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How Long Should an ITSM Project Take?

Posted by on August 19, 2014 in ITIL
Incremental improvements is perfect for ITSM I know that the question “How long should an ITSM project take?” is going to get an answer of “It depends on what you’re trying to achieve”, but stay with me a while and see if you agree with my view on this.
I was running a workshop for a customer recently, helping them to create an operating model for IT support. Participants in the workshop included people from many different parts of the customer organization, and an independent ITSM consultant who the customer had selected to do any process development work that was needed. The customer already had working processes for most ITSM areas, the trouble was that they had different processes in each of many countries. As part of our plan to consolidate some of the work to fewer locations the customer needed to develop new processes for incident management, request fulfilment and knowledge management. The first stage of the project would require development of the new processes, including defining all the categories, priorities etc. that would be needed by the service desk, and also defining how existing knowledge could be shared more effectively. A later stage of the project would actually deploy these new processes. I was absolutely astonished when the ITSM consultant told the customer that the process development work would take at least 12 months to complete. Both the customer and I explained that we didn’t need “perfect” processes, just something that was good enough to continue the project. We intended to use continual improvement to make the new processes more effective over time, but the ITSM consultant was quite sure that even this couldn’t be done in less than 8 months, and that it would then take a bigger team than the two people that he had been planning to use! If ITSM consultants continue to tell customers that they need to run enormously expensive and time consuming projects that take years to deliver any value, then those customers are just going to stop listening. Businesses can’t afford to invest money in internal projects like that anymore, and there are much better ways of working that can deliver value in weeks rather than years. I had some involvement in development of the ITIL Journey, which was published by AXELOS (the owners of ITIL) last month. This was designed to help organizations make significant improvements to their ITSM practices in just a few weeks. There are also some great ideas on how to make quick ITSM improvements in “ITSM doesn’t have to be complicated” by Joe The IT Guy, and I’m sure that many readers of this blog could point me to more examples of how this can be done. I remember projects from many years ago where we would spend years developing ITSM processes and nobody got any value until we were good and ready, but I thought this monolithic approach to ITSM process implementation had been consigned to history long ago. I hear people explaining that the Agile approach to software development is not suitable for all organizations, and that some critical software development still needs a slower waterfall approach. The examples people refer to are usually design of controls for critical infrastructure, or core financial applications, or other areas with very challenging requirements for confidentiality, integrity or availability. I can see how these critical solutions might need a different approach, but I really can’t see how development of IT service management processes falls into this category. The iterative approach to creating value by implementing the minimum viable functionality and then incrementally improving our solution seems perfect for ITSM. If we take this approach then we can deliver some value in weeks – and the people we are asking to invest in our ITSM solutions will get measureable improvements, and measureable value, in the sort of timescales that make sense to them.

What Can You Do?

If your ITSM project doesn’t plan to create real value in a short time then you probably need to think again. Think about how you can break your ITSM solution down into multiple short sprints, each of which can deliver something you need. For example here are some things that an IT Consultant could do to shortcut the 12 month process development phase described above.
  • Review what is being done in each location to see if you could simply adopt one of the existing solutions, with a view to improving it later if it isn't 100% right.
  • Decide to create very few incident categories for the first release of the new process; it’s easy to add new categories later if they are needed.
  • Agree to a basic prioritization scheme with key customers. Again this can be refined later, it just needs to be good enough.
  • Trust people to follow high level process documentation and only create detailed work instructions for things that will need many people to behave identically. Again, it is easy to create more work instructions later if people clearly need them.
  • Pilot the new processes in a small location to see if they work. This will help to reduce the risk of introducing new processes worldwide in one big change.
  • Define very simple customer-focussed reporting for the first release, with a limited set of internal metrics. More KPIs and reporting can be added later if needed.
  • Limit the first release of Knowledge Management to simply consolidating all existing knowledge articles into a common structure, so that anyone can find and use them. Future iterations can improve this.
  • Only create a small number of automated service requests for the initial Request Fulfilment process. This can be used to demonstrate the value of the tools and process and you can then iteratively add more automated requests.
This is just an example; your situation will be completely different. The key idea to take away is that you can create something valuable fairly quickly and then improve it by incrementally adding more value.

Like this article? You may also like: Continual Service Improvement (CSI) - The Most Important Service Management Process.

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4 Things You Need to Know About IT Maturity Assessments

Posted by on August 13, 2014 in General IT
4 Things You Need to Know About IT Maturity Assessments IT maturity assessments come in many shapes and sizes. Some are broad and look at a large number of areas, like strategy, culture, governance, people, skills, transparency, risk management, security, processes, asset management, customer satisfaction and supplier management. Others are deep, looking in detail at how your organisation aligns to a best practice framework, like ITIL or COBIT. Either way, an IT maturity assessment is designed to benchmark your current IT capabilities against a fixed scale. It will give you a baseline – a snapshot of where you are now – from which you can plan a roadmap for improvement. An IT maturity assessment tool can be a valuable tool, but some planning is needed to make sure you get value from your effort - so here are some of the things you should be aware of...

You Need to Have a Clear Purpose

The first question you need to ask is why do I want to assess my IT maturity? If it’s to benchmark your IT capability against the rest of your industry, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. If it’s to arm yourself with a maturity score to fend off attacks from the business, think again. To get the most value, you need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. An IT maturity assessment is worth nothing without a commitment to acting on the result. The value of an IT maturity assessment lies in the context of improvement. It will tell you where you are now. From there, you can plot a roadmap of actions to get you to where you need to be (we’ll look at that in a moment). Once you’ve followed that path, you can use the IT maturity assessment again to benchmark against your former self and identify if you’ve actually arrived. However, it’s important to remember that IT maturity is a moving target. As soon as you take a step forward, it moves away from you. IT maturity is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You never quite reach it, because there will always be room for improvement as new technologies and best practices emerge.

IT Maturity Is What the Business Says It Is

So, we’ve mentioned where you need to be. In other words: what does IT maturity look like? It looks like what the business wants it to look like. Whatever IT capabilities the business needs to compete and succeed – that’s what IT maturity looks like. In the cycle of strategic IT improvement, once you’ve done a maturity assessment, your gap analysis should be against where the business needs you to be. Alignment with ITIL best practices doesn’t make IT mature in the eyes of the business. The business doesn’t care about ITIL. So, if you want to define what mature looks like, you have to involve business stakeholders and it has to be done in non-technical business language. Once you’ve defined it, get acceptance from the business before you proceed.

The Best IT Maturity Assessment Is Your Own

Every business is different, so every IT department is different. With many of the “commoditised” IT functions (like email) being outsourced to the cloud, what remains is the technology that makes your company different. The chances are that your data centre is changing, and the people and process factors are becoming a bigger part of IT capability. So IT maturity will look different in every organization. It’s up to you and the business to decide what IT maturity looks like. That means looking at business objectives and identifying the IT capabilities that support those objectives. It’s unlikely that you’ll find an “off the shelf” IT maturity assessment that represents what IT maturity looks like in your organisation, but as long as you are mindful of the differences a ready-made maturity model can be is a good starting point – particularly if you’re ranking at the lower end of the scale. Over time, you will be able to form a better picture of what your own IT maturity looks like, so you can adapt the model to form a better fit.

People Bend the Truth When They Complete Maturity Assessments

IT is a complex domain, so IT maturity assessments can become very involved, with dozens or hundreds of probing questions. What happens if you hit an “I don’t know” question half way through? Do you abandon the assessment? Do you just guess? Or do you go and find the guy who knows? Soon you’ve got a room full of people arguing over each and every input. But who’s right? Egos and self-preservation quickly come to the surface. And didn’t they all have jobs to do half an hour ago? Maybe you persevere with the assessment on your own. With no universally agreed metrics, the numbers you plug in to a maturity assessment will always be subjective, and people tend to err on the positive side. Nobody wants to hand the boss “a rod for their own back” by submitting a low score, so a few minor adjustments will make the picture a bit rosier and the boss a bit happier about IT. But if the assessment is to form a baseline for improvement, you’re starting off on a shaky foundation.
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It’s 14.4 O’Clock in the Cloud

Posted by on August 12, 2014 in SysAid
It's 14.4 O'Clock in the Cloud I can't believe how fast time flies. It's been only a few weeks since our last release and already our next Cloud release is about to be launched. SysAid 14.4 is packed with really great features for all of you to enjoy, and of course several more fixes and improvements. I’ll guide you through some of my personal favorites.

New Report: Track SR Field Changes

We added a new report that runs on the history records of the Service Records (SRs) and can report any changes in field values. You can:
  • Define the threshold for the report that includes the number of changes.
  • Select any field, from Priority to Category and even Assigned Admins.
  • Get the initial value and the current value with the details of who updated and when.
  • Display in the report all the values that appeared for the selected field during the SR’s lifecycle.
I'm sure you'll find this report very useful, especially those of you who follow the CSI (Continual Service Improvement) processes. You can track the quality of services and the processes behind them by identifying areas that need improvement. For example, when there are a lot of changes to the assigned admin or category or even priority, then all these changes affect the quality of service you provide; this report will help point out the SRs you would probably want to look into in your weekly/monthly review. SysAid 14.4: Track incident management field changes

Links Between SysAid Items and Solution Models

In Release 14.4, be sure to pay attention to the following set of features regarding linked items in SysAid.
  • We enhanced the linked item functionality allowing you to link practically any item in SysAid (e.g., SRs, knowledge base articles, assets, users, projects, CIs, company, etc.) to any other item. This allows you to create the relevant links that make sense in your internal processes.
  • We also made it possible to create related items in templates so that when you create new SRs from templates the links will be included automatically.
  • We added a new field in the SR form called Solution Model. When you have a well documented process for solving a specific issue, you want to make sure your IT team follows that process and doesn’t “reinvent the wheel” each time they run into similar issues. You can make the most out of this feature in 2 simple steps:
    1. Make sure to link your KB articles (that contain the knowledge to solve issues) with any relevant entity in SysAid, such as: assets, CIs, users, companies, SLAs, groups, templates, and more.
    2. Once you have those items related, all you need to do is add the Solution Model control to your SR form. You probably want to locate it on top near the title. This control stays hidden and doesn’t consume any of your screen space.
Once you use a template that has a KB article attached to it, or select an entity that is attached to a KB article, then the KB article will be presented to you and your team so you are aware of the suggested solution model. This way you can make the most out of the existing knowledge and ensure it is being presented to your team whenever relevant, as opposed to asking your teams to look it up each time. Try it out, I promise you will love it! Links Between SysAid Items and Solution Models Speaking of the Knowledge Base, I want to mention that following requests from many of you, we also added a full history log for KB articles. Just like the SR history log, the modify time and user is displayed along with the revision version of the article. This provides a full audit trail for your knowledge base articles!  

Weighted SRs

Saving my favorite feature for last. Now IT Managers can assign a weight to their staff's SRs to determine the order for handling the SRs according to true business priorities. This way you can make sure that the SRs that require immediate attention won’t be missed, regardless of their priority. Every admin will clearly see SRs in his/her queue that have been given weight, to indicate that they should be dealt with first. Clicking the new icon also sorts the weighted SRs according to their actual weight value, floating them to the top of the admin’s list no matter what filters are applied and no matter how the list is ordered. Your admins will easily see the true priority the business has assigned and you can rest assure that your team is putting effort in the right place and in the desired order. SysAid 14.4: Weighted incident records As always, to enjoy the new features, make sure to opt-in.You can read more about them in our Online Help - available in your SysAid from your Personal Menu on the top-right of the screen. There are more features included in Release 14.4. Check out the Release Notes, and I can’t wait to tell you about some of the new features we are already working on, but I’ll save that for a different blog post. Image credit

Like this article? You may also like: SysAid 14.3 – It's Your Voice that Matters.

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Whipping ITSM into BDSM

Posted by on August 5, 2014 in Service Desk
Whip IT Service Management into Business Development Service Management Why do I keep reading such statements as “get rid of IT from ITSM?” Is it that Service Management simply needs to get out of the IT world? I can get that—we want to try and project the belief that IT has been growing its involvement with the business. In fact, there are the ongoing debates on whether IT will survive the next 10 years, if it'll take over the business, or if regular users will become so technically adept, that the business will eventually do away with IT. Since I'm not an astrologer, I can't predict what's going to happen in the next decade, although if I had to guess, I’d say not much will really change and all of this talk is mostly hot air. But I do have an issue with just stating "get rid of IT from ITSM," and the issue is simple.
Look, people can grasp the idea of Information Technology. Ask anyone, and they'll probably say "its computers and stuff." Easy. In fact, I'm all for dropping "Information," since technology itself is a good enough descriptor for defining our use of computers as tools. But if we completely get rid of IT from ITSM, then what are we left with? Service Management? Can you imagine meeting new people at a party (and I mean a real party, not Fusion, Pink or SDI, and telling someone you work in Service Management? I've just started getting used to the blank stares I get from newly met friends in stating I work in IT Service Management - they can at least get the idea I work in IT, which then leads into the next question of how best to prevent viruses (incidentally, the answer is to stop visiting religious websites since porn has become safer to surf). Not only that, but the word "service" can have several different meanings. In the US, it's most closely associated with a call center or help desk. I've given up a long time ago in trying to reeducate my fellow man that a service, according to the ITIL® Foundation, is "a means of delivering value to Customers by facilitating Outcomes Customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific Costs and Risks." I think people tend to think of services in such a way, but when actively being questioned on the definition, few of the people outside of ITSM can really describe a service as eloquently as the standard ITIL® definition. That now brings me to the people already working in IT. How common is it for an organization to provide an accurate, useful and practical map of its services? The closest I've seen to such a thing is a CMDB that has applications listed as the services. This lack of understanding of how to map technology to actual business value is a driving force for pushing to have IT understand the business, and it's a great philosophy that every CIO should push in their organization, but it's still not forefront in the mind of the day-to-day developer or sysadmin. In essence, why focus on the phrase of "Service Management" when IT itself still doesn't know what to do with it? While I think dropping IT from ITSM is a bad idea, I am not against changing the verbiage to better describe the growing trends we're seeing in IT. As IT and the business grow into the impending singularity (which I still have some doubts about, but I'll go with it), I'd like to suggest a description that fits how IT is moving from the role of technology provider to that of strategic partner. We should consider Business Development Service Management (BDSM). That's right, business development - the act of supporting the business for long-term growth and profitability. Making this distinction will play in our favor in a few different ways:
  • The BDSM discipline places the IT culture and mindset around the concept of ongoing growth and search for new opportunities.
  • BDSM isn't about tying up resources specifically to focus on new growth, but also it’s about binding with the aspect of Service Management, which is key to having IT act as a strategic partner.
  • There have been references to the idea that future COOs will be those coming from an IT background. With a history of BDSM, the next generation of business leaders will be able to position traditional business processes to be more aligned with the agile practices and DevOps culture growing in IT.
  • With growth and change being constant in business development, BDSM will be able to better prepare practitioners for the pain involved in continual improvement, something so prevalent in ITSM.
  • The business could then take blindfolded confidence in IT, knowing that the primary goal of the BDSM mindset, as run in IT, is to guide the business for new development, instead of being subservient in the technology support role, thus becoming a true strategic partner.
As the role of IT evolves and takes shape over the next few years, we'll be seeing several changes. Some analysts predict the end of the service desk. Others predict that the business side will start to develop its own solutions. Even others have predicted an end to IT. While I doubt such prophesies will come true overnight, as IT moves into the business world, we’ll eventually have to determine the role which ITSM will play. By verbally shifting focus of ITSM from IT to business development, we can prevent cuffing ourselves to the traditional sense that we only care about technology, and instead embrace ideas of strategic growth and value. Who’s with me?

Like this article? You may also like: High Touch, Transparency, and Good Customer Service.

Please share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook where we are always listening.
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Advice for Improving Customer Satisfaction on the IT Help Desk

Posted by on July 29, 2014 in Service Desk
Advice for Improving Customer Satisfaction on the IT Help Desk “The customer is always right,” right? Whether that old adage is true is irrelevant.  But there is another saying that should be plastered on the walls of every IT help desk: The Customer is Always the Customer. And, as a customer, each is entitled to polite service, accurate information, and timely resolution of any issues. The following tips for IT help desks will help you improve customer satisfaction levels. Remember that ITSM is not just about the technology; ITSM is about people. Staffing a help desk with people who are both technically savvy and customer-centered is a fundamental building block of a successful IT help desk.

Tip #1: Remember – your job is to help the customer

Sometimes, you may become frustrated by customers’ endless requests. In these situations, take a step back to understand how your customer feels. Try to view the situation from their perspective. A customer may need a password reset, which in the grand scheme of IT challenges, seems trivial.  But, to the customer, the password issue hinders their work and causes a major problem. When addressing your customers, understand their frustration, empathize, be patient and polite, and offer easy-to-follow guidance and effective solutions. This is the golden rule of customer satisfaction: treat your customers as you would want to be treated.

Tip #2: For the resources you provide to be useful, they must be easy to find and understand

If you have a thorough knowledge base that nobody uses, or if your team spends too much time answering questions that are in the FAQ, your resources are likely either too hard to find or too hard to understand (or both). In a 2012 survey conducted by leading analyst firm Coleman Parkes, more than 40% of customers contact a call center after they can’t find answers to their question via self-service; up to 50% of “How do I …?” calls could be deflected to self-care channels if information was provided online or in a knowledgebase. If they are not using your resources, find out why. Survey your customers to find out how they currently search for answers and what medium (text instructions, images, video) would be most helpful to them.  In some cases, different types of customers prefer different types of resources.  You could offer some of your most common solutions in multiple formats and track which ones are used most often (and by whom) to resolve issues. If your surveys are not getting the response rate you would like, see tip #5 below for advice on improving your feedback strategy. The bottom line here is that your resources need to be both informative and user-friendly.  Striving for the utmost of both factors will enable your customers to help themselves.

Tip #3: Respond quickly, even if only to acknowledge receipt of the ticket

When a customer opens a ticket, respond.  And respond promptly. A timely response lets your customers know that their issue is in the queue and it sets expectations. It only takes a moment (you can automate it in most ITSM tools), but promptness is critical.The faster you respond to your customers, the easier it becomes to solve a problem. Timely responses increase customer satisfaction.

Tip #4: Update customers about ticket status

Your customer would be more satisfied if they were updated about the status of their ticket. At this stage (and, really, at every stage), it is important to set expectations.  Focus first on the customer’s key concerns. Did they need equipment that is on backorder?  Explain how much of a delay they should expect. Were they concerned with availability? Inform them of what a reasonable standard may be. Until all tasks are complete and their issue is closed, send an email, update the ticket, give them a call – and let them know the steps you have taken, what the next step will be, and what the ETA is for resolution.

Tip #5: Ask customers for feedback and act on their advice

If you want to improve your customer satisfaction, ask your customers what needs to be improved. But conducting a survey is not enough, to show your customers that their input matters, use their feedback to instill change. You can send a survey after each ticket has been resolved or you can send periodic surveys to customers who fit a certain profile (or you can do both). According to Oracle, “Ideally, you should survey your customers just often enough to get the information you need but not so often as to annoy them. The frequency of customer satisfaction surveys will depend on the frequency of your organization’s interactions with customers.” Inform customers how long the survey will take (there we go, setting expectations again). Make your questions as neutral as possible to get honest, helpful answers. A normal response rate to customer satisfaction surveys is 10-15%.  To increase yours, consider sending a reminder and offering an incentive.

Opportunities to improve customer satisfaction

The customer may not always be right, but if you take each interaction as an opportunity to learn something from a customer to improve your service, then the customer is never wrong either. At the end of the day, the customer and the IT help desk are all on the same team with the same goal—resolving the issue.  As you focus on that, take this advice to heart:
  • Treat customers with respect
  • Offer them helpful ways to solve the issues themselves
  • Respond to their requests quickly
  • Keep them updated
  • Ask them for feedback
Want to share any other bits of advice? Would love to hear from you.

Like this article? You may also like: If We Could Just Talk to Our Customers.

Please share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook where we are always listening.
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Can You Imagine a World Where IT Professionals Do Not Exist?

Posted by on July 25, 2014 in General IT
Before you click play, imagine a world where IT professionals do not exist. Can You Imagine a World Where IT Professionals Do Not Exist?
Throughout the year we stand by all of you amazing IT people. We appreciate everything you’ve done in the past 365 days. This year was full of IT challenges, like BYOD, shadow IT, cloud, and Heartbleed, not to mention standard day-to-day challenges, like keeping up the good service, coping with end users, aligning to business needs, and so much more. In the industry this year, a new discussion was started on what the future holds for the IT role, what it will look like with the growing trends of BYOD, shadow IT, and cloud. Many even went as far as to say the role of Service Desk Analysts and SysAdmins would potentially not exist a few years from now. At SysAid, we know exactly what you do and have no questions about the important role you take in the success of your organization. We don’t see your roles disappearing, in fact we believe that with the new changes, the organization will only need your IT skills even more. we do every year here at SysAid for System Administrator Appreciation Day, we’re happy to once again provide you an opportunity to look at an alternative reality that will make you laugh and will show our growing appreciation to all of you great IT people and everything you do—365 days a year. Happy SysAdmin Day! Cheers, Sarah
Please share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook where we are always listening.
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Knowledge Management Is Not Just About Document Repositories

Posted by on July 23, 2014 in Service Desk
Knowledge Management Is Not Just About Document Repositories When I ask people how they acquire the knowledge they need to do their jobs they describe a huge variety of approaches that work for them, including working with other people, attending training, reading books and blogs, watching videos, trial and error, being mentored and more. When I ask IT management what tools and techniques they use in their knowledge management programs they often just describe tools that are used for managing and sharing documents. If our knowledge management efforts are focussed on this very limited view then we will never equip our people with the knowledge they need to be effective and efficient. If we remember that knowledge only has value when it is available to someone, either because they remember it or because they are guided towards it at the time they need it, then that can help us to understand what knowledge management needs to achieve. It’s much more than just storing documents in a repository.
When you create a knowledge management programme, you should focus on achievable outcomes that will generate some short term value that you can then build on. Don’t start with an enormous over-arching programme that will take years to implement and even longer to create value. It’s good to think about the entire scope of where you may want to be in the long term, but make sure that you have manageable steps to get there and that each step has measureable ROI. One place that many organizations start to implement knowledge management is at the service desk. If your service desk people have the right knowledge then they can work more efficiently, and they can also deliver more value to your users. This great combination of improved efficiency and greater quality is a common result of good knowledge management. So what is needed to improve the knowledge of your service desk people? Maybe you could start by talking to them. Understand what they find difficult, what kinds of mistakes they make, what knowledge they think would be useful to them. Make sure you think about things beyond technical knowledge. What do they know about how the business works and what the users do? Is this enough to help them communicate well? Research how other organizations do knowledge management, at a minimum you should investigate Think about all the different tools and techniques you could use to help your people develop the knowledge they need. Some of the things that you might consider include:
  • A known error database integrated with your service desk tool
  • A document repository such as SharePoint
  • Face-to-face or online training
  • Webinars, podcast, YouTube videos and other on-demand media
  • Forums and social media that can be used to ask and answer questions – in-house or external
  • Mentoring or coaching
  • Directory of subject matter experts to enable people to find someone that can help when needed
  • Newsletters, emails and other mass communication channels
  • Access to “sandpit” environments where they can experiment with the software and hardware that the users have – this is especially useful if there is a planned change so they can familiarize themselves before the users get new or updated applications
Once you have understood what knowledge is needed you should be able to identify one or more of the above tools and techniques to make this knowledge available when and where it is needed. Remember that different people learn in different ways and you shouldn’t force everyone to use the same approach. It is important to think about how you can measure the effectiveness of your knowledge management efforts, and how you can use these measurements to facilitate continual improvement of knowledge management – both the process and the actual content. Then when you have created effective knowledge management for your service desk you can identify the next area of IT that could benefit from this approach. Image credit

Like this article? You may also like: Continual Service Improvement (CSI) - The Most Important Service Management Process.

Please share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook where we are always listening.
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5 Tips for Creating a Successful Service Catalogue

Posted by on July 17, 2014 in Service Desk
Self-Service A service catalogue offered as a self-service facility can bring a number of benefits to both the IT organization and their customers. For example, it can provide IT with an opportunity to streamline the interface between itself and end users. And in doing so, IT can potentially improve business user productivity and reduce costs. It sounds almost too good to be true. By providing end users with a go-to hub for “everything IT”, you can take the strain off the service desk and keep your IT customers happy by giving them another option. No more waiting in call queues. Now they can order services and get status updates at the click of a button. Do it right and you have an efficient digital interface for business users. Do it wrong and all you end up with is another piece of expensive shelfware. The truth is that many service catalogue projects fail to deliver the predicted benefits because they are handled as technology projects.

Start with Business Benefits

Thinking about what the business needs should be the starting point for any IT project – and a service catalogue is no exception. A service catalogue is an end-user tool, so it needs to work for end users. What IT people think it should look like doesn’t really matter. They don’t have to use it. Ultimately it’s about improving business user productivity by making it easier and faster for business people to source the technology they need to do their jobs better, not reducing IT costs by forcing them through an automated channel. A reduction in IT costs is a bi-product of a successful service catalogue, not the primary objective. In most cases, an IT service catalogue that is built purely to serve ITs' purposes is likely to become shelfware because business people simply won’t use it.

Involve Business People – It’s Their Service Catalogue

It is of the highest importance to engage the end user community from the start to give your service catalogue a better chance of success. After all, it’s their service catalogue. Getting the business involved might prolong the implementation timescale, but it’s better to take your time and do it right than end up with a tool that nobody will use. The first job for IT is to explain exactly what it is – in business language. The most important question to answer is “what’s in it for me?” – how will it benefit business people. If IT can communicate this well, business people will back the implementation and provide feedback which will guide the early stages of implementation. Questions you should think about:
  • Do they actually want a service catalogue?
  • Do they understand the value in it?
  • Can they envision using it instead of calling in to the service desk?
  • Is the end user community familiar with web portals and how they work?
For some organisations it just might not fit, so it’s best to get a handle on what uptake might be like as soon as possible. The user community should be involved throughout the process to ensure the end result is aligned with what they need – and what they can use. Think “are we building the right service catalogue” before “are we building the service catalogue right”.

Design for End-User Experience, Not IT Cost Reduction

Business people are focused on optimising their own productivity, so they’re always seeking the line of least resistance. If your service catalogue is easier and faster to use than calling in to the service desk, they’ll use it. If it’s not, they won’t. Usability is the number one factor for creating a service catalogue that business people want to use again and again. It has to be quick, intuitive and frictionless. Too often, IT people make assumptions about the technical skills of the users they support, so it’s important to validate a prototype of the tool using a user beta group before even thinking about launching it to the whole community. You only really have one shot at launching a service catalogue, so running some upfront prototyping is a good way to make sure it’s a viable end product. If it doesn’t do the job for your end users, they will revert to default behaviour – calling the service desk – and it becomes exponentially more difficult to “channel shift” them back over to your service catalogue. You have to take a truly customer-oriented approach, and remember that an alternative route to services is only a phone call or an email away, so the service catalogue needs to be the most efficient of a range of options.

Gamification Helps Drive Uptake, But Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

Just like any other technology, “build it and they will come” is not a mantra you can rely on. People are creatures of habit and changing habits takes effort. People have to be motivated to try new things. Curiosity might get your service catalogue a first visit but usability keeps them coming back. If end users get the positive outcomes they’re looking for from it they are more likely to return, but old habits die hard. Gamification can add an extra level of motivation by rewarding end users with points every time they use the service catalogue instead of calling the service desk. However, this creates another challenge for IT – integrating game mechanics into the service catalogue to operate a reward system. Most organisations haven’t got to grips with gamification yet so launching a gamified service catalogue is often too much too soon. As part of your planning, you should devise a short and long-term strategy for optimising uptake of the system. Gamification is a proven strategy for driving long-term engagement, so you should consider it as an option for driving success in your service catalogue initiative.

A Service Catalogue Is a Service in Itself

A service catalogue needs to be treated like a service, not a technology project or an application. A technology project has an end point. An application needs only the occasional upgrade. Providing digital access to IT services and information is itself a service. It is a service that end users want. That’s not going to change, so once you have one, a service catalogue becomes a permanent fixture. As an ongoing service, your service catalogue will need to be monitored and managed as such. It should be managed for availability, capacity and performance, and it should be subject to continual service improvement, just the same as any other service. There is always room for improvement. It’s a good idea to set up a steering group (comprised of stakeholders from IT and the business), meeting regularly to discuss performance, changing business needs, and how things can be done better.


As ever, technology should be deployed with a clear business purpose behind it. Too often the IT department takes a technology-oriented approach and focuses on the “what” without considering the “who” and “why”. It’s also important to remember that deploying technology to end users is very different from deploying it amongst IT people. A service catalogue might be part of IT’s service management system, but it is a part that is exposed to end users – a very different community. IT needs to take an “outside-in” approach to the process – putting themselves in the end user’s shoes - to ensure a service catalogue is fit for purpose. Image credit
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SysAid 14.3 – It’s Your Voice that Matters

Posted by on July 14, 2014 in SysAid
SysAid 14.3 – It's Your Voice that Matters For me, one of the greatest things about introducing new features in new releases is the fact that they get even better - and it’s all because of YOU! SysAid 14.3 is a prime example, and I’ll get to that in a minute, but first I cannot stress enough how important it is for us at SysAid to listen and get feedback from all of you out there. The best place to get this feedback is in our Community, where we communicate on a daily basis and the conversations are priceless. I encourage you all to join in - find the forum(s) and discussions that you’re curious about and hop on, or start something new. I’ll be there in addition to many of our staff from Product and Customer Relations, plus our dedicated Customer Community Manager, Michael Slabodnick, who is THE man to go to if you’ve got any questions or ponderings. He can be very philosophical at times.
Of course there are also additional communication methods to communicate with us (as well as with your peers), such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, for example. And obviously there’s always the old-school email :).

So what features did we improve in SysAid 14.3 you ask?

I’ll take you through some of them.
  • Category-driven templates
A few releases ago, we introduced category-driven templates, based on your requests to be able to set up a customized form for various use cases based on categories. We developed this and allowed you to set up specific templates for categories and a default template to be used in case there isn’t a specific one selected. We were thrilled to get positive feedback from those of you who started using this feature right away. I specifically enjoyed hearing that for some of you it was exactly what you needed in order to enhance your IT service management (ITSM) experience. Again, I encourage you to share your experience in our Community and inspire others to do the same! Those who used what the category-driven templates had to offer found that in order to improve it further, it could use a small enhancement - being able to select a “don’t change” option. So, as part of our commitment to deliver valuable features to you and to follow up (check if any adjustments need to be made), we added this option in 14.3 - solely based on customers’ requests for this enhancement. This may seem like a small adjustment, nevertheless, it’s an important tweak for many of you. I would like to thank those of you who requested it - you just helped improve the processes for thousands of other SysAid customers that utilize this feature, and you should be proud!
  • Large window for notes
Let’s move on to another small, but important, adjustment. During a SysAid On The Road visit in the UK, we straight-out asked our customer what suggestions they had to improve the product. We insisted to get inputs, no matter how big or small. They told us that it would be nice if the size of the window that opens when you add notes was bigger - because they like to write long notes and, by default, SysAid opens a small window for notes. This is truly a small request, but it helps make the experience for this customer and others so much better. These examples are just some of the improvements we are committed to delivering to you; all we ask from you is to speak up and suggest improvements. After all, most of you are very familiar with SysAid and utilize it in an admirable way, so your suggestions really are a contribution to the product, and as you know we even thank you within the product with a “contribution star” :). SysAid Contribution feature direct from customers
  • New checkbox in Patch Management
Not all features we add are small. In fact, one of the latest additions in 14.1 was a rather large one – Patch Management - a functionality that had one of the leading amount of votes in our feature request forum, and many of you are already enjoying the integrated patch management capabilities we introduced. When delivering such large-scale functionality, it is natural that during the process of prioritizing and defining the scope of the feature, the time for adjustments and improvements comes post-launch. Luckily for us, this feature was swiftly adopted by many of our customers who gave us important inputs to help make Patch Management even better. One of these inputs included adding a checkbox to decide whether our agent is allowed to access the Internet to fetch the patches during the patch management process, or whether it should work only against its proxy (RDS). When we originally planned Patch Management, we built it in a way that covers most cases automatically, which is why it attempts to download from its proxy and retries 5 times before giving up and going directly to the Internet. Some of you requested that in this case they would prefer that the patch process fail - feeling comfortable with the fact that in these cases, it is planned to automatically open an incident so you can check out what went wrong. So in SysAid 14.3 we added a new checkbox exactly for this purpose, which can be found under Patch Management Settings: SysAid Patch Management enhancements
  • Remote Discovery Services (RDS) enhancements
Other improvements were added behind the scenes as well to improve the experience, such as a feature to “warm up” the RDS cache to speed up the scan process. We also added automatic alerts when RDS machines go offline so you can proactively check what goes wrong before actions fail. Automatic alerts with SysAid RDS Some of you suggested that it would be nice to be able to fetch the logs from the RDS from within the user interface, so we enhanced the RDS list with the action “Get logs”. This zips all the relevant logs from the remote machine and makes them available for download from within the RDS list as a link. Enhanced SysAid RDS list, with "Get Logs" button While our Cloud customers enjoy several releases per year, we are paying full attention to our On-Premise customers as well. As you recall, our previous On-Premise release was at the end of March 2014, and as promised, we were able to put together a quick additional On-Premise release due out in a couple of weeks (we are currently in Beta stage), which addresses many of the points you raised. If you read through the release notes and bug fixes of 14.3 (these pages will be updated after the official On-Premise release), you’ll find plenty of enhancements and fixes that were raised by you and other SysAiders around the world. So, enjoy SysAid 14.3, use the new features, tell us what you think, and then we’ll get quick to work with yet another On-Premise release before the end of the year - one that will include additional small and large enhancements for all of you to keep enjoying.
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Debunking the Top 3 Customer Service Myths

Posted by on July 9, 2014 in Service Desk
Effective listening allows consumers to feel acknowledged, understood and accepted. The less complaints from customers, the better, right? Well, not exactly. When it comes to customer service many companies believe that receiving fewer complaints means their customers are indeed happy. However, research proves that it’s quite the opposite. In fact, the majority of unhappy customers never complain, they simply leave and never come back.   Moreover, companies today have an extremely skewed sense of their ability to deliver top-notch customer service. According to this American Express survey, only one-third of survey respondents think businesses have made steps to improve customer service, while the businesses themselves think otherwise. That being said, companies that encourage a two-way dialogue with customers stand to do better, while those left in the dark are guaranteed to suffer. Despite the many theories around the subject of customer service, many “myths” are still abound. In order to clear the air once and for all, we’ve debunked the top three customer service myths below. The “truths” may shock you.

Myth 1: The majority of customers complain when they have a problem

Debunked: The truth is that less than 25 percent of customers actually complain when they have an issue, while an astounding 70 to 90 percent never complain at all. Moreover, instead of complaining to their provider, customers will tell an average of three people “bad” things about their provider. So why are customers so hesitant to complain? Most customers won’t bother to complain because they feel it’s either too difficult to reach the appropriate representative or they are not confident in the companies’ ability to quell their concern. Resolution: To avoid having customers silently walk away, make a concerted effort to reach out to them on a regular basis. After all, the best way to measure customer satisfaction is by simply asking them. Moreover, give consumers a variety of channels in which they can engage and interact with you. Having a customer service phone line is no longer enough as more consumers are turning to live chat, social media, and videoconferencing as ways to communicate with companies. The more options you provide the more likely they will reach out for help.

Myth 2: Customers no longer prefer live agent interactions

Debunked: Despite social media and self-service portals becoming increasingly popular, consumers still prefer to interact with live agents. In fact, according to the aforementioned American Express survey, 65 percent of consumers prefer speaking to a live agent via phone or in-person for issues like product assistance or returns, which increases to 76 percent as issues get more serious. Moreover, less than 10 percent prefer web or email assistance and only one in five have used social media for customer service within the past year. Resolution: As evidenced by the statistics above, quality personal connections still matter most to consumers. So how do you ensure that consumers receive the best service? Teaching customer service agents to really listen to consumers is the key to unlocking customer satisfaction. Effective listening allows consumers to feel acknowledged, understood and accepted. Moreover, it encourages consumers to be more open and forthcoming with their problems.

Myth 3: It’s better to invest in marketing and advertising than customer service

Debunked: The best way to grow and sustain a business is to keep your existing customers happy. In fact, it costs at least five times as much to gain a new customer than it is to keep an existing one and 80 percent of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20 percent of your existing customers, making them a extremely important part of your businesses’ success. Resolution: Your customers are the greatest contributors to your bottom line. So why are so many companies hesitant to invest in customer service? Instead of throwing significant funds into a new marketing campaign, in hopes of gaining new consumers, invest in the ones you already have. Give your employees the customer service tools, such as desktop and speech analytics, to help improve the customer experience. Invest in your customers and your customer service initiatives, your bottom line will thank you. While there are many myths when it comes to customer service, one thing remains true: the better the customer service the healthier the bottom line. Tell us… did we miss any important customer service myths you would like us to debunk? Image source
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