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2014 in (Content) Review

Posted by on December 30, 2014 in SysAid
2014 ITSM Content in Review One year ago, at the end of 2013, we were at the cusp of something new with the SysAid Blog. The plan for 2014 was to concentrate on publishing best practices, which would be applicable not only to SysAid customers, but to all IT professionals too. Our aim was to bring true value to the IT service management (ITSM) community on a global level.

So What Did We Deliver in 2014?

With 75 blog posts, we managed to increase our viewership by 100% from last year. I believe that we achieved this by delivering:
  • A great mix of basic ITSM guidance, to help people get started with their implementations in their organizations
  • Advanced guidance to help more experienced people make improvements, beyond the basic implementation
  • Thought-provoking, innovative ideas to help move the industry forward
We’re concerned about what you are reading, not just what we are writing. And the post that you read the most, with over 6500 unique views, was If You Don't Have an SLA, You're Delivering Bad Service. This blog points out that customers always want more than they have, and it’s no different in IT services, so you must have a proper SLA (service level agreement) in place with these basics: clarity, agreements, and accurate monitoring of delivery. Also in the top-read blogs of 2014:
  • Defining Metrics for Change Management ITSM consultant and ITIL author Stuart Rance enriched our blog this year with his popular series on metrics. In this one, Stuart describes the steps to take in order to answer the question: what are the key performance indicators (KPIs) you need to measure IT change management?
  • Clearing Up the Myths of CMDB Don’t allow the impenetrable world of Configuration Management Database (CMDB) to slow down your ITSM projects. Most of what you heard is a myth anyhow.  In this blog we clarify the facts against the fiction, and offer advice to ensure improvements.
  • How Long Should an ITSM Project Take? Stuart Rance gets asked this question a lot, so he wrote this article to tell you that in ITSM, value is achieved with an iterative approach, starting with minimum viable functionality and then incremental improvements. If you haven’t read this one yet, you really should.
  • What Does The Word Service Mean To You? Seems our CEO Sarah Lahav  struck a nerve with readers when she explains how she sees ITSM and customer service through her own personal point of view. She wants you to really consider whether you think of your end users as your customers and if you care about their service experience. Here’s some excellent advice for those in the IT world who are not sure what “service” truly means.
In 2014, we were striving for an evolution in the SysAid Blog, from being mostly a product-related and technology blog to something more ITSM-centric. Hopefully we succeeded (and will continue) to provide the right combination of everything that the industry (including our customers) is looking for. And it’s not just the SysAid Blog’s content that we are continually working on and trying to improve – we’re also enhancing our webinar content, roundups from key ITSM conferences, Joe the IT Guy has been blogging away, and our CEO Sarah Lahav has had some very popular bylines this year as well. I’d love to share a few examples:
  • Webinar - What Does the Future Look Like for ITSM? In September, we were honored to host special guest Glenn O’Donnell, VP and Research Director at Forrester, for a thought-provoking 30 minutes to discuss the truth about Cloud, the reality of Shadow IT, the value of DevOps, and the pitfalls of ITIL. How will the role of ITSM change in the future? If you missed it or just want a refresher, the webinar is currently available on-demand.
  • Press Mentions TechRepublic interviewed Sarah  about BYON (Bring Your Own Network) – a derivative of the BYOD movement. Sarah describes in this interview, as well as in her byline articles in The Frugal Networker and Mobile Market Portal, that BYON is a serioussecurity risk IT teams should be working proactively to address. Her tips are worth checking out!
  • ITSM Conferences Attendance at conferences throughout the year gave us the opportunity to meet incredible people and learn so much from the ITSM community at large. Our VP Marketing Sophie Danby made her way around the world; her “paying it forward” was to provide our readers (who may have missed the conferences) with some detailed roundups and key takeaways, such as her latest from the beautiful city of Tallinn – What Can Estonia Teach You about IT Service Management? – about itSMF Estonia’s unique conference with its high-quality, single-session track.
  • Joe the IT Guy Blog Our lovable, intergalactic superstar Joe the IT Guy has become even more popular this year, probably because he’s writing some really great blogs. In fact, he saw a 160% increase in average monthly visits!One of the most popular articles this year, Are You An IT Help Desk Or An IT Service Desk?, turns out to be a really useful source for clarification to the many people who are fuzzy about the differences between a help desk and a service desk.By the way, Joe has some new plans for his blog in 2015, which may or may not have something to do with celebrity guests.

It’s Not All Homegrown

It would be remiss of me not to mention that we saw in 2014 excellent ITSM content from numerous resources, including analysts, consultants, practitioners, and even other vendors ;). There are way too many to cite them all; here are just a few of my recommendations: Like I said, there has been an enormous amount of thought-invoking ITSM content this year. I hope everyone keeps sharing, and I look forward to seeing what’s coming next year.

What’s Our Plans for 2015?

Nobody has any spare time these days, and we get that, so we are going to make sure that the content we deliver in all the glorious formats available will be worthwhile, i.e. worthy of your time spent taking it in, and effective in bringing you clarity within the ITSM landscape. We are already working on a series of white papers with the master of ITIL Stuart Rance, for example “8 Tips to Help You Improve Service Level Management” – so stay tuned for that. We guarantee to keep you updated with loads of helpful advice from Stuart in the coming year. I’m also delighted to announce that Greg Sanker will be publishing a regular monthly blog with us, and with his expertise in ITSM – harmonized with his unique style of fun and intelligent writing – we are all in for a treat. But let’s be honest – our main goal for 2015 is to get another tweet from Rob England like this one :): Happy New Year to everyone - may we all be blessed with renewed inspiration in our personal lives, as well as within our amazing ITSM community! Image credit

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

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What Can Estonia Teach You about IT Service Management?

Posted by on December 18, 2014 in ITSM
The 2014 itSMF Estonia conference, held in Tallinn last week, was an international IT service management (ITSM) fest. The circa 180 delegates had travelled from 12 countries (including strong Finnish and British contingents) and the presenters came with a variety of international perspectives. It differed to many of the other international itSMF chapter and global IT service management (ITSM) conferences I’ve previously attended, in that:
  • It was a single day event – which very handily kept the conference and travel costs (and time spent away from the office) down.
  • There was a single session track – itSMF Estonia President Kaimar Karu had billed all the sessions as keynotes. He wasn’t too far from the mark as the rapidly delivered content was of a high quality.
What Estonia can teach you about ITSM
I’ll not cover all of the conference content in this blog, it wouldn’t be possible. Instead I’ll come back to a number of sessions in greater detail in additional blogs. These will include: And I believe Stephen Mann has promised Toby Moore of ServiceDesk360 a blog on his “Consumerization of Service” presentation.

The Importance of Customer and Workforce Experience

David Wheable, of Forrester, started the conference with the importance of customer experience. Not just that companies with better (external) customer experience outperform the stock market but also that customer and service experience are also applicable within the enterprise. David used Forrester research to show that external customers need: their experiences with companies to offer value; to be able to easily access that value; and for the experience to be enjoyable. And that to create a great customer experience you must have customer understanding, strategy, and design – along with effective measurement, governance, and culture. But this is only one side of the same coin – the other being workforce experience, where employees need to be engaged, productive, and impactful – with such employees positively contributing to customer experience and business success. I think most of us would fail to argue against the corporate IT organization, through the services it provides, having a big part to play in workforce productiveness and impact. A key takeaway for me from David’s session was the link to a later session on Continual Service Improvement (CSI) by Stuart Rance – that offering a great customer experience isn't about changing what you do. Instead it's about making improvements – it's CSI. If you are interested, Stuart has written about CSI here.

Confessions of an ITSM Tool Vendor

Patrick Bolger of Hornbill (yes, he is one of “the competition”) gave the audience an interesting and humorous insight into how customers tender for ITSM solutions. Some of Pat’s key points included that:
  • ITSM solutions are over engineered for the needs and maturity of many organizations
  • Organizations are struggling to improve their ITSM maturity and have struggled for well over a decade
  • Buyers often suffer from “shiny objects syndrome” – with a cycle of oohs and purchases related to SaaS, mobile, social, gamification, big data, outside IT, analytics, agile...
  • History repeats itself becaue often only the tools are replaced, and they are replaced on a like for like basis – “We need a new ITSM tool. Ours isn't working... And we'd like it to operate exactly like our current tool please.”
Thankfully Pat did offer advice on how customers should select an ITSM solution (which we agree with):
  1. ITIL compatibility should not be your primary consideration
  2. Invest the time to define your requirements properly (rather than using someone else’s RFP template)
  3. Involve customer service professionals
  4. Be very clear on the problems you want to solve
  5. Be realistic about what you can achieve in a reasonable timeframe
  6. Understand that implementing a new tool is the start of your journey, not the end

My Personal 5 Top Takeaways from itSMF Estonia 2014

As I wrote above, sadly I can’t cover all of the presentations without it looking like your Twitter feed. Although, if you want short sound bites from all of the presentations you can look at #itsmfest (but note that you will need to scroll down to the photo of Kaimar kicking off the event and then to work upwards). This will also include content from: Considering the content from all of the conference’s presenters, my personal key takeaways were:
  1. Remove the culture of blame and encourage people to take ownership
  2. Speak in a language the business understands
  3. Focus on delivering business VALUE
  4. Talk AND listen to your customers
  5. Measure only what matters
Two of my colleagues also attended the event (Dena Wieder-Freiden and Ami Shimkin) and their top takeaways were:
  1. As was one of my takeaways - value, value, value! Everything comes down to business value / the value you provide to your customers.
  2. Improve, improve, improve! You can never stop improving. CSI is the most important process in any organization
Toby Moore has also created a Storify-based blog on itSMF Estonia 2015, with a free conference podcast included as a bonus, should sifting the Twitter stream seem too daunting. Finally, it was a fantastic event and one that I hope to attend again next year. You should consider it for 2015 too … and look out for my future blogs on fast delivery and failing ITSM projects. itSMF Estonia 2014 with top ITSM pros from around the world

Like this article? You may also like: Everything ITSM in Less Than Three Days.

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15 IT Trends for 2015

Posted by on December 11, 2014 in General IT
2015 IT Trends, via Sarah Lahav, CEO SysAid Technologies To shepherd in the New Year I’ve created a list of 15 IT trends for 2015. They’re in no particular order, and most are not new – they’re just more relevant in 2015 given the long lead time for mass corporate adoption of new technologies, practices, and thinking despite what industry pundits get excited about and predict…
  1. Increased automation. There’s no escaping that people costs continue to be a big part of total IT costs. The use of cloud services will continue to reduce this (with cloud service providers achieving lower costs through both economies of scale and the use of automation) but there is still a need to reduce human touch points, and the associated costs, within corporate data centers and operational environments – with speedier delivery and fewer human errors secondary benefits. 2015 will see even greater automation adoption by corporate IT organizations under pressure to reduce costs and better demonstrate business value.
  2. Continued cloud adoption. IT organizations will continue to move IT services (whether buying SaaS, IaaS, or PaaS) to third-party cloud service providers. Security will continue to be a cause for concern, especially as the media’s breach article frenzy continues. However, the ability to integrate (with existing on-premise and newer cloud services) – and have always-up service availability – will rise to be two very practical concerns for enterprise cloud adoption. From an IT management point of view, organizations will need to continue to seek out people with the ability to manage suppliers and service delivery. Nonetheless, IT will continue to head to the cloud in 2015.
  3. The growth of hybrid cloud. Only the foolish ever thought that large enterprises would move everything from the corporate data center to the cloud. Yes, new companies might be able to rely on third-party cloud service providers but for those with a long business and data center history, and sensitivity to storing certain types of information in the public cloud, it was never going to be the case. The hybrid cloud, defined by global analyst firm Gartner as “a combination of private, public, and community cloud services,” will continue to rise in popularity during 2015 as organizations look to get the best from both private and public cloud.
  4. The BYO epiphany. This is where corporate IT organizations finally wake up to see that Shadow IT, BYOD, or BYO-anything is not being driven by consumer IT and cloud service providers but by the corporate IT organization’s inability to meet stakeholder and user expectations across usability, cost, service, and agility. The 10 years of Consumerization of IT talk, with a focus on consumer gadgets, has thus been a red herring – hiding the true root cause of customer discontent with existing IT supply. Post-epiphany, corporate IT organizations will need to change; and change quickly.
  5. Greater focus on IT costs. It’s inevitable. It’s been over 10 years since business colleagues buying consumer products and services first started to question why they receive lower spec IT equipment at a higher cost from the corporate IT department. And now as companies require more and more technology to function, especially those that are transforming to digital enterprises, those IT costs will continue to rise. The increased use of third-party service providers (cloud or IT services) will reduce the burden somewhat but it will not be enough for IT organizations to escape the scrutiny of the CFO and CEO, and the need for greater financial stewardship during 2015.
  6. The increased focus on costs will drive a focus on assets. IT asset management has long been a poor relation to corporate IT service management activities and investment. In some ways, the lack of business scrutiny as to why IT costs so much, has allowed corporate IT organizations to be lackadaisical in their asset management. But those days have gone, or are quickly coming to an end, with 2015 finally seeing corporate IT organizations looking to physical and software assets as ways of reducing and optimizing costs.
  7. IT service management models will trifurcate. The focus on delivering consumer-like service experiences and the extension of IT service management capabilities to other corporate service providers such as HR, facilities, and legal through enterprise service management, will cause IT service management as a discipline to divide into, and to evolve at different speeds within, two different schools of thinking. There will be traditional IT service management, enterprise service management, and then both with an emphasis on better meeting customer expectations around not only the consumed service but also the service experience. 2015 will see many corporate IT organizations at a crossroads as they chose which of the three service management roads to take.
  8. The need to manage more complex IT supplier environments. This need will continue to grow as enterprises exit outsourcing deals that have failed to deliver against expectations of service improvement, cost savings, and innovation. In 2015 the need for service integration capabilities, often called service integration and management (SIAM) or multisourcing services integration (MSI), will come to the fore. And this will happen not only for larger organizations replacing previously outsourced scenarios with multiple suppliers but also smaller organizations needing to manage a portfolio of third-party, often cloud service, providers.
  9. Continued mobile pervasiveness. Continued improvements in anytime, anywhere, any device access to data and services will continue to drive the need for better mobile apps and experiences, and the use of personal devices for work purposes. Not only will this dictate the need for better service and app design and delivery, and more intelligent approaches to BYOD, but also the need to consider the security implications of mobility such as data segregation issues – with personal and business data and applications isolated from each other on the same device.
  10. Wearables and the quantified worker. The Apple iWatch launch in 2015 will no doubt see a greater potential business use case focus on wearable computing. While employees might like the idea of a new gadget giving them access to alerts and short messages related to email, social media, schedules, travel plans, or the weather, the ability of wearables to provide location and productivity-related information about the employee might not be so appealing. 2015 will provide an exciting technology opportunity, but one that will need the corporate IT organization and its business partners to fully understand the human implications of new technology.
  11. Big Data. While there will continue to be big talk about Big Data, the real Big Data issue for 2015 will be the availability of Big Data people and their Big Data skills rather than Big Data technology itself. Not only from a tail-end analytics and insight perspective, companies will also need the people and skills for building the new data architectures required to handle unstructured data and real-time input, and other changes required as the increased focus on large data sets continues to disrupt business and IT operations.
  12. The Internet of Things (IoT), or the Internet of Everything (IoE). Most of us are probably bored to death of hearing about how the IoT will change IT forever. It seems as though it has been a long time coming – from IP address management through service/fault management to Big Data analytics. Then there is the security of a whole new breed of network-connected end points. 2015 will see IT organizations having to look beyond the traditional IT capabilities, such as availability and capacity management, to work closer with business colleagues on how these now-connected devices do, can, and will tie in to business operations and business models.
  13. Knowledge management will reappear. It’s been around since before the end of the last century but 2015 will see it appear on the IT agenda again – not only because of the replacement of people with automation and the associated potential for corporate knowledge loss, but also due to the rise in self-help and self-service. Organizations need to be clear about what they need though. Knowledge management has previously been held back by its name – knowledge isn’t valuable because it is managed, the value comes from its use and reuse. So look at knowledge management through a new lens, one of knowledge mining and knowledge exploitation.
  14. Software-defined everything will continue its advancement. You’ve probably already heard the talk of software-defined data centers or software-defined networks, where the control plane is abstracted from the hardware. It seems to be in vogue across all data center domains: software-defined servers now seem old hat; software-defined networking continues to mature; and software-defined storage is gaining interest. But this is about more than quickly moving from the old to the new state data center, notwithstanding the fact that the legacy data center might not want to change so quickly. It’s about increasing your agility, minimizing vendor lock-in, and improving your ability to serve the customers and consumers of your IT services.
  15. Unicorn chasing will continue. Whether it be the use of cloud technologies or DevOps thinking and operations, in 2015 enterprises will continue their fascination with the operations of technology giants such as Amazon, Google, and Facebook. Business leaders will also continue to ask why their corporate IT organizations can’t match these technology giants for unit costs, service levels, service experience, customer support, and agility. Thus, these technology unicorns will continue to be chased, and I’m not sure that 2015 or even 2016 or even 2017, for that matter, will be the year that they are caught.
So that’s my 15 trends – what would you have included in, or omitted from, the list?

Like this article? You may also like: BYOD: Will IT Departments Live Long and Prosper?.

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Car Insurance, Broadband, and the Real User Experience

Posted by on December 1, 2014 in General IT
Car Insurance, Broadband, and the Real User Experience Recently I had to undertake that wonderful annual task of renewing my car insurance. I did the comparison-website bit, phoned a couple of brokers, and of course went directly to a number of insurers’ own websites to see if they could beat the comparison sites. What shocked me was not the very range of prices offered for the same cover, but the performance of the respective websites, some of which had obviously been designed with fibre and cable broadband speeds in mind, rather than the copper that still provides the majority of access. One site I actually gave up on, because it would probably have been quicker to drive to my local insurance broker and have a chat! The serious issue here is that not everyone is in the office using a PC, with a high speed internet connection, and we shouldn’t design our processes or select our systems around that scenario.

Not All Broadband Is Equal

The expectations of all users in terms of performance and response across the internet are getting higher. You only have to see the faces of smartphone or tablet-using commuters on a train when it moves from an LTE/4G area to 3G. Whilst many cities now have good fibre to premises, and increasingly high-speed publicly-available WiFi, you do not have to travel too far outside to find that these are not available to physical premises, or mobile users. I have a friend who works in rural England, with a respectable 7MBPs broadband connection over copper, which he uses successfully for daytime work. That is until about 4pm in the evening, when the children in the village get home and fire up their consoles, which drops my friend’s experience to less than 1 MBPs, making his Skype calls with the West Coast USA a bit wobbly. He has been told by his broadband provider that because the number of business subscribers in his locality is relatively low, it will be many years before his exchange will be upgraded to fibre. And of course for the same reason, no other provider is interested in competing with the incumbent. His location also puts him 1km too far for LTE/4G coverage, and even his 3G suffers capacity problems. Whilst that is a single example, unfortunately it is going to be the reality for many years to come for the increasing number of business people who are not permanently in the office.

Web Interfaces Need to Be Lite and Fast

Many enterprise applications, and even ITSM support tools, now have an app for tablets or smartphones, which reduces the amount of clutter that appears in the desktop versions, and often simplifies the process used. However, to my pain I have found that these are often just “webified” variants of the desktop version, and many still retain references to the server during the process. As with my car insurance story, this will often result in delays in response time, and sometimes, because timeouts are built into the application, this could cause the process to fail. Even some of the most popular cloud-based enterprise applications (advised not to name them – but you know who they are) were not originally designed for BYOD and mobile use, and suffer the same issues. Apps and web interfaces for applications that will be used where broadband access may be variable and across a range of devices, need to have really lite interfaces and be tolerant of variable bandwidths that may (or may not) be available.

Design and Test Around the Real User Experience

This is a challenge for both internal developers and the persons selecting the enterprise systems that support the business. Of course the biggest challenge is for the vendors who need to migrate their enterprise systems into a solution accessible across variable bandwidths. The real test of great IT support for access to your organisation’s systems is not within the office, 9-5 Monday to Friday, with 100MBPs Ethernet, WiFi and a 26” screen, but at 3:00am on a Sunday morning, in a cold airport waiting area with just 3G mobile coverage and a smartphone. If you can deliver good service to the beleaguered road warrior who has missed their flight, then the people in the office should feel very spoilt. So tell me, are you designing and testing around the REAL user/customer experience?

Like this article? You may also like: Five Reasons Why You Need to Embrace Virtualization.

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Whose Fault Was It?

Posted by on November 25, 2014 in ITIL
Incident Management: Who's Fault Is It? We all know that IT service management is about people, processes and tools, but for some reason we always seem to focus on the processes and the tools and forget about the people. I once worked with an organization where the first question that was asked after a major incident was always “Whose fault was it?”, or something very similar. The senior IT manager needed to have someone to blame for everything that went wrong. As a direct result of this management style the organization never managed to improve. It was almost impossible to find out the truth about what sequence of events had led to a major incident because everyone was hiding vital information in an effort to avoid being the person that got the blame.
Contrast that with the ideal of a “blameless post mortem”. This is the idea that you should make it easy to share and learn from mistakes. If somebody in the organization makes a mistake and has the confidence to tell their colleagues immediately, then everyone can work on rectifying the situation, and thinking about how to avoid it happening again. Because the mistake is identified early it can usually be fixed sooner, reducing both the impact and cost of the mistake, and because everyone knows what happened there is a good chance that a repeat of the mistake can be avoided in the future. This idea of sharing our mistakes and learning from them is not just useful for incident management. The same applies to everything we do in service management. For example:
  • A no-blame culture can improve change management, by helping us to see why some changes go wrong, and how we could prevent similar events in the future.
  • Configuration management is critically dependent on identifying and correcting errors in the data, and understanding how they happened so we can prevent them happening again.
  • Project and portfolio management must be able to identify failing (and failed) investments and stop pouring more money into things that will never work. Blameless reviews can help to make this happen.
I hear people saying that they can’t implement this kind of approach because if there are no consequences for doing things wrong then people won’t learn from their mistakes. This shows a complete lack of understanding of human psychology. It is well established that the best way to help people learn is to catch them when they are doing something right and offer positive feedback to encourage the desired behaviour. Punishing mistakes is a very ineffective way of correcting people’s behaviour. Changing the culture of an organization can be very hard. If your organization’s instinctive reaction to a problem is seeking to assign blame then how can you change? The first thing to understand is that you can’t turn this around quickly, it will take time. But it really is worthwhile. Many years ago I was a senior technical consultant, providing 2nd and 3rd line support on hardware and software products, and diagnosing complex system problems. Management was not excessively severe in assigning blame, but very few technical people in the organization were willing to admit to making mistakes. I was sufficiently senior that I didn’t need to worry about how other people saw me, so I made a conscious decision to start talking openly about all the mistakes I made. Some of these were quite small but others were a big deal; I recognized that if I was making this many mistakes then other people almost certainly were too, and I believed that by being open about my own mistakes I could encourage others to be more open about theirs. After a while I noticed the culture had gradually changed, and it was now normal for people to talk about their mistakes. Even if you currently have a blame free culture there are probably people in your organization who are nervous of owning up to things they do wrong. Anything you can do to help them talk openly about their mistakes will help your organization to learn. The sooner we discover a problem the cheaper it is to fix. If you want to change your culture to one that is open about mistakes and learns from them then what can you do? It’s hard to change an organisation’s culture, but you can sometimes change behaviour to encourage the change that you hope to see. Here are a few things that I’ve seen work for other organizations:
  • Get buy-in from senior management. Make sure they understand the potential benefits of openness, and the huge cost of hidden mistakes
  • Communicate, again and again. Make sure that everyone in the organization understands the change you want, and why you want it.
  • Make absolutely sure that all of your managers understand what you are doing, and why, and support it with their behaviour.
  • Start talking about your own mistakes, and encourage other managers to do the same. It can be hard at first but it gets easier with time.
  • Publicise success stories where mistakes were identified early; show how this delivered real value to the organization and enabled you to learn and improve.
  • Reward the behaviour you want to encourage. When someone shares a mistake, make sure that you celebrate the opportunity to learn, rather than assign blame.
How well does your organization balance its investment in people, process and tools? Could you benefit from encouraging people to talk about mistakes?

Like this article? You may also like: Knowledge Management Is Not Just About Document Repositories.

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SysAid 14.4, Are You Ready for More?

Posted by on November 24, 2014 in SysAid
Are you ready for more from your service desk? I can't tell you how excited I am to be a part of SysAid's latest release SysAid 14.4. Sure, I may not be as crazy as Steve Ballmer, but there’s a sense of energy as we approach the final stages that is to be the latest offering from SysAid. The beta testing community, also known as SysAid Pathfinders, has been putting 14.4 through the testing wringer, and everyone couldn’t be happier with the results. The beauty of version 14.4, in my opinion, is our desire to have you — our friends, customers, and community — to be the drivers of the product. During the past few months our product development team has been working closely with our customer community to identify which direction to take for version 14.4.

More Functionality

Release 14.4 has a lot of improvements, many of which are based on customer feedback. In fact, at last count, there were over 40 specific performance enhancements to help make IT life easier. Some of the top favorite features include:
  • The ability to report on value changes for a specific field
  • Linked items on templates now are automatically copied over to the new record
  • Access to information (request status, IT service status, FAQs, and ‘how-to’s)
  • Addition of a backout plan action item in change management
  • The history log of a record now includes the reason for a priority change
For further details on SysAid version 14.4, be sure to check out the Release Notes.

More Mobility and Flexibility

14.4 also provides a new tool available for the iPad toting admins out there - a new iPad app! The iPad app itself isn’t even the biggest news, but rather what’s under the hood. The latest iOS app from SysAid is built on top of our new REST API. This integration API isn’t just an updated method for integrating SysAid with new technologies. It also gives a foundation for additional mobile development — be it Android, iOS or Windows. In fact, once the API is officially released, anyone could conceivably build his or her own mobile app for SysAid.

More to Experience

An IT service management platform isn’t just about incident records or managing IT data. While a simple spreadsheet can suffice to manage the data, we recognize that our customers want a positive experience when using SysAid, and minor improvements in that experience make a huge difference. That is why the categories list has been reshaped and I think you’re really going to like it. Also, HTML formatting is now being displayed for incoming emails. Plus we’ve added an enhanced ability to link any item (incident, change, asset, project, etc.) to any other item in the system! These are the changes our beloved community members requested, and we’re happy to deliver them to enrich the overall experience of SysAid.

Future Releases

Our goal is to not only create software, but rather to empower IT to go beyond current capabilities and to support our community, as new challenges are discovered in the ever shifting technology trends. In the future, we’ll continue to work with our customers to find new ways to improve SysAid, and move the product into a new generation of IT service management. With the expanding adoption of cloud software, a growing mobile workforce, and the resulting changes to IT processes, we’re excited to support the ever changing technology landscape, and we encourage the community members to continue voicing their needs to keep IT relevant.

Join the Release Webinar

If you haven’t had the chance to join our Pathfinder Program, it’s never too late - go ahead and sign up here, and catch the tail end of the fun, or there’s always next time of course. Meanwhile, I highly recommend you register for our Release Webinar on December 3rd at 12 pm EST, as we present our latest offering to the IT community.

If you want to learn what’s new in SysAid 14.4, and how to use it to get the most value from your IT service management solution, click the button below. I WANT TO ATTEND

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Self-Service: The Benefits and 5 Tips for Success

Posted by on November 18, 2014 in Service Desk
Self-Service: The Benefits and 5 Tips for Success The launching of a self-service portal – a web-based application aimed at the end users,  providing 24/7 access to IT services and support – has been on the IT service management (ITSM) “hot tickets” for the last few years. The primary driver for IT to launch a self-service portal is often to reduce the volume of calls coming in to the service desk (and thus to reduce IT support costs), but there are also benefits for the end users. For instance, many end users are now tech-savvy and want more autonomy in dealing with their own IT issues. Thus, by providing a digital interface that’s simple to use, end users would be able to handle minor issues and information requests that would otherwise come to the service desk. For example, it’s estimated that 20-30% of calls to the service desk are password-related issues. If even half of these can be handled by the end users themselves, the reduction in calls to the service desk will be a not-insignificant 10-15%. And, with fewer inbound calls coming from less complicated issues, the service desk can focus greater resources on solving the more complex issues hurting business operations.

Self-Service Portals Defined

A self-service portal is a collection of self-help and self-service functions that are exposed to the end users. These can include any or all of the following capabilities:
  • Self-logging of incidents
  • Self-resolution of issues using a knowledge base
  • Access to information (request status, IT service status, FAQs, and ‘how-to’s)
  • Self-logging of service requests
  • End-user password reset
  • Chat
  • Collaborative spaces
Ultimately a self-service portal should empower end users to request services, find information, and log and resolve their own issues. Essentially, the end user becomes the first line of support. This can have a positive impact on productivity and IT customer satisfaction if planned and implemented correctly, whereby the self-service portal delivers tangible benefits to the service desk, end users, and ultimately to the business as a whole.

Benefits to the Service Desk and IT Operations

For the service desk, the big benefit is the reduction in call volumes. An effective self-service portal will divert incidents, service requests, and queries away from the service desk. Instead they’re resolved by the end user or automatically routed to the right people in 2nd or 3rd line support, based on the information the end user submits. Many incidents require multiple touch-points with the IT customer during the time it takes to fix the issue – usually when the customer wants an update on progress. An online tracking capability, for incidents and service requests, should prevent repeated calls to the service desk to check status.

Benefits to the End Users

An easy-to-use self-service portal will make self-logging, self-resolution, and other self-service activities more efficient for the end user. There’s no waiting for the service desk to pick up the phone. There’s less frustration and more time to get on with their jobs. And, if they need to, end users can easily track progress. A self-service portal is always there, 24/7. Of course, end users only get these benefits if they use the portal. So the self-service portal needs to be easy to access and easy to use. If the user experience is clunky, they will revert to the old way – calling the service desk. Thus, a self-service portal needs to be the line of least resistance to be successful. End-user productivity and satisfaction will hopefully improve, delivering a knock-on effect to company profitability of the company.

5 Tips for Success

A self-service portal is not a technology project.

It’s about making support easier for people. “Build it and they will come” doesn’t work here. The whole project needs to be framed by good communication with business colleagues – the end users. If you don’t answer their “what’s in it for me?” question then you will struggle to sell the idea of using a self-service portal to them – and it will most likely never take off. To increase your chances of success, you need to create demand for a self-service portal before you build anything. If you launch a portal that nobody wants, you’ll potentially make things worse for IT – as money will (again) have been spent on “shelfware”, and time has been spent implementing it. The audience needs to be ready and willing – and they have to see the value of a self-service portal upfront.

Involve end-user stakeholders in the design of the portal.

This might take time, but it’s much better to do it right slowly than do it wrong quickly. You only really have one shot at launching a self-service portal. If it doesn’t work for end users the first time, they won’t come back in a hurry. First impressions are long-lasting and previous IT project failures cast a long shadow over future initiatives.

The self-service portal must be correctly configured.

It needs to route requests and incidents to the right support groups first time; and to do this it must capture the right information from end users. Thus, planning and design needs to ensure that all of the information required to route and execute/resolve the case is gathered from the end user in a single step. In the absence of a complete set of information, process automation fails and IT needs to manually contact the end user to clarify the details and set the case back on the right track.

Run user acceptance testing (UAT) with a small group of IT-friendly end users.

Find out if it’s fit-for-purpose, and working as it should, in their eyes before you launch your portal to the wider audience of end users. If there are issues with the prototype portal, it’s better to find and fix them before you take it into the live environment.

A self-service portal is not a “fire-and-forget” project.

No matter how well the portal has been designed and built, there’s always room for improvement. Performance of the portal should be closely monitored on a regular basis to evaluate levels of traffic and how end users are interacting with it. The true litmus test for success is end-user opinion. Survey end users on the usability and usefulness of the portal. Ultimately, end-user adoption is critical to the success of a self-service portal. If the user experience is poor, they won’t come back to the portal and service desk call volumes will rise again. Keep an eye on performance and commit to continual improvement in order to gain increasing long-term value from your self-service portal. That’s my five. What other advice would you give your peers on successfully introducing a self-service portal?

Like this article? You may also like: 4 Metrics for Monitoring the Performance of Your Self-Service Channels.

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How Can You Create an SLA that Helps to Delight Your Customers?

Posted by on November 5, 2014 in ITIL
How Can You Create an SLA that Helps to Delight Your Customers? IT people tend to like technology, and we like things to be clear and unambiguous, with proper facts and figures. In some other areas of expertise people are more comfortable with things that are abstract, less well-defined and harder to measure, but we tend to stick to the facts. This cultural difference can lead to big problems when it comes to negotiating and agreeing on service level agreements (SLAs) with our customers. We want the content in our SLA to be well-defined and unambiguous. All our books say that metrics should be SMART (specific, measureable, achievable, relevant and time-based), and everyone in IT agrees that SLA targets must be written like this. The trouble is that our customers are often quite bad at defining SMART targets, so we usually have to do it for them. We don’t just ask the customers what they want and write that down, because their ideas aren’t SMART enough, so we go to the customer with a generic SLA and tell them that we can negotiate this number or that number, but we rarely agree to completely change the whole way we write about services. One result of this approach to negotiating SLAs is that customers don’t feel ownership of the SLA, they think of them as “the IT SLAs”.  In many cases customers think that the SLA is there for the IT department to hide behind, reporting numbers that mean little to the business but failing to deliver the services that they really want. I have seen some truly horrible behaviour from IT departments where they think meeting the SLA is all they are supposed to do.
  • One IT department had a target that they should close 98% of Priority 1 incidents within 4 hours and 95% of Priority 2 incidents within 8 hours. Towards the end of one quarter an operations manager sent an email to service desk staff saying that the target for Priority 1 incidents would be met, even if the next Priority 1 incident took too long to resolve, but there was a risk that the target for Priority 2 incidents would be missed – so everyone should focus on Priority 2 incidents even if there was a Priority 1 incident open. The customer found out about this and was extremely angry. The IT department met their SLA, but the customer experience was very negative and it took a long time to re-establish trust.
  • Another customer was very unhappy because there had been a number of service outages that had had a significant impact on the business, but IT pointed out that the service had met the 99.5% availability target, and didn’t seem interested in addressing the issue.
How can we bridge this gap between what IT can measure and report, and what our business customers really care about? One approach that I have seen used very successfully is to include both what we can measure AND what the customer wants in the SLA. This is how it works:

1. Find out what the customer really wants

Start by asking the customer what they want from the IT service. Let them tell you in their own words and write this down. Get the customer to check that what you have captured really is what they want, and let them reword the statements until they are happy with them. Here are examples of some things that customers might ask you for:
  • Downtime of the service should not have a significant impact on the business process
  • Data should be protected so that there are no embarrassing security breaches
  • When we have a problem it should be fixed quickly
  • If we need to change the business process then IT should be agile and not get in the way of the change
  • Transactions should be fast enough that they don’t delay staff when they are trying to serve customers
  • If there is a disaster then the IT systems should be recovered by the time the rest of the business recovery plan needs them
Once you have a complete list, ask the customer to confirm that if you achieve all this, will they then be delighted with the service. Make sure you really have captured what they want. Most (maybe all) of these things won’t be measureable. Don’t worry about this, we’re going to think about measurement next. You have to start by moving out of your comfort zone to the place where your customer is, before you ask the customer to move a little bit towards where you are.

2. Think about what you can actually measure

Take each of the customer statements and think about what you could measure that would be relevant to this. Accept that you can’t actually measure the thing the customer really wants; this doesn’t mean that you can’t make a relevant measurement. There is a great book by Douglas W. Hubbard called How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business, which explains that a measurement is any observation that reduces your uncertainty. Hubbard shows how you can measure anything you need to, and you can measure it to any level of accuracy you want if you are prepared to invest enough effort. Taking some of the examples above, here are some relevant measurements you could make:
  • When we have a problem it should be fixed quickly
    • Priority 1 problems will be resolved within 1 hour
    • Priority 2 problems will be resolved within 8 hours
    • etc.
  • If we need to change the business process then IT should be agile and not get in the way of the change
    • Initial assessment of any change request will be complete within 24 hours
    • Minor changes will be implemented within two weeks of the change being approved
    • A plan for implementation of major changes will be available within four weeks of the change being approved
  • Transactions should be fast enough that they don’t delay staff when they are trying to serve customers
    • 99% of logins will complete within 10 seconds
    • 99% of sales transactions will complete within 20 seconds
    • 100% of sales transactions will complete within 40 seconds
    • etc.

3. Discuss the measurements with your customer

Explain to the customer that you are going to measure and report these numbers, and ask if they agree that achieving the numerical targets will tend to indicate that you have achieved the real customer target. Make sure they understand that the numbers are NOT the real target, they are just what you will measure. The customer may suggest some other things you could measure, or they may want to change the numbers. This is fine, you are now working in your space, negotiating numerical targets with the customer.

4. Make regular measurements and discuss achievements with customers

You can now measure your agreed numerical targets and capture the results in regular customer reports. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that achieving the numerical targets proves that you have delivered what the customer wants. When you hold your customer meeting you should be making statements like: "The SLA target says ‘Transactions should be fast enough that they don’t delay staff when they are trying to serve customers’, and the figures we measured this month show that 99.5% of logins completed within 10 seconds and 100% of sales transactions completed within 20 seconds. Are you happy with this?" You can also use the numerical measures to show trends, to help the customer understand whether you are improving the service. Note that you haven’t told the customer that they are happy, or that the measurements prove that the target was achieved. What you have done is reported the numbers and asked the customer if they are happy. They can now respond to this by confirming that they are happy, or by explaining why these measurements aren’t quite right. Maybe they will say that some logins took 3 or 4 minutes and this was a big problem, so you can now add another measurement to capture a new numerical target of "100% of logins complete within 30 seconds".

Summary

The whole point of this approach is that you are measuring and reporting things that you can control and understand, but that you are framing your reports in language that the customer cares about. Remember that you should NEVER tell the customer that the numbers mean they are happy. The numbers are simply an indication that you can use to show trends, and to help the customer express what they want in terms you can understand. What kind of language and measurements do you have in your SLAs? Are you brave enough to step outside your comfort zone and start writing SLAs in customer language?

Like this article? You may also like: If You Don't Have an SLA, You're Delivering Bad Service.

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Everything ITSM in Less Than Three Days

Posted by on October 28, 2014 in ITSM
FUSION 14: Everything ITSM in less than 3 days Well FUSION 14 was a whirlwind of ITSM Goodness (the royalties check is in the post Barclay Rae). Working the SysAid booth, trying to attend conference sessions, meetings with clever people, and the informal networking can be tough when you’re small. Although IT service management (ITSM) BFG Michael Slabodnick was also probably looking forward to the weekend at home post-FUSION 14. This blog is a quick snapshot of the event, which SysAid will build upon over the next few months via our blog sites:I have written a number of blogs about metrics and KPIs recently, each focussing on a different area of IT service management. Here are some links in case you’ve missed any of them.

Key Takeaways

The conference sessions started with an interactive presentation that, for me, set the scene for the issues and opportunities that would run throughout the conference – courtesy of Jenny Rains, Cinda Daly, and the customer service demi-god that is Roy Atkinson. Some of their key points, based on recent HDI research, were that:
  • “Service organizations are still challenged to demonstrate business value and to support sustainable business growth.”
  • “Service and support models are changing to streamline, enhance mobile and remote support, bolster shift-left, AND become the single point of contact for all business services.”
  • Automation and self-service are growing in use. Two great statistics were that: remote control technology is now (unbelievably) more common in support centers than incident management technology, and 85% of organizations now provide some type of self-help facility.
  • The use of ITSM tools and techniques outside of IT continues to grow. 25% of organizations have already taken ITSM outside of IT, with another 26% currently doing, or planning to do, so.
  • Knowledge management is in vogue (again). Ranked second to incident management as the most important technology required for successful end-user support.
Look out for the full HDI “Service Management: Not Just for IT Anymore” report that will be available soon. We shouldn’t fail to recognize the West Coast alternative to FUSION 14 – DevOps Enterprise Summit (#DOES14) – where some of the people you might expect to see at FUSION (such as Glenn O’Donnell, Gene Kim, Rob England, and Kaimar Karu) were having fun. You can read a summary by Mirco Hering here. There were of course DevOps sessions at FUSION 14 but my spies tell me that they weren’t as well attended by ITSM practitioners as the more traditionally-focused ITSM sessions. It makes me wonder how involved, or interested, Ops (including ITSM) people are in the opportunities of DevOps.

A Little More Information

As not everyone was lucky enough to attend the event, we thought it might be useful to pull together a list of recommended reading to help you learn more about these key takeaways:

Other Topics

There were over 80 track sessions, with advice provided on a wide variety of other ITSM topics such as: I’m sure many of the presenters won’t mind you messaging them via Twitter if you want to find out more about their sessions.

Overall

I really enjoyed the conference, though I have to admit that a big part of this was seeing the industry people I know and love again, and talking with new people while working in the Expo Hall. This is often the case, as (wo)manning the booth takes up a big part of the conference for vendor attendees at the expense of the conference sessions. My biggest gripe, as with many of the larger industry conferences, is that too many great speakers are scheduled at the same time. Not only is it Sophie’s Choice based on what (well who) I know, and I realize I shouldn’t moan about the wealth of knowledge on tap, but having too many of my friends speaking at the same time also prevents me (and probably others) from trying out new speakers. Maybe at the next conference I should only attend the sessions of people I don’t know – a higher risk strategy, but we all know that higher risk investments can provide higher returns. Finally, over the next few months Joe the IT Guy will be blogging around these and other topics covered at FUSION 14. And, if you feel like you missed out, then there’s always next year – FUSION 15 runs from November 1-4 2015 in New Orleans. That’s my 2 cents on FUSION 14, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on FUSION 14 if you were lucky enough to be there too.

Like this article? You may also like: FUSION14: Bringing the ITSM Community Together for the Greater Good.

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How to Make Sure Your KPIs Are Balanced

Posted by on October 21, 2014 in ITIL
Balanced IT service management KPIs I have written a number of blogs about metrics and KPIs recently, each focussing on a different area of IT service management. Here are some links in case you’ve missed any of them. It's great to have well thought out KPIs for individual ITSM processes, but if you combine them all you will end up with a huge unwieldy report that’s of very limited use to anyone. Every report must be useful to its audience, and everything in the report should be focussed on that audience. Somehow you need to create balanced reports for different audiences, but they all need to derive from the data that you have collected about what you are doing. My preferred approach to achieving this is to use a balanced scorecard.

What is a Balanced Scorecard?

A balanced scorecard is a way of thinking about metrics that helps you to focus on strategic goals. The balanced scorecard defines four perspectives, and every report should include metrics that are balanced between these.
  • Financial metrics help you to understand how well you are using your organizations’ resources.
  • Customer metrics help you to understand how well you are serving customers’ needs, and how satisfied the customers are with your services.
  • Internal business processes metrics help you to understand the efficiency and effectiveness of your internal processes, and whether they are meeting their agreed goals.
  • Learning and growth metrics help you to understand how well you are preparing for the future, and whether you are continually improving in order to remain competitive.
These four perspectives can be used at many different levels within an organization, and can form a cascade to link together reporting at each level, so that it all rolls up to provide useful data for management decision making. They can also help you to move from an old-fashioned “inside-out” view of your work towards an “outside-in” view that thinks about what you do from the perspective of the customers who fund everything. The strategic metrics that you could report with a balanced scorecard are not typically ITSM focussed. A strategic balanced scorecard typically includes metrics like: return on capital employed, customer churn rate, number of business process errors, or average staff training hours per year. This is the sort of thing that senior management in the business care about. The great thing about a balanced scorecard though, is that you can break down the high level business goals into goals for each business unit, and then team or process goals below that. Each set of goals retains all four perspectives but considers them from a different organizational context. For example you might have an overall IT report that shows:
  • Financial: Percentage of annual turnover spent on IT. Return on investment in IT projects.
  • Customer: IT customer satisfaction rating. Achievement against end-to-end service metrics.
  • Internal business processes: Number of ITSM processes meeting their internal goals. Number of IT projects meeting their agreed goals.
  • Learning and growth: Number of improvement opportunities completed from CSI register. Average hours training per year for IT staff.
This can then be further broken down to individual ITSM processes, or technology groups. So for example the service desk could measure and report:
  • Financial: Total annual cost of running the service desk. Average cost per incident.
  • Customer: Incident closure satisfaction ratings. Achievement of SLA commitments.
  • Internal business processes: Number of problems logged by service desk.
  • Learning and growth: Number of improvement opportunities logged on CSI register by service desk staff and accepted for implementation. Number of service desk staff who spent at least 4 hours working in a business unit to learn about their customers.
The great thing about using a balanced scorecard approach to metrics and reporting is that you can focus each report on the audience it is intended for, by collating, averaging, or summarizing data from more detailed reports. You can ensure that each team and each process thinks beyond their view of the business to how they are impacting the rest of the organization, and you can make sure that everyone thinks about a broad range of metrics, not just the detailed process metrics that some IT organizations focus on. How many of these four perspectives are covered by your existing ITSM metrics? Could you add some new metrics and KPIs to improve the balance of your reports, and their relevance to the audience? Could you move some of your existing metrics and KPIs to reports that are just used for process managers, to avoid overloading customer-facing reports with internal ITSM information?

Like this article? You may also like: What's the Point of Configuration Management?.

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