incidents.
  • Increasing the visibility and communication of incidents to business and IT support staff.
  • Enhancing the business perception of IT through the use of a professional approach in quickly resolving and communicating incidents when they occur
  • Aligning incident management activities and priorities with those of the business.
  • Maintaining user satisfaction with the quality of IT services.”
It might sound complicated but it does really just boil down to the earlier ITIL incident management objective of “To restore normal service operation as quickly as possible with minimum disruption to the business.”

The “Incident Lifecycle”

ITIL recommends that incidents be managed through a lifecycle, or process, that includes a number of steps, activities, or sub-processes – from the initial identification or reporting of the incident through to its resolution and the closure of the incident record. This is the order:
  1. Incident detection and recording
  2. Initial classification and support
  3. Escalation to a major incident process where needed
  4. Invocation of the service request process if not an incident
  5. Investigation and diagnosis
  6. Resolution and recovery
  7. Incident closure
Continuous ownership, monitoring, tracking, and communication are involved throughout each step as per the sexy little diagram I have created below. ITIL's incident lifecycle: the flowchart

Incident Management Benefits

The benefits of incident management include, but are not restricted to:
  • Shortening the “incident lifecycle” and decreasing downtime, thus maximizing business productivity.
  • Resolving incidents before they can adversely impact business operations.
  • Making better use of potentially scarce IT resources. Having defined roles and responsibilities and a single, consistent process not only speeds things up but also reduces duplication of effort and wastage.
  • Facilitating better collaboration between different IT teams and preventing dropped issues or issues “ping-ponging” between teams.
  • The ability to leverage existing knowledge to speed up resolution.
  • Reducing the costs associated with both IT service delivery and IT support.
  • Reducing the adverse effect of business-impacting incidents. This might potentially include lost revenue, lost reputation, or even lost customers.
  • The ability to identify, and act on, opportunities to improve IT services and IT service delivery.
  • Improving customer service and the business’s perceptions of the IT organization as a whole.
Well there you have it – my first post in the SysAid blog. Did you find it helpful? If you want to read more from me on incident management, then please look at:

Like this article? Then you will certainly enjoy ITSM consultant Stuart Rance's white paper, offering the help you need - with 6 top tips - to improve your incident management. DOWNLOAD THE TIPS

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The Service Desk and Relationship Management: All You Need Is Love

Posted by on January 20, 2015 in ITIL
The Service Desk and Relationship Management: All You Need Is Love “Hi, just calling to say everything is working great today!” said no Service Desk caller. Ever. Like it or not, your customers have a relationship with IT. Sometimes good; sometimes bad.  They are built over time, one interaction at a time. The truth is, every call to the Service Desk either builds it up or tears it down. In reality, we are all Relationship Managers, and everything we do affects those relationships. Researchers have identified universal factors that shape all relationships. Successful Service Desks apply these principles of human behavior to relationship management.

I'm No Psychiatrist, But...

Having to call the Service Desk is rarely happy times for the customer. How those 'unhappy moments' are handled has a lasting impact. If we excel at rapid service recovery and have great first call resolution, but we're not managing the whole customer experience, we're missing the single greatest opportunity to build customer relationships. Jim Rohn wrote about  8 Traits of Healthy Relationships over at success.com.  He lists a set of  “basic elements” that can enhance all human relationships. Now, I'm no psychiatrist, but it seems to me the same elements can apply to IT Business Relationship Management, especially at the Service Desk. Let's have a look and see how it works.

Love

No surprise, topping the list is love. Just above air and food on Maslow's hierarchy is love (friendship and belonging).  He describes love as “...a commitment we make to people to always treat that person right and honorably.“ For the Service Desk, this is about taking care of the customer no matter what. Following through on what we say we'll do. To champion their issue until it's resolved. Treating them with respect and decency, even if they're frustrated, angry, and acting badly. It's a fundamental human need, and there no better time to show it than when a person's wellbeing is threatened by forces outside their control. How we treat people in their 'hour of need' has a powerful influence on the long term relationship. While being polite is expected, it's still shocking when we “go the extra mile” and follow up a few days later to see how things are going. Show that you really do care about your customers' problem, not just getting them off the phone.

Serving Heart

This is the core of 'service' in Service Desk, and there's a big difference between 'fixing your problem' and being 'of service'. They can tell the difference. Start with the right frame of mind. If you resent callers, they will know it. It comes out in the sigh when listening to their problem, and from that can-you-stop-talking-already-so-I-can-fix-your-problem tone of voice. Choose to make every call an opportunity to be of service. If the customer or the issue is particularly difficult – take it as a challenge to turn them around. Find ways to make every caller feel like the most important one. Ever. It's the kind of service that's not soon forgotten. Customers have a growing sense of confidence because they know you're there to help, and have their back no matter what.

Honest Communication

Everyone needs to be heard. To have a voice and be listened to. It's part of what makes us human. The art of active listening means listening for both what's said and what's not said. “The reason I'm so angry right now isn't because I can't print my document. I'm upset because this is an important report I need to get to my boss or I'm going to look like an idiot.” Except they don't say it like that. Support people often know what the problem is after just a few words. But if we rush the caller while they're telling their story, they are deprived of their need to be heard. Obviously there's the art of balance, because we can't spend all day making them feel good. But recognizing and acknowledging there's more going on than just The Problem goes a long way to building lasting relationships. Don't hide behind “policy”. If you can't do something, tell them. And then tell them what you can do. (“I can't bypass corporate security, but how about I set you up with single sign-on, so you only have to give your password once?”)

Friendliness

Friendliness is more than just being polite, though it is a great place to start. In the words of Jim Rohn “...the friendlier you are the more you are going to have people who want to pursue longer-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with you. “ Being friendly includes protecting their feelings. Not making them feel stupid. Acknowledging their frustrations and concerns.
  • Smile (they can hear it over the phone!)
  • Acknowledge their frustration
  • Be upbeat and positive
  • Protect their dignity
  • Commit to sticking with them until their problem is fixed
  • Use humor
  • Be self-deprecating

Patience

Customer support is nothing if not an opportunity to practice patience. There's a special bond that's formed when people walk through tough times together. The foxhole friendship. Trial by fire. If you're too quick to escalate the call to a coworker or manager because “I don't have to take this”, you are letting go of a great opportunity to build lasting relationships.  I'm not talking about taking abuse. I am talking about having the patience to see through the immediate intensity of the problem to the end goal – a satisfied customer for life.

All You Need is Love

Always remember that IT customers are first and foremost human, and humans are complex, emotional creatures.

People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.

                                                      -Maya Angelou

The greatest opportunity IT has to build customer relationships is when things go wrong. At these critical touch points, what we do and say is important, but it’s how we make them feel that they’ll remember. Image credit

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15 ITSM Tips for 2015 – Part 2

Posted by on January 13, 2015 in ITIL
15 ITSM Tips for 2015 In my blog last week, I recommended 6 tips that you might like to consider as New Year’s Resolutions. They were all about things you can do for your IT organization. This week, I would like to continue with 9 more tips (making a convenient 15 for 2015!) that deal with things you can do for yourself, for your own professional development, and to help protect valuable information. Here we go -

Tip 7 — Find a mentor

We all need to develop our skills, knowledge, and competence if we want to keep up with the rapidly evolving IT industry. There are lots of things you could do to help you with this, but probably the most important is to find someone who can be a mentor for you. The job of a mentor is not to teach you, but to act as a sounding board for your ideas; to talk through the issues you face at work and help you to come up with approaches and solutions that might help you. You may want a mentor who is an expert in IT service management, but it can be equally helpful to work with someone who knows and understands the organization you work for, or the industry you work in, or can offer guidance in other areas such as managing people or projects. Don’t be afraid to ask someone you respect to act as a mentor. The worst that can happen is that they will say no (but PLEASE don’t ask me as I will have to say no, I already have far too many people that I mentor).

Tip 8 — Offer to mentor someone else

There will never be enough mentors for all of us if we don’t also offer to mentor other people. If you are thinking of asking someone to mentor you, then you should also think about offering to mentor someone else. The mentoring relationship is not one-sided, with a mentor providing information that the other person absorbs. It is a two-way relationship and can provide as much value for the mentor as it does for the person they are mentoring. I have mentored many people in many different roles, and I have learned things from every one of them.

Tip 9 — Attend an ITSM conference

You can find IT service management conferences in every part of the world. These vary from half-day events that are free to attend to quite expensive multi-day events. Conferences give you an opportunity to listen to a range of presentations, so you can learn how other organizations have solved their ITSM challenges, but the biggest benefit of attending a conference is the networking. These conferences are attended by people who do similar things to you, and you can learn a lot from just chatting to the other ITSM professionals at the event. You may even find you get on so well with someone you meet that you can set up a mentoring relationship.

Tip 10 — Join the Back2ITSM group on Facebook

There are many social media channels that you can use to help with your service management issues, and you could investigate a number of different forums and groups to find the one that suits you best. If you don’t have time for this, then just join the Back2ITSM group on Facebook. This group has a wide range of welcoming and helpful ITSM people, with all sorts of abilities, special interests, and skill levels. Whether you want to get help and advice on a specific ITSM issue, or you just want to network with other ITSM professionals, you should be able to get what you need – and of course it won’t cost you anything except a few minutes of your time.

Tip 11 — Stop and reflect on how you’re spending your time

Talking about how you might want to use a few minutes of your time, I once had a very wise manager who told me that I should stop whatever I am doing three or four times a day and ask myself, “If the paying customers knew this is how I spend my time would they be happy?” I have followed this advice for many years now and it has always helped me to remain focussed on what’s important – creating value for my customers.

Tip 12 — Enable two-factor authentication wherever you can

If someone learns the passwords you use on the Internet, then they can impersonate you and do incalculable damage to your reputation, and to your finances. There have been many reports of password databases being breached, leading to millions of user passwords being exposed. The best way to defend yourself against becoming a victim of these breaches is to use two-factor authentication. This means that when you log in you need to provide two things, usually a password and a number that you receive as a text message on your mobile phone. Sites with two-factor authentication typically allow you to register your trusted devices, so you only need to provide a second factor when logging in from a new device. While we’re on the subject of security, here are two more information security tips for IT service management people.

Tip 13 — Include information security management in every aspect of IT service management

Information security is an absolutely critical area for people who care about creating value with IT, and is something we all need to be aware of. You can’t just leave information security to the infosec professionals – everyone needs to be involved. Whether you are designing a new process, investigating a problem, reviewing a change, or carrying out any other aspect of IT service management, you must think about the information security implications of what you are doing. Be alert to the fact that people probably are trying to breach the security of your systems and services, and you have a responsibility to help prevent this from happening, and to help detect that it has happened when it can’t be prevented.

Tip 14 — Assume you will have a security breach

The number and size of security breaches keeps increasing, and many organizations have suffered major loss of reputation, and money, due to these. In the past, organizations would build defences to prevent security breaches, but that is no longer enough. You also need to have well-tested plans in place for what you will do when a breach happens. If you, as a service management professional, have not been involved in tests of security incident response plans, then you need to find out why, and make sure you will be in a position to do the right thing when a breach happens. And finally…

Tip 15 — Make time for some fun

Life shouldn’t be all about work, and professional development. You also need to get away from IT and IT service management and have a bit of fun. Make sure you take enough time for yourself and for your friends and family, it will not only leave you feeling better but you will also do a better job at work when you come back with new energy and focus. So take a bit of time out when you can, and come back refreshed and ready to deliver great service to your customers.

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15 ITSM Tips for 2015 – Part 1

Posted by on January 6, 2015 in ITIL
15 ITSM Tips for 2015 As 2014 draws to a close I’ve started to think about what’s going to be important for IT service management (ITSM) professionals in 2015. Here are 15 tips that you might like to consider as New Year’s Resolutions for 2015. Some of these tips are focussed on improving IT service management or information security management to help your IT organization, and others will help with your personal development as an IT professional, but all of them will help to improve how you deliver IT services to your customers in 2015.

Tip 1 — Spend more time with your customers

It’s amazing how much you can learn about your customers by simply spending time with them while they are working. One IT organization I work with sends every member of the service desk out to work in a business unit for one day every year. They started to do this when analysis of customer satisfaction ratings for incident management showed that service desk agents who had previously worked in the business were getting much better ratings. They now have superb customer satisfaction ratings for nearly every incident.

You may think that you know what your customers do, and what’s important to them, but if you don’t spend enough time just sitting with them to understand how they work then you will never be able to deliver great customer service.

Tip 2 — Focus on customer experience in everything you do

I have heard many people talking about customer experience, but few IT organizations seem to really focus on customer experience as an important outcome for their activities. There are many times that we should be thinking about customer experience, here are some you could consider:
  • When you design or change an ITSM process, include customers in the design team whenever you can. After all, customers will have a significant part to play in nearly every ITSM process. At the very least you should make sure that the design team considers the impact of every decision they make on customer experience.
  • When you design or change a user interface or a form, either for an ITSM tool or for a business application, consider the impact on customers and their experience.
  • When you are managing incidents or problems, make sure that you spend as much time thinking about the customer experience as you do on the technical issues. It’s very easy for technical people to become absorbed in the intricacies of fixing the issue and forget that there is a customer.
  • If you are responsible for SLAs and reporting, then ensure that these are completely focussed on customer experience. Customers don’t care about abstract numbers and endless charts; they care about how they experience your service.
Every single activity you carry out should have this sharp focus on the experience you create for your customers.

Tip 3 — Find out if your customers are purchasing shadow IT

Shadow IT is a term used to describe IT that has been procured directly by a business unit, without the involvement of the IT organization. It can include things as simple as using a free file sharing web site to share information with customers, but it can also include the purchase of complex solutions for CRM or ERP delivered as Software as a Service (SaaS). Many IT organizations that I speak to tell me that shadow IT is not a problem in their organization. But when I speak to their customers I find that there are many examples of shadow IT in use that the IT department doesn’t know about. The use of shadow IT is not in itself always wrong, but if you aren’t aware of it then something has gone badly wrong with the way you understand and meet your customer’s needs. It really is essential that you speak to your customers and understand what IT solutions they’re using, so you can help to ensure that these are appropriate in terms of security and governance. I’m not suggesting that you should tell your customers off for using shadow IT, simply that you should understand what they are using, and what benefits this delivers that you are not able to provide. You might need to improve your service offering and help to protect your customers, especially if they‘ve chosen solutions that have underlying risks they haven’t thought about.

Tip 4 — Spend more time on problem management

Most IT organizations spend far too little time and effort on problem management. It’s never too late (or too early) to get started with problem management, so if you aren’t doing any, then why not start in 2015, and if you are already doing some then why not see if you can improve this critical area? The first thing to do is to decide what problems you need to focus on. I like to use a Top 5 (or Top 10) problem report, which is created each month and identifies the problems that have had the biggest impact on the business. This does require you to put some effort into analysing incident data, but the payback can be very high. Once you have identified your Top 5 problems you should talk to your customers, to make sure they agree with your priorities (see Tip 2), and then think about what you can do to reduce the impact of these problems. You don’t necessarily have to fix them, or even to fully understand the root cause. The most important thing to do is to reduce the impact these Top 5 problems have on your customers. You could do this by identifying the root cause and fixing it, but you could also do it by identifying a workaround that can enable rapid recovery when the problem occurs. The best way to measure the impact of problem management is by measuring the total impact of the Top 5 problems each month, and demonstrating that the impact of these is going down.

Tip 5 — Spend more time on continual improvement

Continual improvement is another area where a small investment of time and effort can provide enormous payback in terms of improved efficiency, effectiveness, and customer satisfaction. The most important thing to understand about continual improvement is that it is more about attitudes, behaviour, and culture than it is about processes and tools. Continual improvement can’t be delegated to a continual improvement manager, it must be part of how everyone works. If people have a passion for improving what they do, then they will find ways to make this happen. Every team, every group, every department and the overall IT organization should have a CSI register that they use to log, track, and report improvements.

Tip 6 — Learn about emerging ideas in ITSM

The most widely adopted best management practice for ITSM is ITIL® (formerly known as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library), and it certainly makes sense to learn about ITIL and to adopt many of its ideas when you’re designing your IT service management system. If you’re not familiar with ITIL then I strongly recommend reading about it and taking some ITIL training courses. ITIL is certainly helpful, but it’s not enough. There are many other sources of good practice, and there are many new ideas that people are using to help them create value with IT. Sometimes you will see people proposing that these other ideas should be used instead of ITIL, but I don’t think this makes much sense when you could be using a wide range of different approaches to help you build your management system, with each of them bringing a different perspective and adding additional value. Some of the approaches that you should learn about, to see if they can help improve IT service management in your organization include:
  • COBIT. This is a business framework for the governance and management of IT. It is most commonly used by people responsible for audit and compliance, but it has much wider applicability than that, and can be very helpful to any IT organization.
  • Agile. Most people think of agile as a software development methodology, but it can be applied equally to all aspects of IT and ITSM. The basic idea behind agile is to break work into short work cycles (sprints) that deliver measureable value in a short time.
  • DevOps. For many years IT operations departments have complained about development organizations that “throw software and solutions over the wall” with insufficient testing, documentation, or operational support. Similarly development departments have complained about bureaucratic change and release procedures that delay the delivery of value to the business without adding value. DevOps tries to resolve this conflict by creating a culture where operations and development teams work much more closely together and by implementing automation for many aspects of integration, testing, and deployment.
  • Kanban. There are always bottlenecks and constraints that reduce efficiency and create waste. Kanban tries to minimize these by helping you to visualize workflow and limit work in progress. A great summary of the Kanban approach is to “stop starting and start finishing”. By starting fewer things and completing everything you start you can deliver more output with fewer resources and less waste.
Why not make 2015 the year when you learn about some of these ideas and incorporate aspects of them into the way you work? It's a lot to take in all at once, so I'm going to stop here for now and let you ingest these 6 tips so far, all of which have been about things you can do for your IT organization. Next week, I'll continue with the other 9 tips, dealing with things you can do for yourself, for your own professional development, and to help protect valuable information.

Like this article? You may also like: 15 IT Trends for 2015.

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